The friendship of two boys in Florida is the backdrop for this engaging new tale. Peter and Tommy have been inseparable ever since they became best friends. Their deep interest in animals led them to create what they call The Discovery Journal, a catalog of wildlife in and around their town. When an animal is spotted, Tommy researches important details about the animal and Peter creates a drawing.

Their newest is a manatee they find injured by a boat (Discovery #95). The find not only gets them closer to their goal of 100 animals, but also motivates Peter to join the fight to save Florida manatees.

Well…maybe not. Tommy and his family are moving to Michigan and breaking up this twosome. Meanwhile, Peter is taking care of his grandfather while Mom works as a realtor during the day. Papa’s memory is failing and bouts of dementia are a challenge to overcome.

Emotions run deep and the first person narration by Peter is superbly crafted. He tries to navigate through the uncertainties of losing both his best friend and grandfather while not being afraid to confront Mr. Reilly, the president of the boating association—a neighbor who cares more about his boats than manatees getting injured.

You couldn’t as for a better summertime story in MANATEE SUMMER. Peter not only discovers more about himself but others in his life. The truth comes out and it’s an enriching experience for readers.



  1. You don’t often find boys in stories showing emotions like they do here. There are tears and misconceptions all rolled into one great tale.
  2. The way Mr. Reilly acts toward the natural world is all too familiar. He puts his needs first and those of animals and other people around him second. It was nice to see this selfish behavior depicted so honestly.
  3. Peter’s character arc is perfect. His strong voice is full of feelings about the challenges facing him in his short life. Maybe not full resolution in the 288 pages, but you get the feeling he’s going to do well in the future.
  4. If you don’t know much about manatees this would be natural place to start. Peter learns much from his contact at the manatee rescue center and of course his connection with Zoe, the manatee he befriends.
  5. The issues of losing a friend and having a loved one’s memory decline will be familiar for many MG readers. They won’t feel so much alone by spending time with Manatee Summer.


Evan Griffith is the author of the middle-grade novel Manatee Summer (Quill Tree, 2022) and the picture book biography Secrets of the Sea: The Story of Jeanne Power, Revolutionary Marine Scientist (Clarion, 2021). He studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

He worked for several years as an editor at Workman Publishing, where he specialized in non-fiction for children and adults, and he continues to edit books on a freelance basis. Through his role as the youth programming specialist at The Writing Barn, a creative writing education center, he also teaches online writing classes for kids.

He lives in Austin, Texas with a mischievous tuxedo cat and several overflowing bookshelves.

(For more information about Evan, visit his web site)


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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7 Responses to MANATEE SUMMER

  1. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    Greg, The link seems to be broken.

  2. Sounds really good but also really sad! Poor Peter, with so much on his plate! He sounds a great protagonist, thanks for sharing!

  3. This sounds like a fantastic story that deals with many personal issues for Peter and also the environmental/animal rights issues. Thanks for featuring it this week.

  4. This sounds like a great book. I love that the themes you mentioned and the main character sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Adding it to my TBR list.

  5. What a great story. I love stories about kids getting involved in animal rights issues.

  6. Don’t know if I’ve ever read a book about manatees. This one does sound good.

  7. This sounds like a lovely book. I think manatees are fascinating, and I would like to learn more. I’m putting this one on my list.. Thanks for telling me about it.

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