THE MISSING MANATEE by Cynthia DeFelice

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Skeet Waters loves living in his small Florida town.  He loves going fishing with his father, listening to his eccentric Memaw sing karaoke, and speeding out on the water in his own little boat, going nowhere in particular.  But over Spring Break, two things happen that threaten Skeet’s peace of mind.  First, his mother kicks his father out of the house for good.  Second, Skeet discovers a dead manatee with a bullet wound in his head.  Horrified that anyone would kill such a gentle creature, Skeet hurries to fetch the sheriff. When they return to the scene of the crime, however, the manatee’s body is gone.  Without evidence, there is nothing much the sheriff’s office can do.  And so Skeet forces his parents and his homework out of his mind and decides to solve the mystery himself.

There is a bit of suspense in this mystery story, but The Missing Manatee is primarily about relationships, particularly family relationships.  DeFelice blurs the line between right and wrong and forces her protagonist to accept that many situations–and all people–are more complicated than they seem.  A fun mystery and coming-of-age story, sure to be enjoyed by middle grade readers who like mysteries and/or the great outdoors. 

If you liked The Missing Manatee, you might like The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. 

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