The Manatee’s Big Day: A Bilingual Children’s Book Set in Costa Rica

I fell in love with manatees after my paddle boat – the kind you’d rent in a city park – collided with one of the gentle giants in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero canals. After that I learned everything I could about the creatures and their habitat. The result was this bilingual children’s book.

The wonderful illustrations are by Maggie Olson. The book was published by an outfit in Costa Rica that subsequently slipped under the surface. I’ve been looking for the right way to revive the book – either finding a North American publisher to take it on or to bring it out myself.

Description: The Manatee’s Big Day is a story for young readers that takes place in the rainforests and waterways of Costa Rica. Presented in a bilingual format (English and Spanish), the action-filled adventures of the young manatee and her animal friends interweave information about the natural world, specifically the canals of Tortuguero, a picturesque town on the northern Caribbean shores of Costa Rica.

In addition to the story itself, the back of the book includes a section entitled “Fun Science Facts,” an illustrated guide to some of the creatures that occur in the story that also explains the difference between a food chain and a food web. Teachers and young readers alike will take special interest in this section. Other supplemental information includes an “Explorer’s English-Spanish Dictionary” and a map of the town of Tortuguero, along with a description of the neighboring national park.

With illustrations worthy of the classic fairy tales and a story written in a poetic style that never underestimates the intelligence of the young reader, this is a must for kids who want to learn about tropical nature, visit Costa Rica, or learn a second language.

From a review by Robert Isenberg of the Tico Times.
“Manatee” is valuable as a bilingual book, as well as an introduction to Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife. Van Rheenen provides an additional 20 pages of animal dossiers, a food chain diagram and a guide to Tortuguero National Park. Each page showcases the colorful illustrations of Maggie Olson, who draws the animals more or less as they exist in the wild — not as gussied-up cartoon characters.