Published August 1, 2022

Each year, as students enjoy their summer school breaks, the National Book Festival’s Great Reads List for kids shares stories representing each state’s literary heritage. 

The Great Reads list includes titles selected by each state’s center for the book. The centers select a title that features their state in some way. This year’s book for Virginia, Manatee’s Best Friend, comes from Virginia resident Sylvia Liu, a 2022 featured author from our Virginia Festival of the Book! 

Manatee’s Best Friend explores the connection Becca Wong Walker, the story’s heroine, feels for the friendly manatee who regularly visits her family’s backyard dock. As the story unfolds, Becca finds her voice and uses it to protect the manatee she calls Missy and her baby. Manatee’s Best Friend models for middle readers how to recognize their inner voice and use it to make a positive change in their community. 

In case you missed Liu at the 2022 Virginia Festival of the Book, you can check out this Author Q & A to catch up or watch her panel discussion

So, pick up a copy of Manatee’s Best Friend from your favorite bookseller and check out the other great children’s through middle reader recommendations from our neighboring centers for the book! 

What critics have said about Manatee’s Best Friend: 

“Liu has created an inspiring story with excellent pacing centered on a budding activist finding her voice….The struggle to face one’s fears and stand up for one’s values creates a compelling story.” 


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