Robert Scott Thayer, author of the “Kobe Manatee” children’s book series, teaches students in Bucks and beyond about conservation and climate change, both in print and in person.
Ananya Siragavarapu, Student Writer
Robert Scott Thayer, award-winning author of the “Kobe Manatee” children’s book series, dedicates his knowledge of marine mammals to creating witty, engaging, educational children’s literature about manatees.
The docile, gentle, cow of the ocean faces the imminent threat of extinction because of its receding habitat and the collisions caused by ships. Declared to be in the safe zone a mere four years ago, human behavior has led to the marine mammal once again scoring a position on the highly monitored species list.
Through successive stories of Kobe’s transcontinental adventures, children are coaxed into the world of manatees: their habitats, diets, activities, nature, and the sub-par environment that houses them.
“I’m a conservationist,” says Thayer. “Having kids learn about climate change from an early age is optimal,” he says.
Although he worked as script writer in Philadelphia prior to the economic recession of 2008, Thayer says he was always passionate about teaching adults “how to talk to children about climate change.”
Thayer has written four books about Kobe Manatee with his detail-oriented illustrator Lauren Gallegos, who he met at a Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators meeting just prior to writing his first novel, which was published in September 2013.
“I wanted someone who painted a vivid picture,” says Thayer. “The illustrations are very vibrant, and I write 20 to 30 manuscripts for each draft novel.”
Any children’s book author knows that to truly captivate the audience, to expound the resonating themes of the book, the message must be delivered through an amalgamation of color and words.
“On each of the pages is a ton of fun facts relating to the theme of each novel,” says Thayer. “For example, in one of the novels, Kobe goes to the Cayman Islands and Belize and meets Tamica, a sea-turtled wrapped in plastic. The tan fact underneath was that 50 percent of sea turtles get wrapped in plastic.”
Thayer refuses to be limited by writing convention and travels around Bucks County sharing the story of “Kobe Manatee” in person while donning Kobe’s trademark purple cap. In each elementary school, Thayer has the privilege of directly imparting the importance of the manatee conservation movement.
“I was called the ‘Manatee Man’ so I knew I was making an impact,” says Thayer.
In order to maintain scientific accuracy, Thayer consults experts for each of his books.
The fourth installment in the series, “Kobe Manatee: Climate Change and the Great Blue Hole Hazard,” was published on Sept. 28. For this latest novel, Thayer conferred the expertise of Dr. Tracy Fanarra, an environmental engineer with a well-developed acumen for the conservational efforts of the planet’s native species and several cameos on educational shows such as “Myth Busters.”
Recently, Thayer was interviewed in conjunction with Dr. Fanarra on WFLA.
“We talked about the book and how there are only 6,500 manatees left in Florida now – close to being endangered but not protected well enough,” says Thayer.
The plight of the manatees is as under the radar as an environmentally pressing situation can get. But if the gentle sea giants are to flourish as they once did, humans must change their behavior, and Thayer’s actions pave the way for the restoration of the manatee and other marine mammals who succumbed to the largest threat this world has ever known.