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Sylvia Liu: Managing Shyness with Manatees

Q: Can you tell us a little about your recent debut?

Thanks! Manatee’s Best Friend is the story of a 12-year-old girl who must work to overcome her shyness to find her voice to help save her manatee friends. Having a video that she made go viral and navigating new friendships complicates these efforts.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, especially protecting marine mammals and ocean conservation. When I got the opportunity to write this manatee-centric story, I combined my longstanding interests with my personal experience with shyness as a child.

Shyness is the main character, Becca’s major stumbling block that prevents her from easily making friends for speaking up for manatee protection. It is a major theme of Becca’s character development, and most of the plot obstacles are events or actions that push against her shyness.

I think shyness is sometimes misunderstood as being introverted. Not all shy people are introverts who get drained by social interactions. It might also be misunderstood, because it, like introversion, is less valued as a personality trait than being outgoing and comfortable with others.

Q: What would you like teachers, librarians and parents to understand about why this book might be helpful for their students and children?

Hopefully, students and children can be inspired to make friends and speak up for causes they believe in, even if they are shy or uncomfortable with being the focus of attention. In my story, Becca learns how to share her voice in ways that are comfortable for her.

Q: Did you have to do special research?

I researched the science and environmental side of the story, but not too much for depicting Becca’s shyness. For that, I relied on my personal childhood experience with shyness and that of other family members.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?

My favorite character is the main character, Becca Wong Walker. When she’s comfortable, she’s a vivacious and curious girl, and I loved seeing how she became comfortable enough to share that side of her personality with her new friends.

Q: Tell us what’s next!

I have a middle grade science-fiction novel, Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, coming out in June 2022 from Razorbill/Penguin Random House! I’m excited to share that story about a 12-year old girl who uncovers a corporate conspiracy against her classmates who are about to have their brains connected to the multiweb.


Sylvia Liu grew up with books and daydreams in Caracas, Venezuela. Once an environmental attorney protecting the oceans, she now spins stories for children, inspired by high tech, ghost crabs, and strong girls. Sylvia lives in Virginia with her family and a fluffy cat.


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