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Great Illustrated Books

Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship

By Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Illustrated by Peter Greste

Scholastic Press, 2006
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 6-10
ISBN: 9780439829731

Amidst the newspaper coverage of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, there was a remarkable photo of a baby hippo snuggling against a giant tortoise. Moved by the story of Owen, the orphaned baby hippo who bonded with Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise, Craig Hatkoff and his then six-year-old daughter, Isabella, contacted Dr. Paula Kahumbu, General Manager of Haller Park in Kenya, and the three collaborated on this striking color photo essay. In it, you see how hundreds of villagers from the small coastal town of Malindi worked together to rescue the 600-pound baby hippo from the coral reef where he was stranded and brought him to Haller Park, an animal sanctuary 50 miles away, where he encountered Mzee.

The authors state, "It is also a vivid reminder that even when the world seems its bleakest, we should never give up!" Ask your children to apply this statement to their own lives. The authors' books Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship and Owen & Mzee: A Day Together (a color photo-filled board book to use with younger children) continue the story. For another account of Owen and Mzee's saga, see Jeannette Winter's moving picture book, Mama, which incorporates as its only text the words "mama" and "baby." Discuss how one story could inspire such different types of books—one factual, the other emotional—and compare how they complement each other.

Reviewed by : JF.

Themes : ANIMALS. FRIENDSHIP. MOTHERS.

If you love this book, then try:

Frankenhuyzen, Robbyn Smith van. Saving Samantha: A True Story. Sleeping Bear, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-1585362202


Hatkoff, Isabella, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu. Owen & Mzee: A Day Together. Scholastic, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0545037662


Hatkoff, Isabella, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu. Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. Scholastic, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0439899598


Karwoski, Gail Langer. Tsunami: The True Story of an April Fools' Day Disaster. Darby Creek, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-1581960440


Kessler, Cristina. Jubela. Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-0689866906


Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Washing the Willow Tree Loon. Atheneum, 1995. ISBN-13: 978-0689804151


Rand, Gloria. Prince William. Henry Holt, 1992. ISBN-13: 978-0805033847


Schaefer, Lola M. Arrowhawk. Henry Holt, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0805063714


Winter, Jeanette. Mama: A True Story in Which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During the Tsunami, but Finds a New Home, and a New Mama. Harcourt, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0152054953

Critics have said

This touching story of the power of a surprising friendship to mitigate the experience of loss is full of heart and hope.
Wendy Lukehart, School Library Journal
But children will nonetheless embrace the incident's compelling anthropomorphic elements, thoughtfully framed by the authors, and will exclaim over the images of the winsome baby and its grizzled surrogate parent.
Jennifer Mattson, Booklist
Remarkable seems too tame a word for this memorable book about a friendship between two wild creatures.
Publishers Weekly