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Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship Hardcover – February 1, 2006

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Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship + Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends + Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439851130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439829731
  • ASIN: 0439829739
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 11 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 5 When the six-year-old contributor to this book saw the photograph documenting the extraordinary friendship between a baby hippo (Owen) and a 130-year-old giant tortoise (Mzee), she persuaded her father to help tell their story. Originally an e-book, the hardcover version begins with images of the duo, whetting readers' appetite and providing reassurance as the potentially disturbing plot unfolds. After a scene depicting a pod of hippos near the Sabuki River in Kenya, the text describes the 600-pound baby's displacement and separation from the group during the 2004 tsunami. Children witness the challenging rescue and meet the knowledgeable staff at an animal sanctuary. From Owen's first approach for protection to Mzee's unexpected tolerance, the photographs, mostly by BBC photojournalist Greste, capture the pair eating, swimming, snuggling, and playing together. Their contentment and peace are palpable. Because it is sensitively structured, with careful choices about what is emphasized and illustrated, the situation does not overwhelm readers. The text and the back matter are brimming with information about the animals, their caregivers, and the locale. This touching story of the power of a surprising friendship to mitigate the experience of loss is full of heart and hope. A worthy complement is Ann Morris and Heidi Larson's glimpse at a human family's loss and recovery in Tsunami: Helping Each Other (Millbrook, 2005). Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 1-3. Originally published as an e-book, this photo-essay was conceived when Craig Hatkoff and his seven-year-old daughter encountered a newspaper article about a baby hippo orphaned by the 2005 Indonesian tsunami. Parent, child, and a naturalist they consulted are credited as coauthors. The story has a simple, direct appeal: the hippo is dramatically rescued and brought to a Kenyan nature preserve, where it forms a surprising bond with a giant tortoise. Inspirational language about "the power of courage, love, and the preciousness of life" clutters the powerful facts, and not all of the photos are equally crisp and closely cued to the text. 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. Adults hoping to share the story with young readers may find this preferable to Jeanette Winter's picture book inspired by the same event, Mama (2006), which more starkly emphasizes the trauma of the tsunami itself. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Beautiful story, wonderful photographs.
Laker Fan 67
This is a great book for children and adults to read together.
Brittany A. Felton
What a heart warming story about friendship.
Marc D. Richter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Nessie on January 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I heard that a book had been written about the friendship between Owen, an orphaned hippopotamus, and Mzee, the old tortoise, I knew I had to get it. This is a lovely story that will warm the hearts of children and adults and can be used to illustrate resiliency, the strength of friendship, and how creatures that don't look alike can get along. This book is worth buying for the pictures alone.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I was drawn into this story when I saw it on CNN. This captivating book - aimed toward children but also quite amenable toward any animal lover - describes the true story of a baby hippo named Owen, an inadvertent victim of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami who was left stranded on a coral reef forever separated from his mother. Taken to a nature reserve to live, Owen meets Mzee, a 130-year old Aldabra tortoise. After some initial resistance from Mzee, the two start to bond, and Mzee becomes the young hippo's protector.

This simple friendship story is told by Manhattan-based children's book author Craig Hatkoff and his six-year old daughter Isabella (who drew the adorable pictures at the end of the book), both so entranced by the photo of the two animals lying peacefully next to each other, that they contacted Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the general manager of the reserve, and Kenya-based photojournalist Peter Greste, who had been meticulously chronicling Owen's rescue and resettlement. The subsequent collaboration among the four has produced an intoxicating chronicle of the unlikely friendship that developed between animals with nothing in common but their dependence on each other. The text is not at all cloying but straightforward and factual.

Having had the good fortune to see the giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands and the hippopotamuses along the Masai River in Kenya, I can tell you that such bonding is extraordinary to see in Greste's wonderful photographs. The authors obviously provide life lessons in strength and resilience and ignoring surface differences toward a greater good. Luckily, sentimentality is kept to a minimum, and the result is a charmer. For those interested in keeping up with Owen and Mzee, caretaker Stephen Tuei keeps an online journal of their daily activities on the Lafarge Eco Systems Web site.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By F. Red on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am simply blown away by everything about this book and story. I have shared this heartwarming story with everyone who will listen. I congratulate Isabella (6 yoa) who had the vision and her father who had the know-how to make this book happen. Regardless of age or gender, you will be astounded by this book; the relationship between the main characters normally just does not happen in nature. But the photos made me a believer. Life is mysterious!
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Elaine Campbell on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
because Owen, a baby hippo, and Mzee, a 130 year old Aldabra tortoise, who formed a remarkably close bond with each other, have been forever separated by their caretakers at Haller Park ouside Mombasa. This was announced on the LaForge Ecosystems website which was following their progress. The reason for this is that they were moved into quarters with another hippo and another Aldabra turtle. The second hippo got aggressive with the second turtle. Instead of removing her, Owen was taken away from his precious Mzee.

I am sure the Park will have far less visitors now. I myself was planning to travel there just to see our two heroes. Now I will no longer visit the caretaker's website. Although I loved the book, the ultimate result has made me very sad. I even cried when I learned about it.

The book itself is a joy to read if you can forget the final outcome. Photographs are astonishing and beautiful (taken by BBC photo-journalist Peter Greste). The text by Craig Hatkoff and Dr. Paula Kahumbu is perfect, and several precious drawings are included by six year old Isabella Hatkoff on the endpapers. Even a sweet, brief testimony about the wonder of this book by Caroline Kennedy is included on the back book jacket cover, underneath a photograph of Owen and Mzee dining on leaves. None of us knew how short a time they had left together.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alexander M. Moir on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book full of beautiful, adorable photos of Owen the hippo, Mzee the tortoise and the loving people who have helped them. It's ostensibly a children's book, though I myself, age 27, saw it and practically started crying in the bookstore. A truly beautiful story of love and success in the face of dire adversity (the 2004 tsunami) and a pairing you thought you could only find in a Disney movie. This is a great story to read to your kids, students or even just give a glance yourself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By T. Randol on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Owen and Mzee is a story about a giant tortoise and a baby hippopotamus who found each other after the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. The book tells about how Owen lived before the tsunami, then mentions the devastating waves -- but not in a way that would be frightening to small children. It goes on to mention how Owen found Mzee and attached to him as if the tortoise was his own mother. Older children will appreciate the deeper meaning of the tale: that even though they are very different, Owen and Mzee became friends. Younger children will be fascinated with the photographs of the tortoise and baby hippo as well as their rescuers. One picture, taken from directly in front of both animals, shows them as if they are smiling! It is a truly sweet -- but not sappy -- story that people of all ages will enjoy. My five year old son loves it and I'm sure we will keep this book to pass down to his children someday.
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