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
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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 MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved