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Mama for Owen Hardcover – March 27, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 1—The true story of the African baby hippo that was separated from his mother during the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 and then bonded with a giant tortoise is one that has endeared itself to many. This version is a bit too endearing. Bauer's symmetrical text gives the basic facts, compressing details in order to draw clear parallels between the hippo's activities with his mother and then with the tortoise. The author uses repetitive phrasing to convey the severity of the situation: "The rain fell and it fell and it fell. The Sabaki River rose and it rose and it rose." While this is a time-honored narrative device, when combined with Butler's soft-focus, anthropomorphic artwork, the effect is cloying and monotonous. The scenes, rendered in acrylic paint and colored pencils in a gray/brown/pale-lavender palette, feature animals that smile continuously, even during the storm. For strong visuals and a conceptually satisfying account, stick with the striking photographs and sensitive narrative provided in Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Paula Kahumbu's Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship (2006) and its sequel, Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship (2007, both Scholastic), reviewed in this issue.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Worlds away from Jeanette Winter's retelling, Mama (2006), in which the nearly wordless text and stark design offered youngsters little buffer against Owen's terrifying separation from his mother, Bauer's picture-book version closely matches its narrative and visual tones to its target audience. A rhythmic, lulling narrative smooths the barbed edges of the disaster ("The rain fell and it fell and it fell. The Sabaki River rose and it rose and it rose"), and Butler's feathery illustrations, featuring smiling, doe-eyed animals rendered in soft tones of butter, rose, and lavender, hint at the sunny outcome even during the story's troubling opening scenes. Composition choices, too, spin the trauma appropriately for the very young; for instance, even as Bauer acknowledges, post-tsunami, that Owen's mother was "lost" and Owen himself was "alone in the sea," Butler's close-up picture avoids the overwhelming, long-distance perspective of a tiny figure dwarfed by the vast ocean. Apart from a font cluttered with ornamentation, the book's large format and attractive presentation invites sharing--even with sensitive young listeners. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 2 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068985787X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689857874
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.3 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Heaphy on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the children in my preschool class were enamored of the true story of Owen and Mzee, as seen in the books by I. Hatkoff. I was excited to find this artistic version, with beautiful soft illustrations. I browsed the book and thought the text looked appropriate for my 3 and 4 year old children (the Hatkoff books are lengthy). I also liked the underlying suggestion of adoption that some of my children might relate to.

However, the story starts by showing Owen and his real Mama playing and loving together. And then the rains come and flood their African river, and Owen is swept out to sea. THIS IS A TRAUMATIC CONCEPT FOR YOUNG CHILDREN - THE IDEA THAT MAMA CAN BE TAKEN FROM A CHILD FOREVER. The story does not specifically mention real mama's demise, but it does show a frantic Owen in the sea, and real Mama does not come back.

Owen is next shown on a deserted beach, forlorn and alone. While the true story is that he was rescued by humans and transported to a sanctuary, in this version he sees something in the grass that looks like his Mama! He is so happy that he goes to it and snuggles down for a long nap, only to discover it is the tortoise Mzee. I am not sure exactly what the title is supposed to mean - Owen made a FRIEND in Mzee. Mzee does not feed nor care for Owen as a Mama does. The story shows him playing hide and go seek with Mzee, just as he has played it with his real Mama, and sleeping next to Mzee, just like with his real Mama.

I made the mistake of sitting down to read this book to the class without reading the text first. I DO NOT recommend this story in this version for young children, although I give it 3 stars for the beautiful illustrations.
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Format: Hardcover
As mentioned in other comments, this book has beautiful pictures. While the idea of a Mama being gone is a scary concept for small children, as a foster parent, this book has been a great tool for me to read to the kids who have come into our home through foster care. It is a way to prepare them for the idea that, as much as they love their Mama, they might not ever be able to live with her again. It gives them hope that there are others out there who will love them forever.
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Format: Hardcover
My 5-year-old (named Owen) absolutely loves this book and so do I. The pictures are stunning and the story is really sweet and comforting for this age group. I agree with the previous poster that all of the details are not necessary for children of this age to read. I believe the story captures the high and low parts of the story beautifully. Owen is scared when he loses his mama in the water. He is lonely when he finds himself in a place where he doesn't know anybody and he is happy and grateful to have found Mzee. We have read all of the books on this subject and even without the mention of humans capturing Owen and bringing him to a park where he met Mzee, this is still hands-down our favorite one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very sweet book with beautiful pictures. It is one you will read again and again.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this with my three year old (non-adopted) son. He seemed to like it well enough, although not as much as I did, but that's because I put more meaning to the story. He is still learning to recognize hippos, but he did recognize the tortoise as a turtle, since we haven't really worked on the difference between the two. We have read this book several times, always by my choice, but he has never rejected this idea. The artwork is soft and lovely. The text is simple and sweet. I really do think this would be a great book to read with children 2-6, especially those who have been adopted.
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Format: Hardcover
Marion Dane Bauer's A MAMA FOR OWEN tells of a baby hippo and his mama who are best friends and who love to play hide-and-seek in Africa, before the tsunami washes Owen's world away. The tsunami of 2004 serves as the inspiration for a gentle story of new friendships and changes, with John Butler's lovely realistic paintings spicing the story. Elementary-level readers will love it.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this story at the bookstore with my 7-year-old daughter and she loved it! It is a heart-warming story with beautiful illustrations of love and family. It sends a great message that loving families can come in different shapes and sizes, which my daughter got and appreciated right away. If the last reviewer will take a look at the back of the book, they will find that this book is "based" off a true story; a true story that is summarized for the reader as well in that location. I don't think the author needs to enter ALL the facts, because it's a STORY. Enjoy! :-)
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book! The pictures are wonderful and the story is touching. I purchased it for a friend whose sons name is Owen. She loved the book also.
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