Looking for Miza

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Looking for Miza Book Poster Image
Gorilla's tale not as compelling as others in series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Miza's story is embroidered with intriguing details about gorilla life in the wild, particularly the roles of family members.

Positive Messages

The larger story here is about the importance of family in providing security and comfort. When Miza and her mother disappear, the gorilla family leader takes steps to keep the rest of the family safe, then goes out to find Miza. The park rangers rush to try to help. Once Miza returns, her family members play an essential role in helping her to fully recover.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The rangers treat the animals in their care with great respect and deference. Kabirizi, the family leader, is alert, thorough, and watchful.

Violence & Scariness

Miza and her mother disappear, and only Miza is found. The authors describe the threats to gorillas, including poachers and human diseases. Park rangers carry guns.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know this story deals with the disappearance of a baby mountain gorilla and her mother; only the baby is found. There’s also discussion of the dangers facing mountain gorillas, including poachers. The park rangers who help protect the gorillas carry guns.

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What's the story?

Over half the world’s remaining 700 gorillas live in Virunga National Park in Congo, where rangers try to protect them from poachers, human visitors, and habitat loss. When baby Miza and her mother disappear in June 2007, park rangers and the gorilla that led Miza’s family troop immediately begin searching for them. Miza is brought back safely, and eventually recovers from her ordeal with the help of family members.

Is it any good?

This should be a compelling dramatic tale, but flat writing and a disjointed narrative make it somewhat disappointing -- a weaker entry in the popular series that includes Knut and Owen & Mzee. The retelling of Miza’s disappearance and recovery lacks suspense and emotional impact -- though that’s partly due to the fact that no one really knows what happened to Miza. The full-color photographs are generally fuzzy, overexposed, or have a digital sheen, but there are a few standouts: kids will delight in the image of a playful gorilla with its feet in the air.

However, there is much to appreciate in this glimpse of gorilla life in the wild, written by Craig Hatkoff with his daughters, Juliana and Isabella. They describe some of the social roles in gorilla families, the unique position of silverbacks, and the challenges facing family leaders. The appendix offers more information on threats to mountain gorillas and organizations dedicated to helping these endangered animals.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the roles and responsibilities of the members of Miza’s family. How is her family similar to yours? How is it different?

Book details

For kids who love green reads and gorillas

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