Owen & Mzee

Common Sense Media says

Heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship.

Age(i)

2
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9
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Warm message about the power of love -- and how one friendship gave people hope when they needed it most.

Violence & scariness

A baby hippo is separated from his mother because of the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami. The hippo, Owen, must be restrained in order to transport him to a new animal sanctuary -- and is shown under a net in one picture. In the appendix, the authors discuss the 175,000 people who died because of the tsunami.

Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that a baby hippo is separated from his mother because of the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami. The hippo, Owen, must be restrained for transport to a new animal sanctuary and is shown under a net in one picture. In the appendix, the authors discuss the 175,000 people who died because of the tsunami.

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What's the story?

After the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, a baby hippo is separated from his mother and stranded on a reef. After a grueling rescue, the hippo, now named Owen, comes to live in an African animal sanctuary with a 130-year-old giant tortoise.

The two become unlikely friends: "They swim together, eat together, drink together, and sleep next to each other. They rub noses ... Owen playfully nuzzles Mzee's neck and Mzee stretches his neck forward asking for more."

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Kids will love the story of two giant animals becoming friends. Though the photographs aren't particularly sharp (this book was adapted from an e-book), kids probably will coo over pictures of Owen tickling Mzee's neck, or the two giants sleeping next to one another. There are a lot of details and pictures about Owen's rescue and the animal sanctuary workers -- and kids might be anxious to get to the stuff about the animals' friendship.

The appendix explains where the story takes place and what happened during the tsunami. Parents may wish to share some of these details with their kids before reading them the story. Though this is a picture book, it's really best for school-age kids who will get the most out of this story and its inspiring lesson: "Even though terrible unexpected things happen, the power of courage, love, and the preciousness of life will prevail."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the unlikely friendship between the hippo and the tortoise. What do you think made them friends? Why was their story so important to people after the devastating tsunami? What can we learn from them? A complete discussion guide can be downloaded from Scholastic. Kids may be excited to learn that co-author Isabella Hatkoff was just 7 when she wrote this book with her father. Parents could encourage kids to write their own stories from their lives or from what they hear around them.

Book details

Authors:Craig Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, Paula Kahumbu
Illustrator:Peter Greste
Genre:Animals
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Inc.
Publication date:February 1, 2006
Number of pages:40
Read aloud:4
Read alone:8

This review of Owen & Mzee was written by

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About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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