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Owen & Mzee
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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."
Talk to your kids 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.