For Booklovers Anonymous this week I am sharing a story of two unlikely friends: a hippo and a giant tortoise, Owen and Mzee. Written by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Khaumbu, this is a beautiful story of friendship and survival.
This true story takes place in Kenya, when a baby hippo, orphaned and stranded by a tsunami in 2004 washes up onshore. Local villagers come together to perform a daring rescue. Hippos are known to be very dangerous animals, but they could not sit and watch the baby die. After a lot of effort, the hippo is rescued and sent to Haller Park, an animal sanctuary. At the park, Owen (as the hippo comes to be called) meets, Mzee, a 130 year old giant tortoise. Up to this time, Mzee was not a very friendly creature, and kept to himself. Upon reaching the park, a very frightened Owen immediately snuggled up to Mzee. At first, the tortoise was not very happy about this, but over time, things changed. Owen and Mzee became friends, and Owen began his recovery.
This story itself opens up so much discussion. It is also full of learning opportunities. For starters you could study Africa, Kenya, tsunamis, hippos, and tortoises. A documentary about Owen and Mzee is available on the book’s website. The Owen and Mzee website also has videos, sing-alongs, links for parents and teachers, and a tour of Haller Park.
Also, a free special ebook of the story was created for the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005. It contains more pictures, a coloring page, and updated information on the two animals.
The pictures in this book are gorgeous, and the story itself will bring tears to your eyes. Read it just for fun or use it for science or social studies.
Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous this week. Be sure to come back next Thursday. If you know of any other great animal stories, let me know in the comments!