Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship

Author/Illustrator: Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Katkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 2007
Genre: Nonfiction, Picture-Storybook
Sources: Sequel to the New York Times #1 Bestseller, Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
Audience: Gr. Pre-K+
Overview: This is the beautifully illustrated story of Mzee, a 130 year-old tortoise, and Owen, a newborn hippo at the Haller Park and Nature Reserve of Kenya. After Owen was rescued during a dangerous tsunami, the park workers did not want to place him with the other hippos who might attack him, so they placed Owen in a small enclosure occupied by smaller, less threatening animals, including Mzee, a grumpy tortoise. A remarkable friendship began between the two animals, a friendship marked by protectiveness, imitation, and companionship.

Activity: Ask students to research the different habits of tortoises and hippos. How are Owen and Mzee’s species similar and different? How do students account for their strange friendship?

Reviewer’s Name: Katie Coursey