Monday, October 4, 2010

Marvelous Picture Books: Mama vs. Owen & Mzee

These two books Mama by Jeanette Winter and Owen & Mzee by Isabella and Craig Hatkoff with photographs by Peter Greste each tell the true story of a stranded baby hippopotamus and an old tortoise who become inseparable friends.

Mama tells this story through illustration with the words "mama" and "baby" as the only text. In the back of the book there is a short synopsis of the true events behind the story. Jeanette Winter's artistic style is simple and cute. These acrylic illustrations clearly tell the story of love, fear, loneliness, and hope using only a few colors and simple shapes. This strategy of illustration matches the simplistic text yet still describes the themes of this story beautifully. The overall synergy of the illustrations and text provide for a visual experience that not only tells a story children can understand but provides an aesthetically pleasing look at the touching themes of this true story.

Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship compiles photograph's from throughout the true tale with detailed narration of Owen's journey in a format that children can understand and learn from. The father-daughter pair who authored this book successfully extend the story shown on the news to a format that can be used in classrooms and as a family read aloud. The format and artistic style of this book stands in stark contrast to that of Winter's picture book but still perfectly compliments the
tale. True photography compliments the real life story of these two animal friends. Moreover, this book provides a more objective and detailed description of the events that lead a stranded baby hippo to join in friendship with an old tortoise. The end pages display child drawings of the two friends and add a charming element to the otherwise very photograph and text oriented layout. Overall the visual experience contributes to the educational and informative impact of this book's version of Owen's story.

I believe using these books in conjunction would tell this story to children in a cohesive and fully informative way including both the touching theme and the true events involved in this true and shocking event.

Happy Reading!

Abby Sosna


  1. This book looks so cute, and I love the idea of having children's drawings included at the end. It sounds like it would make for a great lesson on friendship if children read the book (or the teacher read it to them), and then they drew a picture of their friends and discussed what makes a good friend.

  2. you might find the companion website ( interesting as a complement to the book to extend the reading experience and add interactivity-- curious to get feed back from a literary perspective

    - craig h (co-author)