Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship

by Isabella Hatkoff

Other authorsPeter Greste (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 2006



Local notes

599 Hat





Scholastic Press (2006), Edition: First Edition, 40 pages. $17.99.


Details through text and photographs the special bond shared by Owen, an orphaned hippo, and Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise.


Original language


Physical description

40 p.; 11 x 0.25 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member sckimmel
Owen,a young hippo stranded and motherless by the 2004 tsunami on the coast of Kenya and taken to an animals sanctuary near Mombasa where he developes an unusual friendship with Mzee, a giant 130 year-old tortoise.
LibraryThing member dylantanner
Told through pictures this tells the story of two best friends who just happen to be a hippo and a giant tortoise.


This book is so touching, how could you not love it! It's so simple and true, it kind of blows my mind.

As a science text it's perfect for a younger elementary, kids get so
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stoked about the story and it is driven home with the photos.
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LibraryThing member sprovost
This book is the true story of a friendship that formed between a baby hippo named Owen and a giant tortoise named Mzee. After the tsunami of December 2004, Owen was left stranded in a coral reef in Africa without his mother or family. Resident and visitors to Malindi, Kenya all wanted to help the
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hippo. After contacting the animal sanctuary, Haller Park, which was outside of Mombasa, Kenya, they learned that Owen would never be accepted into another hippo pod. However, Haller Park wanted to come and get Owen so that they could make him a home at Haller Park. After the long effort to get the angry hippo to Haller Park, they placed him in an area with Mzee. Owen took to Mzee right away, although Mzee was hesitant at first. It didn't take long for the two to become inseparable.
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LibraryThing member eevers
This sweet story is of a stranded baby hippo who befriends a 150 year old tortoise (a loner). The photographs are enjoyable for the reader, the captions add facts to them.
LibraryThing member acmckee
Owen and Mzee is about a baby hippopotamus and a giant tortoise (respectfully). When Owen is separated from the rest of his family and left all alone, he is rescued by a local group of people and brought him to an animal sanctuary, where he was very nervous and instantly befriended Mzee. However,
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Mzee was never very "social" and rejected Owen at first. But, after some time, Mzee began treating Owen like family, making him feel comfortable enough to finally eat. They play and act like best friends!
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LibraryThing member rcohen425
Owen and Mzee is a heartwarming, true story of a remarkable friendship between Owen, a baby hippopotamus and Mzee, a giant tortoise. Owen was separated from his family during a tsunami and rescuers brought him to a park to live. In his new home, Owen befriends Mzee and the two become inseparable,
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despite their obvious differences. The story demonstrates that even those from drastically different backgrounds can still form strong bonds.
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LibraryThing member iecj
Through photograhs and simple text, readers learn about a hippopatomus and a tortoise that are brought together in an African wildlife santuary due to the devastation of the baby hippo's habitat in a tsunami. The two animals form an unexpected friendship.The book is intended for younger readers,
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but can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
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LibraryThing member ktibbs
This is a heart warming story that follows the life of a hippo, Owen, who is separated from his mother and other hippos during a tsunami. Owen is rescued by some locals who end up taking him to an animal sanctuary where he is cared for and will spend his life. When he arrives at the sanctuary, Owen
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befriends a turtoise who is usually a loner, named Mzee. Mzee warms up to Owen's company and the two of them become inseparable.
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LibraryThing member burke73
This is the sequel to the amazing story of two unlikely friends that become inseparable. The first book tells the beautiful story of stray hippo, Owen, that finds a new home with a new roommate - a 130 year old tortoise named Mzee. This sequel continues the story and goes more into detail how the
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two friends are still extremely close and how their friendship defies science. It also talks a little bit about how the park doctors are concerned that Owen is not acting like a normal hippo but rather like a tortoise and how they might need to introduce Own to other hippos so that he can learn how to be himself...a hippo. It also talks about how Owen and Mzee have developed their own language and way of commuicating with each other. This is a great book to not only teach kids about unlikely friendships, but it also teaches them about Haller Park in Mombasa, about the hippo and tortoise species, and about the proper pronunciation of a few Swahili words.
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LibraryThing member kwillis
A truly remarkable story of an unlikely friendship between a grumpy, solitary tortoise and a lonely, orphaned hippo. With great information about their trials and tribulations, we learn a new story of a village raising a child, well a hippo.
LibraryThing member lauraejensen
The gentle story of a baby hippo who is orphaned after a tsunami, and the remarkable friendship she found with a 130 year old tortoise. A smooth, sweet book with bright, crisp photographs. Useful in peace education, or for further investigation into Kenya, hippos, tortoises, tsunamis....
LibraryThing member skeeterbo
I liked the book because it was about two animals. A hippo was stranded after a tsunami and the old tortoise accepted him as a friend.
LibraryThing member jessicacl
I really enjoyed this book about a friendship between two wild creatures. It is about Owen, a baby hippo, who was stranded after the December 2004 tsunami in Kenya. She is quickly adopted by Mzee, a giant tortise.
LibraryThing member michelleramos
This is a wonderful story of a baby hippopotamus who losses his entire family and pod. He is stranded on a reef in the ocean off of the coast in Africa. An entire village spends hours rescuing him. After he is rescued he is taken to a wildlife reserve and placed in a pen with a 130 year old
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tortoise. The two become very close and for a wonderful bond. They eat together, swim, together, take walks together and even sleep next to one another. No one is sure why or how they formed such an amazing bond, but they are inseparable.
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LibraryThing member bdickie
One of those stories of nature that will make you rethink the whole dumb animal idea.
LibraryThing member JanelleVeith
I thought this was a terrific book and loved that it is a true story. The pictures of Owen and Mzee are fasinating.
LibraryThing member maggiereads
It was a balmy post-tsunami day when he was discovered on the coral reefs away from shore. Two feet tall and 600 pounds, he was a meager shadow of his parents and other herd members. But, where was the herd?

He was mad, too. People kept crowding him and throwing nets on his back. He didn’t like
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these men and he really didn’t like nets. His instinct told him to run, to charge, but a man called Owen Sobien put a stop to all the chaos. In one fluid motion he leapt atop the rounded figure, securing him with a shark net.

Applause erupted as our new friend was ceremoniously named Owen and unceremoniously shoved in the back of a pick-up truck. The ride was dusty and hot in the African sun as they traveled to Mombasa, Kenya where an animal sanctuary named Haller Park awaited their arrival. Unfortunately, there was a problem; the existing herd was territorial and extremely aggressive. Owen would surely be killed.

Since he was still a baby, the park managers moved him into an enclosure called a boma. At the time the boma was home to gentler animals such as, “bushbucks, vervet monkeys and a few Aldabra tortoises.”

As they backed the truck into his new home it was becoming dark. Owen struggled to stay in the truck, but the annoying people prevailed. His slightly ungracious exit was followed by a quick bee line to a dark object in the corner of the boma. Within a minute the object moved, so he moved. The object moved again, so he moved again. Everyone smiled and called it a night.

The next morning, park managers were shocked by what they saw. Owen, a mammal, was sleeping next to a cold-blooded reptile. Not just any reptile, but a 130-year-old, grumpy, Aldabra tortoise.

This is the true story of Owen, a baby hippopotamus, and his constant-companion tortoise named Mzee [mm-Zay]. Currently, three books celebrate this extraordinary friendship: Owen & Mzee: Best Friends, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, and Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. Each book celebrates their famous kinship, and is perfect for the child ready to transition into chapter books. Elementary teachers might find these books a refreshing approach to units on animals. Coloring sheets and activities can be found online at lafargeecosystems.com.
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LibraryThing member LisaNewman
Owen and Mzee are best friends, but how do a baby hippo and a 130 year old tortoise become such fast friends? This book follows Owen’s story from becoming an orphan to being transported to his home in Hallar Park Animal Sanctuary and his friendship with Mzee.

This story made me sad at first, but
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the bond between Mzee and Owen is just amazing.

This would be a wonderful book to introduce the idea of an animal sanctuary to younger students. Often they do not know the difference between a local pound or shelter and an animal sanctuary for exotic animals.
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LibraryThing member chelsea6273
This is such a great story about the unlikely friends, Owen (a hippo) and Mzee (tortoise). The pictures are really great, as they are photos of village people who dealt with the two animals. The vocabulary is easy enough for an older elementary school child to handle (maybe no less than 3rd grade),
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except for the random African words that would pop out (usually names of places, people, or rivers). The story would be great to read to a child because it shows to animals becoming friends, even though the odds were against them; they did not judge each other (I mean, I know they are animals, but it is a great concept to share with children!). The best part was about mid-way through the story when the two snuggled up next to each other; the photos were so cute. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member Santiago_M.
A story of a baby Hippopotamus and a tortoise, that became friends. The baby Hippopotamus lived with his mother and a large group of Hippopotamus. A storm came and washed them up the river near a coastal town called Malindi Africa. As more rain came it separated the baby hippo from its
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mother. The baby hippo was found in a area where there was a lot of sea weeds and the baby hippo was existed from fitting to get out of the weeds. The village people tried to get him out with fish nets and he kept breaking them finally they were able to get him out with a shark net. A man that went out to save him was Owen Sobien, so they named the baby hippo Owen. They took him to the Haller Park Animal Sanctuary where he has placed in an area where they had a Large Tortoise named Mzee. Mzee was 130 years old tortoise, during a period of time they became friends and Owen became a friend and protector of Mzee.
Classroom Extension:
This is not only a good story of a baby hippopotamus and a 130 year old tortoise; it is also based on a true story. The pictures give a view of the place where he came from and what the area looks like in Africa. The pictures show what the baby hippo looked like and his friend Mzee.
Class room Extension:
1. The book can be used to show that even the animals have friend of a different species.
2. We can use the book to talk about friendships, how friendship can last forever.
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LibraryThing member lbblackwell
As the title states, the story is one of a "remarkable friendship" between an unlikely pair - a baby hippopotamus and a 130-year-old tortoise - after the hippo is separated from his mother.
(Pair with "Mama" by Jeanette Winter)
LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
The heartwarming true story of the baby hippopotamus and the elderly Aldabra tortoise that became good friends and companions, after the 2004 tsunami killed the hippo's entire pod, is told in Owen & Mzee, an engaging picture-book that is also a father-daughter project, begun when co-author Isabella
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Hatkoff was six years old. Bringing in Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the ecologist who manages Haller Park, where Owen and Mzee now live, and photographer Peter Greste, the Hatkoffs set out to document an unusual cross-species relationship - it's rare for a mammal and a reptile to form such a close bond - and ended up producing a charming book in the process.

I enjoyed Owen & Mzee when it first came out in 2006, and have noted the subsequent rise of this kind of cross-species 'buddy book' - see also: Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends, Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, and Tiger Pups - so when it was chosen as one of our February selections, over in The Picture-Book Club to which I belong, where our theme this month is "friendship," I was happy to have the chance to reread and review it here. Young readers with a love for animals, or an interest in orphan stories, will enjoy this book, and its story of the unlikely bonds that arise in and after times of crisis. I know I did!
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LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
I just love the gorgeous photographs, as well as the simply excellent and informative back material (on Kenya, hippopotami, aldabra tortoises etc.). Actually for me, it is the photographs and the back material that really "make" this story (and it is the main reason I am giving Owen & Mzee: The
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True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship four stars, instead of three stars). Especially the photographs of Owen and Mzee snuggling together, being together, being friends are simply amazing and touching; they tell the story of their developing friendship better and more poignantly than the accompanying narrative. In fact, I find the text, the narrative rather dry and somewhat dragging at times; the words of the narrative alone certainly do not make me feel all that emotionally engaged with and close to either Owen or Mzee. The text is very informative, but I feel that it never really goes all that much below the surface, more like a dispassionate newspaper account, or perhaps a school textbook (it is a story about a unique friendship, but the words used to describe that unique friendship just do not make me feel all that emotionally engaged and connected).

I also think that perhaps a bit too much of the narrative focuses on Owen's rescue. I would have liked to have had more descriptions of Owen and Mzee's friendship and some more pictures of Owen and Mzee together; the post-rescue narrative somehow feels a bit rushed. I still strongly recommend this excellent picture book, but without the truly wonderful, amazing photographs, I believe that Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship would have been a rather dry and at times tedious read. Also, I would tend to recommend this book more for older children, as younger children might find the text-heavy narrative a bit daunting and distracting (I believe that younger children would likely enjoy the photographs, but I do wonder wether their attention span would not be overtaxed by the length and detail of the narrative).
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LibraryThing member klledet
This is such a magical story of a strong bond between two very unlikely animals, whom would have never been expected to create a friendship. Owen, a baby hippo, connects with a 130 year old giant turtle, named Mzee, when he is stranded and left behind by his pod and placed in the same habitat.
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Although Mzee did not warm up to Owen immediately, eventually the two became inseparable. This can be seen throughout the book but, the last page of the story, where Mzee and Owen are nuzzled next to each other and have smiles across their faces, really shows the joy they have in sharing each other's company.
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LibraryThing member bookcat27
This is a true story about the tsunami in African and what happened to an orphan baby hippo. He was the only one left in his herd after the tsunami hit. Villagers rescued him and contacted the closest nature park to come and get him. They named him after the villager who was most responsible for
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helping catch the hippo.When they brought the baby hippo to the park and his new enclosure, he went straight in and hid behind Mzee, the tortoise. Mzee was not known for his friendliness and hisses at Owen a lot. By the time morning came, the park employees found both of them sleeping side by side. They have kept this up for several years. Where one goes the other follows. What one eats, the other eats. It is a true story of inter-species friendship.
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(140 ratings; 4.3)
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