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.


The amazing true story of the orphaned baby hippo and 130-year-old giant turtle whose remarkable friendship touched millions around the world. The inspiring true story of two great friends, a baby hippo named Owen and a 130-yr-old giant tortoise named Mzee (Mm-ZAY). When Owen was stranded after the Dec 2004 tsunami, villagers in Kenya worked tirelessly to rescue him. Then, to everyone's amazement, the orphan hippo and the elderly tortoise adopted each other. Now they are inseparable, swimming, eating, and playing together. Adorable photos e-mailed from friend to friend quickly made them worldwide celebrities. Here is a joyous reminder that in times of trouble, friendship is stronger than the differences that too often pull us apart.


Original language


Physical description

40 p.; 11 x 0.25 inches


0439851130 / 9780439851138



User reviews

LibraryThing member bdickie
One of those stories of nature that will make you rethink the whole dumb animal idea.
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 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 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 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 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.… (more)
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 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 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 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 stoked about the story and it is driven home with the photos.
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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 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 befriends a turtoise who is usually a loner, named Mzee. Mzee warms up to Owen's company and the two of them become inseparable.… (more)
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, but can be enjoyed by people of all ages.… (more)
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 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, despite their obvious differences. The story demonstrates that even those from drastically different backgrounds can still form strong bonds.… (more)
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, 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!… (more)
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 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 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.… (more)
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 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.… (more)
LibraryThing member ADw234
This is the story of Owen the hippopotamus from Africa, and a giant tortoise named Mzee. Owen and his family were chased out of their home because of a flood. After finally catching Owen they take him to Haller Park where he meets his new friend Mzee the tortoise. The book tells the story of how they become friends. This is a great book that teaches the reader about hippopotami and tortoises. It also teaches the reader about friendship.… (more)
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 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 acochra
This story reveals an unlikely friendship between a rescued baby hippo and an old turtle at a zoo. As a teacher you could use this book to show your students that not all non-fiction books are boring or just informational. While reading this book you receive information on this non-fictional story, but the illustrations are really engaging and the storyline is too. You could model "asking questions" of the text to your students in a read-aloud mini-lesson. You could state a fact, ask a question about it, and then add your response. You could do all of this on a big sheet of construction paper in the front of the class while they are listening to the story. This will show the students other ways to interact with the text.… (more)
LibraryThing member mms
Simply the best children's book ever.
LibraryThing member elmartin
After coming together at a refuge, Owen and Mzee form an unlikely friendship. Although the two species couldn't be more different, they connect in a way that surpasses our expectations.
LibraryThing member MarissaFay
I had never heard of Owen & Mzee until I saw this book at the library, and I was so excited about it! This book is so adorable, and the story of Owen & Mzee is extremely heartwarming and scientifically fascinating.
LibraryThing member Pangle
This is the true story of the baby hippo, Owen, who was separated from his family during the 2004 tsunami and was rescued by villagers in Kenya. When moved to a wildlife sanctuary, he met the tortoise, Mzee, and they quickly became each other's new family.
This is a great nonfiction story to share with students and has several realistic fiction books to accompany it.… (more)
LibraryThing member DayehSensei
A touching, true story where Owen the Hippo is separated from his family during a tsunami. The book focuses on the friendship and love that develops between Owen and a much older tortoise, Mzee. Young children everywhere will love this tale. This is a great book to combine with a fictional text on friendship.




(136 ratings; 4.3)
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