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Mama    by Jeanette Winter order for
by Jeanette Winter
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

This tender tale is the true story of a baby hippo that was separated from his mother during the Indonesian Tsumani at the end of 2004. The young hippo is saved and is taken to a zoo in Kenya, where he finds an adoptive mother, a 130 year-old male tortoise.

The simple text contains only two words: Mama and Baby. The sequential illustrations are the key to this book, beginning with the hippo and his happy mother, the sudden arrival of the storm, the sadness of being alone, and the eventual bonding with the tortoise.

Winter beautifully captures the baby hippo's fear and loneliness when he can't find his mother, and his great joy upon discovering a new person to call Mama. The very last scene is my favorite, where the lost mother hippo is drawn as a constellation in the sky, watching over her baby sleeping next to his new mama.

A written explanation of the whole story is provided as an endnote. Very young children may have a hard time conceptualizing the true meaning of this story about love and loss, but they will find it delightful all the same.

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