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A Mama for Owen    by Marion Dane Bauer & John Butler order for
Mama for Owen
by Marion Dane Bauer
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Mama for Owen is based on the true story of Owen, a very young hippo who bonded with an elderly (130-year-old) giant tortoise named Mzee (Swahili for old man) after the 2004 flood and tsunami washed him out to sea and back to a different shore (the Author's Note at the back of the book describes what happened to Owen).

Marion Dane Bauer tells the story in simple, evocative sentences. She shows us Owen living with his hippo family in the African Sabaki River. Owen stayed close to his Mama, they played hide-and-seek together, and he 'licked her friendly face, laid his head on her broad back, and smiled his great pink smile.' Then came unrelenting rain that made the river rise so high and so fast 'that it washed Owen and his mother and his father and his aunts and his cousins all the way out to sea.'

Bauer shows us the terrified, roaring hippo infant eventually washed back to shore by 'the great wave'. There, 'befuddled and weak and very, very sad', he seeks his family, finally spots something brownish gray, and snuggles next to it. Giant tortoise Mzee is the same color as Owen's mama, large like her, and stays close like she did, so Owen sticks with him - and their unlikely companionship is born.

John Butler's soft, empathetic illustrations perfectly reflect Marion Dane Bauer's touching story, in a celebration of interspecies love and a heartwarming miracle on the heels of a shattering disaster.

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