Books, Nature

Nonfiction “Perfect Picture Book Friday:” Mama

This week I’m joining author Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Book Friday” effort while continuing to spotlight nonfiction each week. This week’s book is “Mama” by Jeanette Winter.
Title: “Mama: A True Story in which a Baby Hippo Loses His Mama During a Tsunami, But Finds a New Home, and a New Mama”
Author/Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Publication Info: Harcourt, 2006
Genre: Nonfiction fiction (of course!)
Intended audience: Ages 4 and up
Themes/topics: Friendship, family, animals
Synopsis and opening line: “Mama.” That’s the first line of this book and almost the only word that appears throughout this true tale. Winter relies upon her colorful illustrations to retell this story of a baby hippo who gets swept out to sea and separated from its mama in a 2004 tsunami. Owen, as the hippo is later named, gets rescued by Kenyan wildlife officials and adopts 130-year-old male tortoise Mzee as his new mama.
Resources: The Web site has a wealth of resources for parents and teachers including Scholastic’s teacher guide and three classroom activities. Visitors also will find rebus stories, a game and a sing-along.
Why I like this book: This is a versatile book. It’s a quick read, and preschoolers are drawn to the colorful illustrations and the tale of two different species forming a friendship. With words like “mama” and “baby” beginning readers can read the book on their own. For older children, Winter includes an author’s note in the back, which explains the true story of Owen and Mzee. And, more than anything, I am reminded to keep writing for children simple. Winter “tells” her tale in fewer than 30 words.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

16 thoughts on “Nonfiction “Perfect Picture Book Friday:” Mama”

  1. AH! So sad! I’m glad the hippo got a new mama, but still…to lose the real one. 😦

    I admit I do not read enough (any) non-fiction PBs to my boys — they are still so young, I don’t think they’d have the patience. But a beautiful book like this seems like a great way to introduce non-fiction, indeed. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Renee, as I mentioned above, I have to modify the story a bit. I tell the boys Mzee is a “babysitter.” As I child, I was traumatized by Bambi, so I’m trying not to do the same.

  2. I can never get enough of this friendship between Owen and Mzee, though I haven’t read this version. It looks great for even very small children!

    1. Joanna, this is definitely fine for 2 and up. I have found that I do have to modify the story a bit for really young children because of the whole losing one’s mother part of it. I case Mzee as a “babysitter.” Terrible, I know.

  3. I love the story of Owen and Mzee. Thank you for including it. I think it is interesting we continue to hear more and more of stories like this. Recently saw a story about a dog that adopted a baby pig and nursed it with her pups. Great review.

  4. My mother-in-law gave a different version of this story to my son for his birthday this year, but I like the look of this one. Thank you for sharing and i look forward to more non-fiction recommendations!

  5. Beth, Julie, Patricia, Stacy, Heather, Erik and Vivian I had no idea how much traffic Susanna’s “Perfect Picture Book Friday” would generate. Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my review. I look forward to reviewing other favorite nonfiction picture books in the weeks to come.

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