Authors and Book Reviews  

January 27 - February 02, 2006


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek - - [January 2005] OLD CHUMS - Hippo 'Owen'
and tortoise 'Mzee' in their home at Bamburi's Haller
Park near Mombasa..



Coastweek - - Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, Turtle Pond Publications and Lafarge Eco Systems have announced the publication in New York, U.S.A. of "Owen and Mzee: the True Story of a Remarkable Friendship."

This story of hope and resilience chronicles the incredible friendship formed between Owen, a baby hippo orphaned by the Tsunami, and Mzee, a giant Aldabran tortoise who has become Owen's surrogate parent and inseparable friend.


Coastweek - - [January 2005] Obviously puzzled - but still
strangely attracted - 'Owen' cautiously approaches the
apparently indifferent Aldabran tortoise.

Written by Craig Hatkoff, his seven-year-old daughter Isabella and Lafarge's Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the book is set to be released in March, and will feature extraordinary photographs by journalist Peter Greste.

Hatkoff's publishing company, Turtle Pond Publication, acquired the rights from Lafarge Eco Systems Limited that operates the Haller Park preserve in Mombasa Kenya where Owen and Mzee now live together.

One year after the unlikely pair was first joined at Haller Park in Mombasa, their bond is stronger than ever baffling scientists and marking one of the most unusual animal relationships that has ever been documented.

Haller Park is a rehabilitated quarry with a thriving ecosystem and a place where visitors from around the world can come see Owen and Mzee in addition to other wildlife such as giraffes, hippos, antelopes and buffaloes to name a few of its many attractions of Nature.

"Owen and Mzee" embodies the global unity that emerged in a time of tragedy.

The world was wrought by a string of natural disasters that has traumatized so many children directly and indirectly.

"Owen and Mzee" chronicles the dramatic rescue and ensuing friendship between a baby hippo named Owen and the 130-year-old giant tortoise named Mzee.

When Owen became stranded after the December 2004 Tsunami, a group of residents and local fishermen in Malindi, a few kilometers from Mombasa worked tirelessly to rescue him.

Owen was then brought to the Haller Park preserve by Dr. Kahumbu, where the orphan hippo and the elderly tortoise adopted one another.

Photos e-mailed from friend to friend quickly made Owen and Mzee worldwide celebrities.

Now they are inseparable they swim, eat and play together.

According to Scientists at Haller Park, it is reported that Owen and Mzee have become so emotionally connected, that they have recently developed their own language.


Coastweek - - [January 2005] 'Owen' lets the tortoise pass
him by and then slowly moves in from the rear.

After seeing Peter Greste's photograph of Owen and Mzee in the newspaper, Isabella asked her father if they could write a book about them.

"Isabella instantly connected with the heartwarming relationship between the two animals," Hatkoff said.

"This is a story of hope and resilience that has universal appeal and that works on so many levels."

Craig Hatkoff and his daughter corresponded via email with Dr. Kahumbu and Greste who were in Kenya.

Hatkoff, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, worked alongside the team to create an e-book that was launched in May at the Festival.

WNBC's Five O'Clock News and The NYU Child Study Center collaborated in the creation of the e-book, supplementing it with an accompanying Parents and Teachers Guide.

Scholastic, a longstanding festival partner, approached Hatkoff at the Festival with the idea of publishing the book.

"The story of Owen and Mzee is a tender reminder that in times of trouble, friendship is stronger than the differences that sometimes keep us apart," said Lisa Holton, President Children's Books and Book Fairs, Scholastic.

We're delighted to work with our Tribeca Film Festival partners to bring this touching story to children and adults everywhere through Scholastic's unique distribution channels."

"Owen and Mzee's story affirms not only the power of friendship, but also the positive effect of our corporate commitment to sustainability of the environment and preservation of Nature," Dr. Kahumbu of Lafarge Eco Systems said.

"Helping care for Owen and Mzee has been deeply gratifying for us, and we look forward to reading the book to them at Haller Park."

This is the third book Hatkoff has written with two daughters. In 2001,

Hatkoff and daughter Juliana, now 11, wrote two books: "Good-bye Tonsils" and then "Ladder 35, Engine 40" to convey a child's way of coping with her emotions following the tragedy of September 11.

Turtle Pond published the story in conjunction with the New York University Child Study Center.

"This was Isabella's turn and we found a great story in Owen and Mzee."


Coastweek - - [January 2005] After a cursory sniff and a snort
'Owen' decides that this could be the beginning a long and 
lasting friendship ... and follows on behind. 






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