Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Giveaway!!!! More information on the authors and a review of Looking for Miza

Hopefully you've heard by now that we're doing a book prize giveaway of Winter's Tail that includes the book, keychain, plush toy and Nintendo DS game.

In the meantime, we thought we'd share more about one of the authors, Craig Hatkoff:

"Craig Hatkoff, the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, is the cofounder of the Tribeca Film Festival and of Turtle Pond Publications. He has appeared on various national media outlets, including NBC’s Today Show and CNN. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Manhattan."

This is not the first information book that the Hatkoffs have written together.  So, we're going to be doing reviews of both Owen & Mzee and Looking for Miza, starting with the ladder:

Hatkoff, J., Hatkoff, I., Hatkoff, C.,  & Kahumbu, P.  (2008).  Looking for Miza.  New York:  Scholastic Press.


PLOT SUMMARY:  A young gorilla named Miza is missing from her gorilla family group in a national park.  As her family looks for Miza, so do the park rangers who are intent of keeping her alive and well.

As with the rest of this information book series, Looking for Miza features the real and recent story of a young animal that middle grade students will be able to relate to.  This book pays special attention to sharing information about gorilla behavior.

The photos show gorillas from a number of different angles and show the adults that helped search for Miza.  African maps and information about park rangers' duties are included at the end of the picturebook.  I did find myself wishing that a map had been included earlier on with the narrative to help situate the story a little more.

As with the rest of the series, this book is relatively text-heavy, lending itself to be used with young readers who excel or middle grade students.

*SPOILER*  Since no human knows exactly where Miza was rescued from, what feels like what should be a central plot point--Miza's rescue and return--is reduced to once sentence.  This made the story less inspiring for me.  Plus since *someone* doesn't return from searching for Miza, this book lacks the sense of complete optimism and security that so many other picturebooks that depict child-like creature being lost share.


As with the rest of the Hatkoff information book series (Winter's Tail especially!) there are multiple lessons a teacher could incorporate this book into.  This book lends itself to discussion of helping each other or a community.

A teacher could lead discussion on endangered species, starting with mountain gorillas, or African geography.  A teacher may also want to mention the dangers of hunters poaching on the animals in parks like Virunga, since at least one of the photos shows a ranger with a gun strapped to his back.

On a practical level, if younger students hear a portion of this book as a read aloud, they could learn about what to do if they become lost.


"Almost every day several hundred Congolese Rangers patrol the beautiful forests and jungles of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa.  The vast park, which spills over into Rwanda, is home to about 380 mountain gorillas, just over half of the planet's remaining mountain gorilla population."

"A baby mountain gorilla named Miza was missing from her family group.  They realized that she might be lost in the forest."

"It shows that family care and protection can help one get strong and feel secure.  It shows that dedicated people can help endangered animals survive."


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