Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Mom for Umande by Maria Faulconer, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

When Umande was born at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado one cold winter's night, he found himself without any loving arms to pick him up and hold him close.  It wasn't that Kwisha, his mom, didn't like him, it was just that she was too young to have a new baby and didn't know how to take care of him, plus she thought of Umande as a playmate, not as her new baby.

Luckily for Umande, the keepers at the zoo were dedicated to their gorillas and took on the job of mothering him until a gorilla mom could be found.  Imagine having to teach a gorilla how to be a gorilla and good gorilla manners, so that Umande wouldn't get hurt when he was introduced into the gorilla compound.

After 8 months of human caregiver, Umande traveled to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio.  There was older gorilla named Lulu there who was more experienced at being a mom than Kwisha was.  But would she be willing to adopt and care for this little guy?

I love it when I pick up a book to read that I feel wishy-washy about and absolutely fall in love with it.  That is exactly what happened with A Mom for Umande.  No only is this a heartwarming story about gorillas and their keepers, but it tells so much what everyday life is like for gorillas.  The keepers had to teach Umande about grooming and playing, all while making gorilla noises for Umande to imitate.

A Mom for Umande is one of those wonderful picture books where the text and the illustrations are so perfectly paired.  Maria Faulconer has written the story in clear straightforward sentences, never talking down to the young reader, but managing to include so much in Umanda's story.

The illustrations are done with oil glazes on sealed paper that are rubbed, blotted or scratched.  The effect is a lovely softness with very appealing color hues.  Artist Susan Kathleen Hartung has managed to capture Umande's feelings from playfulness and wonder to loneliness and fear.  The illustrations move the story even as they expand the text.

A Mom for Umande is a wonderful story about adoption and animal conservation and a wonderful story time choice at home or in school.

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from a friend

Faulconer writes in her Author's Note that she was inspired by a newspaper article she had read.  If you want more information, she suggests you visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo or the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, both of which have extensive programs in animal conservation.

And in case you are curious, you can read a 2006 news article about Umande HERE 

The real Umande
This is book 4 of my 2014 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy


  1. This book looks so good, but it's still not at my library! I'll stay on the lookout for it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It' s a wonderful story, all the more so because it is true. I hope you can find it soon.

  2. Aw, this looks so sweet! Irresistible illustrations! Thanks for sharing it.


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