McDonnell, Patrick. Me…Jane. Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. Little Brown and Company, 2011.
“Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.” So begins the gentle introduction to Jane Goodall and her early years. We meet a plucky girl who loves to be outside, observing nature, but who also enjoyed learning about the animals and plants in her world through reading. Once, young Jane wanted to find out where eggs came from, “so she and Jubilee snuck into Grandma Nutt’s chicken coop,” where they waited until they “observed the miracle.” Jane enjoyed the books about Tarzan, set in the jungles of Africa, and she dreamed that one day she might go there too. The final page shows the famous, full-color photograph of Goodall reaching out to touch the hand of a young chimp. McDonnell’s illustrations in ink and watercolor are set against pages that are lightly beige around the edges, lending an old-fashioned aesthetic. The vintage lino-prints and stamps, lightly visible behind the text, also complement this quality. There is a two-page spread of Goodall’s own drawings from childhood, when she “led a club called the Alligator society.” McDonnell includes more information about Goodall’s work and Goodall herself has written a message to readers.
Coupled with Schaefer and Shaefer’s early reader biography of Jane Goodall, these two books would make an excellent lesson on different ways to present biographical information. Readers and thinkers could compare and contrast the information in both books to examine what parts of Goodall’s story each book tells, as well as comparing the text tools that are included. What information do we find in both books? Which do readers prefer?
I was moved by the final pages of this book: young Jane and Jubilee fall asleep together, “to awake one day… [turn page] to her dream come true.” And there she was, this time photographed with a real chimpanzee.
ALA Notable Children’s Books, Younger Readers, 2012; Booklist Editors’ Choice, Younger Readers, 2011; New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, 2011.
Biography, Animals, Nature
Summer Birds (Engle) is a picture book biography about Maria Merian, the young woman who discovered that caterpillars grow into butterflies in the 17th century. Both books feature female naturalists and focus on their early lives.