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Friday, April 22, 2011

Me...Jane. Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. Little Brown, Hachette. 2011. $17.99 ages 3 and up

"She watched birds
making their nests,
spiders spinning their webs,
and squirrels chasing one
another up and down trees."

I think it's a wonderful thing that we have accomplished authors writing picture book biographies for some of our younger readers. It is often a book just like this one that will lead a child to look for further information about a person they have come to admire. Patrick McDonnell uses expert design, dense paper and subtle color to bring his story of Jane Goodall to his young audience. It has an old fashioned feel, with stamped images in the backgrounds adding interest.

His uncluttered artwork, which transports us back to earlier times, fully matches the simple, informative text about the young and fascinated girl who would become the woman known internationally for her lifelong work with chimpanzees. He creates a world of wonder for the young Jane and attends to this early part of her life, while also showing us what will lead her to her life's work.  Jane and her stuffed chimp Jubilee spend hours of discovery, trying to answer the questions that her inquisitive mind formulates.

Upon reading the book a second time, I felt Jane's presence more acutely. The fact that the author has included childhood drawings and journal entries as well as archival photographs from her youth and the present offers an awareness for the children reading it that she is a real person. I love the way he brings his story to a touching conclusion.

Additional information, as well as a note from Jane herself, will add to the store of knowledge collected and offers a suggestion for readers to become more involved in and aware of the environmental needs of their world.

I have been invited to present an upcoming workshop for teachers with an emphasis on literature for sustainable development. You can be sure that I will include this great book!

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