Saturday, July 2, 2011
The Watcher, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up
"Perched high in her favorite beech tree, Jane read about Dr. Dolittle talking to the animals, and Tarzan living with the apes in Africa. She wanted to go to Africa, too, and talk to the animals and live with the apes."
It wasn't too long ago that I told you of another book about Jane Goodall, as a child...her wishes and dreams. In this detailed and striking picture book biography, we follow Jane from childhood through her years of working with the chimpanzees of the Gombe forest.
She was a researcher in the making from the time she was a little girl closely watching any animal that crossed her path. She loved them all! She was patient and kind. As she grew and finished school, she wanted nothing more than a chance to go to Kenya. All her money went toward buying that ticket. Once there, it didn't take her long to find a job. Thanks to Louis Leakey, she was charged with the task of watching and understanding the chimps of Tanzania. She was delighted and wanted to know what others did not. Alone and absorbed in the sounds around her, Jane knew she had found 'home'.
The more time she spent with them, the more she came to admire them. She named them and knew them for the individuals that they proved to be. One special chimp, David Greybeard, taught her much that had previously been unknown to scientists. Always busy, Jane kept meticulous notes:
"At night, after a supper of beans and tomatoes and onions, Jane listened to Mozart and Bach as she wrote up her notes from the day. Years of notes were piled high everywhere. Jane needed help. And so assistants came to watch and write."
Knowing that she now had help in 'the watching' and realizing that urban growth and poachers were taking a toll on their population across Africa, Jane knew that the next part of her work must be to tell the world about their plight and seek help for saving the environment in which they thrived. She continues to work tirelessly and travel extensively.
The strong, vibrant artwork is done in acrylics and pen. Children will respond to the simple, but bold images. The cover illustration is particularly apt, showing Jane 'watching' her beloved chimpanzees with patience and great admiration.