Me…Jane awarded Caldecott honor

February 2, 2012 at 6:53 am 1 comment

Me…Jane illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell; published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York; 2011.

With her stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, a young Jane Goodall explored the world around her.  From her backyard, she dreamed of living in Africa among its creatures.  One day, she awoke to find her dream was realized.

I read this book then set it aside for a few days.  My initial reaction was that the illustrations were remarkable but the story lacked appeal for children.  Then I reread it.  Hmmmm.  A child with a dream.  A child whose hobbies reflect her future endeavors.  And the words that convey her story fit.  This is a book for cuddling up on the couch, reading together, and examining the images.  At the very end of the book, in fairly small type, is this Art Note:

This page features a cartoon that Jane Goodall made of her life in the forest at the Gombe Stream Game Reserve.  Readers will also find two facing pages of drawings and puzzles that Jane herself created when, as a young girl, she led a club called the Alligator Society.  Throughout the book, ornamental engravings from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are included, collectively evoking Jane’s lifelong passion for detailed, scientific observation of nature.

Aha!  McDonnell’s illustrations further portray the young Jane.  I think it would be lovely to tell children that the things that interest them now, the things they are passionate about, will help drive them toward their future selves.  Maybe that’s a great starting point to encourage journaling or even creating collection boxes.

Now  about the illustrations….  The cover appears to be the cover of a scrapbook or photo album, with pseudo-binding and corner protectors.  Each page is treated like a page in a scrapbook.  Almost all of the left-hand pages appear to be stamped with fading ink in shapes that would be in a collection of rubber stamps intended for children; the text is printed on this page, in a font and ink style that invokes a typewriter with a worn ribbon.  Then the corresponding right-hand page is an image rendered in India ink and watercolors.  McDonnell has captured the essence of the young zoologist for us.  By the final pages, photos of Dr. Goodall and biographical information, including a message from her, are included to remind us that this is her story.  That this child-dreamer with a penchant for exploring grew up and made her dreams reality.  In her message, Jane encourages us all to get involved to help make “the world a better place for people, animals and the environment” by joining a local Roots & Shoots group.  The end pages invoke African textiles which let us know as the book starts, and reminds us as the book ends, that this is the book about a zoologist working in Africa.


Entry filed under: Biography, Caldecott Award or Honor Book, Picture Book. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Ellen L. Ramsey  |  February 2, 2012 at 8:09 am

    A wonderful review–and definitely prompts me to seek out this book!


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