If you read this fantastic new picture book to children, I suggest you put off telling them who the knobby-kneed girl on the title page really is. Then, when you’ve read Me . . . Jane from beginning to end, they’ll want to hear every word of the author’s note to learn more about the book’s title character, Jane Goodall.
Patrick McDonnell’s loving illustrations celebrate Jane’s rather solitary but happy childhood. Whether she is reading in a tree or happily stretched out in the grass, this little girl is in love with and curious about the natural world. Accompanied by Jubilee, her stuffed chimpanzee, Jane observes squirrels, shells, leaves and birds, and even hides in the hay to see an egg being laid. The book’s font has a hand-stamped look, and what appear to be rubber-stamped pictures float lightly beneath the text, just like the replicated pages from Jane’s childhood journal.
Children will enjoy looking at Jane’s handwriting and puzzles, her observations and research. Her passions are so obvious and she loves nature so much that it is not at all surprising that this little schoolgirl would one day be recognized by the Queen of England for her work with animals. Some might have seen Jane’s dreams as ridiculously big, but, happily for us, she did indeed go on to live in the jungles of Africa, like another Jane in Tarzan of the Apes.
Little girls—and this big one, too—will be inspired by the childhood of Jane Goodall and will, every time they read this charming volume, get a little misty-eyed at the book’s closing photograph, which shows Jane holding her hand out to a baby chimp. It’s a perfect image of “Dr. Jane,” reaching out to animals and inspiring young naturalists everywhere.