In keeping with our recently launched Bimonthly theme on Girl Power and Women’s Wiles yesterday,we are hoping to review nonfiction picture books that celebrate womanity. And what perfect way to open our theme than with this beautiful award-winning picture book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Rasco from RIF.

Jane and a Chimp named Jubilee. The book begins with Jane being given a stuffed chimpanzee toy which she named Jubilee. This little girl took her favorite stuffed animal wherever she goes. The faded, almost-sepia-toned feel of the illustrations suggest an old-world vibe to the images and storyline:

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

In an age of computers, Wii, Kinect, Facebook, Twitter – it is refreshing to read about this lovely girl with her chimp climbing trees, chasing squirrels and scribbling detailed notes about the animals and plants she sees in her backyard.

Wondrous Beauty of Nature. What struck me most about this book is its unadorned sense of quiet. There were only two to five lines in each page spread alongside the soft, muted McDonnell artwork. Yet its authenticity is keenly felt in its carefully-chosen phrases and the scrap-book-y feel of the book (with a few drawings made by Goodall and some pictures interspersed in the pages). The way the young child is depicted in the drawings also portray the quiet curiosity and simplicity of the woman that she would later become.

Little Jane keen on doing her research and writing down her observations.
Jane Goodall in September 2011 - Image Source: Wikipedia - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

The reader is also drawn to this young child who is so in love with nature, one can not help but look out the window and see the world through her eyes:

Jane often climbed her favorite tree,
which she named Beech.
She would lay her cheek against its trunk
and seem to feel the sap
flowing beneath the bark.

A Girl with Big Dreams. The Author’s Notes found at the end of the book showed me how this little girl dared to chase her dreams and her passion at a time when it was not the norm for women to be single-minded in their pursuit of knowledge and erudition.

When Jane Goodall was ten years old, she decided that when she grew up she would go to Africa, live with the animals, and write about them. Almost everyone told her this goal was impossible. Her family had little money, and she was a girl in a time when girls were not encouraged to pursue adventurous careers. But her mother encouraged her to follow her dream. When Jane finished school, she continued to learn about Africa and worked hard to save enough money to go there.

Source: Wikipedia - click on the image to be taken to the websource.

At present, Jane Goodall has an organization (the Jane Goodall Institute) that “helps communities near wild places grow more food, have clean water, and send children to school, while also teaching people how to protect the nearby wildlife.” It has indeed been an epic journey for kind-hearted Jane Goodall.

About the Author (bio taken from the jacketflap of the book).

Photo Credit: Kim Levin - Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Patrick McDonnell is the creator of the beloved internationally syndicated comic strip MUTTS, which features the characters that star in five of his previous picture books: Wag!, Hug Time, South, Just Like Heaven, and The Gift of Nothing. He has also written and illustrated the award-winning picture book Art.

Patrick is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States, with a deep concern for the environment and animal welfare. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Karen, their formerly feral cat, MeeMow, and their newly adopted terrier, Amelie. Click here to be taken to Patrick’s Website.

Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos were taken by me.

Me… Jane won the 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award and is a 2012 Caldecott Honor Book.

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 22 of 35

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Update: 6 of 12

Picture Book Challenge Update: 36 of 120

Caldecott Challenge Update: 6 of 24

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

18 comments on “Nonfiction Monday: Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell

  1. Perfect book to start with. This book is really about how a young can grow up with large aspirations to become a powerful woman and advocate. Loved your review, Myra. Did you know that Disney is releasing a documentary film in April called “Chimpanizees,” and it was done in connection with the Jane Goodall Institute.


    • Hi Patricia, I didn’t know about Disney releasing a documentary! I’d look out for that one. I’m glad you liked it. I thought that the story was truly inspiring in its simplicity. 🙂


  2. I’ve seen so many reviews of this that I am tempted to read it even though I suspect it’s too young for my children. I’m booktalking biographies this week, though, so I’ll definitely include one of Goodall.


    • Hi Ms Yingling! You may be right. It may be a little too young for your children – however, the message of the story I believe has a universal appeal. Plus, it’s noteworthy seeing the many activities Jane initiated as a child to learn more about her environment.


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  4. I think I wasn’t fast enough, Myra. This is a book I was going to review for your challenge. Oops! I’ll find another. I love your review & agree that it is a wonderful book. I loved that it included pictures of her journals. She did Roots & Shoots here in the Denver area a long while ago & one of my students got to meet her & be in the workshop. It was quite an experience.


    • Hi Linda, oh do feel free to write a review of this book too! I am sure that you must have a different way of reading it and a lovely approach to the book that is uniquely yours given your own experiences with Jane Goodall and your students’ responses to her amazing work and contributions to science and research. It would be interesting for me to read your review as well. 🙂


  5. This was one of my favorite picture books from 2011. Jane Goodall has been one of my heroes for years, and I think this book does a beautiful job of capturing this young girl’s dreams and dedication. I am glad it won a Cybils award, even if there was a lot of controversy over whether or not it should be in the NF category.


    • Hi Joanna, with your love for the environment and animals and hiking – I could totally see why you would love Jane Goodall. And regarding the controversy, sometimes it’s all just beyond me – about what is fiction or nonfiction, how ‘authentic’ multicultural literature should be, and all those other issues – *sigh.* 🙂 But …. makes for an exciting field indeed!


  6. Great recommendation, Myra. Last year seemed to be Jane Goodall’s year for picture books. This was my favorite.
    Apples with Many Seeds.


  7. LOVE this book! Thanks for your nice review, Myra :).


  8. Love this review! You did such an amazing job! Thanks for sharing!


  9. Myra, Thanks for calling Me…Jane to our attention. I’ll want to read this one. Great review.


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