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.
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.
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).
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.
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Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Update: 6 of 12
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Caldecott Challenge Update: 6 of 24