Me…Jane Review

Me...JaneMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell is a whimsical biography of Jane Goodall, animal welfare and conservationist extraordinaire, as a little girl. The story opens as she is being handed her stuffed toy chimpanzee, Jubilee. She spends her days taking Jubilee on adventures all around her house as they explore the everyday creatures and plants she finds. Jane buries her nose in books (in reference to the title, her favorites were ones with Tarzan of the Apes) to learn even more. Young Jane then writes and draws up her findings, which is shown as a two-page spread containing works from Ms. Goodall’s own childhood. The words are beautifully sparse and the mixed-media art including ink, watercolor and stamps that speak the rest were awarded a 2012 Caldecott Honor.

The emphasis throughout is that Jane is a very curious child who wonders about both the simple miracles in life she then goes on to witness, such as where eggs came from, to the unknown, such as what it would be like to live a life in Africa helping animals. This curiosity eventually leads her, “…to awake one day…to her dream come true.” The last page is actually a famous photograph of Jane in the jungle with a chimpanzee. Some critics found the use of this photograph at the end to be controversial because of its abrupt shift from the rest of the artwork on the book. From my perspective, my 3-year-old lights up and says, “The real Jane!”; the jolt having the effect of allowing the young reader to make the connection between a whimsical biography and an actual person. Not to mention that kids LOVE to be surprised at the end of books. For older readers , the photograph can serve as a springboard to learning more about “the real Jane” in the sections entitled, “About Jane Goodall” and “A Message from Jane”, which also contain photographs (young Jane and older Jane).

Ms. Goodall is a shining example of someone who embraced her sense of curiosity and discovery from childhood on through adulthood. Jane tells us in her message that we all make a difference in the world and it’s up to us what kind of difference this is. As an adult reading this, this is a message I need to be reminded about. As a parent, I’m making it a primary goal of mine to show my kids how they can continue to embrace their sense of curiosity and discovery throughout their lives, to help them choose a profession that makes them feel that they are making a positive difference in the world.

Questions to consider while reading: What everyday things around Jane’s house did she love to observe? What do you like to observe in our house/apartment or around where we live? If they don’t yet understand what observing is, this might be a good opportunity to expand their vocabulary. To help them understand the action “to observe” (or help them discover things to observe), you could turn to the two-page spread with Jane laying near a tree on her back and discuss how she’s observing through her senses. Then, go outside in your backyard or nearby park and lay like that together (stuffed animals as loved as Jubilee welcomed, of course!) and after a little while ask: What did you see? Hear? Smell? Touch? 

Another question to ask might be, “What is something you’d like to learn more about?” Write their answer down and bring it with you the next time you go to the library. I asked my young son to approach our librarian about finding a book on ambulances (his current passion)- he could not have been more enthralled with its contents that included things such as where they put the stretchers. Lastly to consider: What was Jane’s dream? What is a dream you have? This might also be an opportunity to tell your child about dreams you had growing up…and the dreams you have this very minute.



8 thoughts on “Me…Jane Review

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Thanks, Catherine :) Me…Jane definitely gets us ALL excited to get outside and explore!

  • Julie Grasso

    This looks so wonderful. I have read recently this was recommended as one of the best non fic picture books about Jane. I was so glad to read your review. I think Gigi would love the photo at the end too. Thanks so much for sharing it with us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Julie- so glad you’re going to check it out- I’m sure your daughter will love it! Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    What a fabulous recommendation and I agree that the addition of a real photograph actually drives home the point that it’s a story about a real person. I think sometimes kids don’t really put it together. Thanks so much for joining us in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

    • Liz Cave Post author

      Thanks, Renee! The Kit Lit Blog Hop has been such a wonderful way to connect with children’s book lovers- thanks for being a host for this fantastic event!

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