Jane of the Jungle: Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
JANE LOVED TO BE OUTSIDE.
ONE DAY CURIOUS JANE WONDERED WHERE EGGS CAME FROM.
SO SHE SNUCK INTO GRANDMA NUTT'S CHICKEN COOP.
SHE STAYED VERY STILL.... AND OBSERVED THE MIRACLE.
IT WAS A MAGICAL WORLD, FULL OF JOY AND WONDER AND SHE FELT VERY MUCH A PART OF IT.
In Patrick McDonnell's just published Me . . . Jane Little, Brown, 2011), this nature-loving Jane is, of course, our Jane Goodall, whose landmark studies of chimps and gorillas have broadened our understanding of primate life.
In McDonnell's soft, unassuming little vignettes, we see the young Jane with her cherished toy chimp Jubilee (who comes to life when alone outside with Jane), climbing her favorite tree ("Beech") and with cheek pressed to the trunk, dreaming of all she wants to see, inspecting birds' nests, watching squirrels and the barnyard animals, and reading all the books she can get. Reading Tarzan of the Apes, dreaming of being that Jane and living in her jungle, seeing those animals for herself. Her dream is to learn all she can.
And then McDonnell shows little Jane, climbing into bed at home with Jubilee beside her, the stars outside her window...
AND FALLING ASLEEP...
TO WAKE ONE DAY TO HER DREAM COME TRUE.
And with the turn of a page, rising from a camp cot inside her tent is the grown-up Jane, signature ponytail in place and her studies behind her, ready to begin her historic life's work where she always longed to be.
McDonnell's previous picture books, such as Hug Time, are pleasant, popular works, a touch sentimental, but with this first venture into nonfiction, he hits one over the fence. Yes, lovable as it is, with little Jane enjoying a walk in the woods hand-in-hand with the come-to-life Jubilee, this one is pitch perfect, capturing the essence of Goodall, a person for whom nature and its creatures are infinitely fascinating and worthy of our respectful attention, in a way young children will absolutely get. Patrick McDonnell deserves all the starred reviews in Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, and Booklist that he garnered for this one, with its wonderful photos from Jane's childhood (especially Jane with the real Jubilee) which show that, to paraphrase the poet, the child is mother of the scientist!
With "A Message from Jane" in its brief appendix, Me . . . Jane is a rare early childhood biography, a staple for Earth Day activities and for the every nonfiction shelf.