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me janeAs picture book biographies go, this is one of the more irreverent ones. What did you make of it?

What about the visual mix: McDonnell’s cartoon-style art, vintage stamps, Goodall’s childhood drawings, and photos? The year this was published, we had lots of discussion pro and con about the final photograph and the book’s editor actually responded in one of the comments. You can read that post here.

Would you share this book with children? What ages? I’d also love to hear from anyone who HAS shared this book.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. I read Me…Jane with my children a few years ago, when my girls were 6 and 4. They both loved it. The text encouraged them rather than overwhelmed them and they spent a lot of time pouring over the illustrations after I read it. I like biographies at that age more to introduce my children to real people who followed their dreams and lived a fulfilled life rather than as ways to impart a great amount of knowledge.

  2. Carli Spina says:

    I loved the visual elements of this book. As I was reading it, I found myself thinking that young children would probably love to study all of the details on the pages, particularly the page with the collage of her childhood notes, so I was interested to see that Kansas Mom said in her comment that her young children did exactly that. The style seemed well suited to the subject and the fairly sparse text gave space for the focus on the images of the natural world, which seems fitting for Goodall’s work. While I understand the controversy over the use of the pictures from an awards committee perspective, I thought that it worked really well to open with a picture of Jane as a child and end with a picture of her achieving her goals. This book seems like it is aimed at inspiring kids to follow their dreams, so emphasizing that Jane actually did achieve her goal seems like the right choice. I would probably share this book with young kids (K-2 or so) and follow it up with the graphic novel Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks if they continue to be interested in Jane Goodall and primatologists when they are a bit older.

  3. Abigail Russo says:

    Given that Jane Goodall was my childhood (and adult) hero, I was extremely excited to see what the children’s book adaptation of her story would look like. Like Carli, I thought the book was very visually compelling in a way that matched the storyline. Beautiful yet simple character illustrations combined with stamp-like images and journal collages brought the emotional, natural, and scientific aspects of the story to the forefront. The real photos of Dr. Goodall bookending the story provided good framing for the story- children can relate to this as a story of creating new paths for themselves and also look up to Dr. Goodall as a real hero. I was particularly impressed by how the writing conveyed real emotional and intellectual passion throughout the story.

  4. AnneMarie M. says:

    WOW! What a gem this book is! I have to say that my favorite part is the illustrations – they just feel so perfectly adapted to a child’s imagination! Beyond that, as my classmates have said, the details in the pictures are such that readers can just keep digging and digging for more information to extract. It really is spectacular in that way. As a kindergarten teacher, there had only ever been a handful of nonfiction books (and specifically biographies) that I particularly enjoyed, but I wish I had come across this one. I really appreciate how accessible I think the content would feel to really young children. I appreciate the inclusion of the photographs, and I think that it communicates the important message that this is a true story and that dreams really can come true in real life.

  5. Marina Chan says:

    I also echo my colleagues comments on the brilliant illustrations – something almost vintage and of a bygone era emanates from this book, a fitting theme into Jane’s world. I thought this book was age-appropriate and read this book for the first time to my four-year-old. With most of his first reads, he usually stays silent and observes, however, with this book, he immediately questioned why Jane became an adult. I think the jump from childhood to adulthood surprised and perhaps confused him. He also noticed the change in visuals from cartoon-style to the photograph at the end, wondering why that was the case. It was a good entryway to talk about capturing a real-life moment through photos vs. drawings, and how Jane’s dreams came true as a person who grew up doing what she had always wanted to do. I can see much richer conversations with slightly older children or with repeated readings with the little ones. There is so much in the illustrations that can spark interesting dialogue.

  6. Dayna Lellis says:

    The quantity and variety of illustrations on each page made this book much more engaging. I really liked the photograph at the end! Not only does it confirm for children that Jane Goodall is a real person, it’s also nice to see that she befriended a real life Jubilee. Also, this book has a great message of not only achieving one’s dreams, but messages about appreciating nature and helping animals. I can see myself reading this book to two girls that I babysit, a 5 year old and an 8 year old. The younger one would enjoy the illustrations, while I believe the older one will better understand the bigger messages and be interested in learning more about Jane Goodall.

  7. Kim Fernandes says:

    I’m definitely in agreement that the illustrations are compelling and that this book is a visual treat for both young and old readers. I was wondering about the exact same thing that Marina’s son had pointed out — how does this jump from childhood to adulthood happen? Especially if the goal is to emphasize that Jane did achieve her dreams, I wonder if including her journey toward achieving these dreams as a part of the actual story (instead of after the story) would make for a more compelling read? This book sounds like just the right amount of information for younger readers, but there are definitely going to be a lot of questions about how Jane got to where she did, and it would be useful for teachers or parents to have supplemental resources at hand to help kids learn more.

  8. Ashley Szofer says:

    I really loved the illustrations in this book too. They look like a scrapbook and a passport and really make you feel like a part of the story. I really love the way Patrick McDonnell incorporated the real-life photo of Jane at the end because it lets children know that they can really follow their dreams. it was just a great story about taking childhood dreams and ambitions and turning them into reality. I also really appreciated the post-story end feature that is meant to be read to the child by an adult, or by an older child that gives kids just a little bit more information on Jane than was in the story. Just a really beautiful story that connects so many of the things kids love -dreams, animals, and far away lands.

  9. Alexandra Fish says:

    I agree with others that this book is supported by great illustrations. For such simplistic text, the details in the pictures and the variety of images support students’ understanding of Jane’s life and interests as a child. I think that this would be a great book to use with lower elementary students. I imagine that many students would be able to connect with Jane’s story – rather than telling us about her accomplishments as an adult, the author frames it in a way that honors how her childhood supported her dreams. I think kids would respond well to this and may even feel inspired to pursue their own interests further. It could also serve as a great gateway text into a larger unit on biographies or animal studies.

  10. Stacey-Ann Morris says:

    I really enjoyed this book, and especially the ending. Marina’s comments about her son’s curiosity about the “real-life” photo is very interesting. Something simple as including a photograph definitely can spark a conversation between a child and a parent/teacher. The transition from childhood to adulthood is such a subtle move, and a great transition to talk about dreams and accomplishments.

    One little note: I might be picky. However, I would have appreciated if the author was more specific on the area of Africa, and refer to the fact that Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees on a reserve. All these details were included in the post-script. If a parent doesn’t share this information, a child may think that jungle animals typically parade in one’s backyard in Africa – which is usually not the case. I think our stereotypes and conceptions of certain cultures sometimes come from TV and books, and we have to be careful that we don’t create a false representation of different cultures.

  11. I was pleasantly surprised to find Jane Goodall at the end of this simple, but lovely story. I enjoyed the combination of illustrations with accurate design components. This combination appeared to be a nod to the fact that the story is based on a true story. I also felt that writing a children’s book about a woman who her followed her passion throughout her career is a refreshing message. It could encourage children to pursue things that they love later in life.

  12. Luisa Sparrow says:

    I loved this book! The combination of vintage drawings as background to the text and the cartoony illustrations throughout most of the text was very beautiful to me. I also appreciated the somewhat faded font used for the text. The jump Jane makes from childhood at home to working in Africa was sudden, and actually made me gasp, but it wasn’t confusing or startling–although, perhaps that’s because I’m an adult and I know Jane Goodall’s story. I can see why it would be confusing for a child. Stories of people who get to live out their childhood dreams are really exciting for me, so I really enjoyed this book.

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