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Me…Jane | Class #4, 2016

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 — in particular its eligibility for the Caldecott Medal — 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.

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Comments

  1. Erin King says:

    I was captivated by the illustrations in Me…Jane. I enjoyed how often the left hand page had images that complemented what was depicted on the right hand page. I also appreciated the personal effect the stamp-like illustrations have on the reader — it’s almost like they are stamps from Jane in her own notebook as we join her in her journey.

  2. Mariel Perlow says:

    The heroine Jane exemplifies a love of nature and scientific curiosity, which I think could resonate with readers of all levels. I really appreciated how the illustrations switched from cartoons to real photographs when Jane Goodall was revealed, and also the references to Tarzan and Jane in the jungle.

  3. Sammie Herrick says:

    This book really surprised me. When I think about an informational book about Jane Goodall, I expect the story to start much later in her life and to talk about her work, as opposed to just about her childhood. I really appreciated this twist though, because it made Jane relatable to the intended reader (children). I think all children could see themselves as Jane, being curious and loving to be in nature. I like that within the story was the page of Jane’s actual sketches and notes. I appreciate that the end of the book had more information about Jane and her adult life…I especially like that the book gave websites to learn more. I am always encouraging my students to answer their own questions by looking things up in the library or online and this book gives students access to more information, which is great!

  4. Dominique Donette says:

    I love the vintage look of this book. The slightly muted colors and type font remind me of old postcards that my grandmother kept for memories. I appreciated the layering of images on the various pages: a leaf transposed behind the word outside on the second page of the book felt authentic. I also like how the author used multiple sized images and perspective to show the relationship of objects together. The illustrations on the text side of the page reminded me of stamps, the detail of those were especially intriguing, especially juxtaposed with the more smooth watercolor type paintings on the opposite page. The tone of the book is very much about a spirited, adventurous girl with a big imagination. I think it set the reader up to believe that Jane was totally capable of being a traveler, explorer or writer living in Africa and working with animals. In an age where digital photos rule all and 100’s of selfies are taken to get “the right one”, I appreciated the raw emotion captured in the last picture of Jane meeting the baby monkey. Great read!

  5. Robin Kane says:

    I have shared, Me….Jane by Patrick McDonnell with children of all ages (including my daughter who studies animal behavior in college and is a huge Jane Goodall fan-she loved it!) I think the focus on Jane’s life as a child, helps young children make strong connections to the book as they see themselves reflected in this “character.” For example, the book beautifully demonstrates Jane’s dedication to Jubilee, her love for animals, and her feelings of being connected to nature. These are things that many small children can relate to in their own lives. Jane’s adventurous spirit and her curiosity about the natural world comes off as winsome and inviting and the illustrations add to that feel. I enjoyed the bookends of the photos of Jane and feel they were the perfect way to blend the story with the person in real life. Oftentimes when reading a biographical story in a picture book, young children have a hard time understanding that the person they are reading about is real. By seeing those pictures of Jane as a child and a grown up, helps children make that connection. Love this book-thanks for including it in this discussion.

  6. Jason Brown says:

    Of the four books for this week, Me…Jane was my favorite- and I liked them all! I feel this book is an excellent read for both younger readers and for an older/adult audience. For elementary students, I think this book reads like a typical children’s book, with a female protagonist who enjoys the outdoors and animals. As an adult reading this book, I appreciated the new information I learned- what other Jane Goodall books and documentaries could not offer. My favorite part of the book was the ending, where the reader gets a close-up look at Jane Goodall’s drawings and the last page with her photograph. These truly brought the book to life! Without these, the book could easily be a fictional story.

  7. Iliana Gutierrez says:

    I agree with Dominique that the pairing of the cartoon-like watercolor pages and the realistic tone of the engravings and stamps go well together. I was also surprised–and pleased–by the final photograph. One of the commenters from the 2011 blog thread proposed that an illustration of the same photograph would hold the same emotional “punch.” I disagree. As McDonnell’s editor writes in the same blog thread, the point of the photograph is to translate the transformation of Jane’s dreams into reality. What better way to do that than by sharing a photo that seems to lift the drawings into real life? Both characters–not just Jane–seem to appear here.

    While I was certainly surprised by the final photographs, I think McDonnell subtly prepares us for this dream/reality transformation by including the realistic engravings and stamps (even Jane’s notebooks) with the watercolor drawings. Had he just included watercolor images, I may have found the photograph to be too dissonant. Instead, as I shifted between the watercolor/dream and engravings/reality side, I kept one foot in both worlds. An image like this particular photograph seems to convey both in a single image: dream and reality.

  8. Carla Cevallos says:

    I really appreciate Robin’s insight about why the book focuses mostly on Jane’s childhood. I loved the book, but the first time I read it, I was kind of struck that after a stable pace in which I was gradually building the picture of her childhood in my head, she suddenly became an adult and the book was over. I was wondering why the author decided to do this, but now I do realize that for children, identifying with Jane as a little girl is very important, and for them, understanding that one day she grew up and accomplished her dreams is more than enough (it was the adult in me the one who demanded detailed information about the process). Even the way in which the transition is made, shifting from drawings to a picture and dedicating a whole page solely to the phrase “and her dream come true.” sends the young reader the message that what happens in their everyday lives, the little details, the things that they like and feel passionate about, all matter and will one day shape who they are, but without burdening them with the “how”. I hadn’t read this book before, but it certainly is a new favorite of mine.

  9. Montserrat Cubillos says:

    I agree with Iliana: the last photo was a very pleasant surprise! The color palette from the watercolor drawings and stamp-like illustrations resembles the one from the photo, and I think that helps bring the real-life picture into the rest of the book in a more harmonious way. As others have said, I think the book appeals to young and older readers. I felt especially compelled to think about the dreams I had as a child… I can see how the book may spark interesting conversations in a classroom. I had never before read this genre (biography in a picture book), and I was completely amazed by the power it has. Also, I did not know who Jane Goodall was and the book made me interested in knowing more about her. The amount of information it provides is just enough: not too much that you feel it tells you everything, not too little that it does not have time to seduce you.

  10. Heewon Yang says:

    I really enjoyed Me…Jane because it seems less informational than others in the way the story focuses on Jane as a child rather than her accomplishments. I can see it as a great fictional story about a girl, Jane, who has a love for animals if it weren’t for the final real picture of Jane and the chimpanzee at the end of the story. I think children will not be able to tell that this story is a real one until they finish and get to the end. The stamp pictures on the left pages was a great pictorial juxtaposition to the fictional drawings on the right pages. It serves as a reminder that the events are of a real person’s life, though I am not quite sure if children will be able to catch that.

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