"There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams
and, because they never gave up, achieved their goals against all the odds,
or blazed a path along which other could follow...
They inspire me. They inspire those around them."
~ Dr. Jane Goodall
This beautiful book has been on my "must-find" list for quite some time, and I finally got a hold of it at one of our local libraries a few weeks ago. Me . . . Jane tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and the beginnings of her lifelong dream to study, understand, and protect chimpanzees. I remember learning about Jane Goodall as a child and thinking that she had one of the coolest jobs on earth. Fortunately, both of my children love the natural world as much as I do, so I knew this book would be right up their alley.
As so often happens when I write about a book I love, I'm having a hard time knowing just where to start. There are just so many fabulous things about it! The story about Jane and her stuffed chimpanzee Jubilee is as endearing as it is inspiring. In it, we learn about Jane's early love of animals and innate curiosity about nature, and see how her dream to go to Africa and live among the chimps became a reality. As a young girl, "Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. She cherished Jubilee and took him everywhere she went. And Jane loved to be outside." She learned all she could about the plants and animals in her backyard and immersed herself in the natural world. "It was a magical world full of joy and wonder, and Jane felt very much a part of it." As she got older, Jane "read and reread the books about Tarzan of the Apes, in which another girl, also named Jane, lived in the jungles of Africa. Jane dreamed of a life in Africa, too..." I find this story so inspiring because it shows children that their dreams, however far fetched they might seem to others, are still worth pursuing.
The illustrations throughout the book are equally wonderful. The soft, watercolor (I think) images of young Jane and Jubilee are lovely, and I especially love Jane's actual sketches that are scattered throughout the book. The seamless combination of McDonnell's illustrations, Jane's sketches, vintage-style pages, and unique engravings adds a fabulous artistic element to this book. Be sure to read the "Art Notes" at the very end, which explain how "the ornamental engravings from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are included, collectively evoking Jane's lifelong passion for detailed, scientific observation of nature."
While I'm mentioning the end notes, be sure to read the short biography "About Jane Goodall," as well as the "Message from Jane." I particularly love her reminder that "Each one of us makes a difference. We cannot live through a single day without making an impact on the world around us -- and we have a choice as to what sort of difference we make." And the picture of her and the real Jubilee when Jane must be about 2 years old? Adorable! But back to the making a difference thing. It's so true, isn't it? Whether it's something as simple as smiling at someone and saying hello or turning off a light, the little things we do every day can make a bigger difference than we realize. I don't know who gave Jubilee to Jane when she was a baby, but I'm sure he or she could never have envisioned how much that little stuffed animal would influence Jane's life, not to mention the difference she would go on to make in the world.
It seems I'm gone on about this great book for far too long, so I'll wrap things up here. Although my son never wants to sit through my reading of the whole bio, I make it a point to at least read him the part about how, at age 10, Jane 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." I hope my children always know that no matter what, I will always be their biggest supporter and champion. I can't help but wonder what they will grow up to be, and which of their passions might steer their hopes and dreams along the way. Will my son grow up to be a paleontologist? Or perhaps a zoologist? I don't know, and it's easy, I think, as parents to dismiss childhood obsessions as merely that. But sometimes, as in the case of Jane Goodall, they are signs of amazing things to come.