Friday, July 22, 2011

Happiness is...a good book! (Summer Reading edition #26)

Author and Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4+
Published: 2011
Genre: Non-fiction/biography/picture book
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: *****
Rating: G
This is a simply lovely biography recounting the early life of Jane Goodall. Beginning with her love for a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee, the two go on many adventures together. The text highlights her fascination with nature, her studiousness and curiosity and her dreams of one day visiting Africa and helping the animals there (and finishes with a brilliant spread showing the realization of those dreams.)

There is an author's note that shares additional information about Jane and her life's work with Louis Leakey at  Gombe Stream Game Reserve (now National Park), her written research, conservation efforts, and formation of the Jane Goodall Institute, her Roots and Shoots program and more.  There is also a personal message from Jane herself encouraging readers to get involved and make a difference.

There are simple pen and ink/watercolor illustrations on one page, while the facing page containing sparse text is accented by ornamental engravings/stamped images from the early 20th century giving it a Victorian scrapbook sort of feel, hearkening back to that age of great exploration and discovery. Goodall's own sketches and journal pages (scientific discoveries, research, puzzles, questions, drawings from her childhood 'Alligator Society') make an appearance in the illustrations as well. The final spread showing a photo of Jane reaching out to a tiny little chimp, who is in turn reaching out to her, is the perfect ending note.

While not a complete resource on Ms. Goodall’s life, it is a perfect introduction. Its simplicity makes it appropriate for the youngest of readers (hard to find in a biography) while the charm and magic of her story makes it appealing to a much wider audience.  Highly recommended for readers of all ages, I would love to see this on the Caldecott list come January!

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