I am Jane Goodall

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I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (2016) is the biography of primatologist Jane Goodall. Written in first person, Meltzer takes on the persona of Goodall and tells the story of how the events of her childhood (i.e. reading Dr. Dolittle) lead her to accomplish all she has and become the person she is today in a language children will understand. The smaller size of the book makes it easy for the small hands of young readers to hold. The book is in the shape of a square, rather than the typical rectangle as most books are, so this book can grab potential reader’s attention among other books. Inside the books, the pages are made of a sturdy material, able to withstand possible rough treatment by children.

Meltzer strategically writes in the form of a narrative because children prefer realistic fiction, rather than nonfiction, so this book provides a balance of both. There was still a lot of information children will learn from reading this book though (i.e. what a “paleontologist” is, the societal conventions of the latter half of the twentieth century, the behavior of chimpanzees etc.).

The book revolves around Goodall’s love of animals. Children are drawn to animal books, so will likely enjoy reading this book. Additionally, humorous aspects are incorporated into the informational text, which are also appealing to children.

Eliopoulos includes full, two-page illustrations, and does not leave any white space. He also uses bold colors, so overall, the illustrations are entrancing to look at. Some pages include panels of illustrations, which is a unique feature. The panels, as well as the use of speech bubbles to expand the conversation of the text on the page, give the book a comic book-like feel. Children typically enjoy comic books, so Eliopoulos’s paneled illustrations will likely especially engage young readers.The illustrations are important because the deepen the meaning of the text. For example, the title of the book is simply I am Jane Goodall. It is likely that young children will not know who Jane Goodall is. However, the cover illustration, as well as the first page, display Goodall with a chimpanzee, giving readers insight that she must do some sort of work with animals. Therefore, children will be further inclined to choose to read this book and learn about Goodall because it has something to do with animals, not only a lady they are unfamiliar with. Moreover, the inside covers have illustrations of chimpanzees, foreshadowing that the text must focus on chimpanzees.

A special feature included at the end of the book is a timeline and real photos of and quotations by Goodall. Therefore, students interested in learning more details about Goodall (i.e. the exact dates she went to Africa, met the chimpanzee, etc.) are able to from this book, and the readers who do not want such specific information on Goodall do not have to read it.

After reading this book, children will be inspired to follow their gut, as opposed to behaving in ways they think other’s expect them to, especially girls like Goodall who want to pursue science. Additionally, there is a push for respecting all living things and the environment because we all have a lot in common, which is important for children to learn especially now with the drastically negative effects of climate change.

Post by: Halie Petrich

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