Weekly Trip to the Library

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Review by Brianna

Me . . . Janeby Patrick McDonnell is a charming snapshot of the young Jane Goodall, the famed conservationist and humanitarian. The book shares her early passion for animals which ultimately led to her remarkable career.

Little Jane is just the cutest thing, and she and her stuffed chimpanzee are front and center in this children’s book. This book is a quiet little story that would work well for one-on-one reading and cuddling with young readers. Although little Jane in the story is darling, she grows up to be a tremendous woman. I loved watching young Jane pursue her dreams and then wake up to see that they had come true. How terrific to have a picture book showing an adventurous little girl who grows up to be Jane Goodall, a huge influence in the scientific field.

Me . . . Janeis so sweet in it’s simplicity that you cannot help but smile while reading. But there are lots of charming, adorable picture books out there – so what sets Me…Jane apart? It is the unity of the design, and the true story behind it, that make this book stand out.

Patrick McDonnell is the illustrator and his gift with expressions is brilliantly showcased in this story. Great example of this mastery of expression is when Jane goes into the chicken coop to see where eggs come from. As the chicken enters the coop, Jane watches wide-eyed. Her mouth is not drawn in this picture. Then, on the next page, as she “observes the miracle” and sees how the egg pops out, little Jane’s mouth appears as a tiny, round “o,” perfectly capturing the surprise and wonder of that moment.

The book also combines McDonnell’s original artwork with ornamental engravings from scientific texts of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The balance of old and new is handled beautifully, with the engravings lingering behind the text and McDonnell’s illustrations prominently illustrating the action from Jane’s childhood. I thought this was a lovely touch. There is also some of Jane Goodall’s own artwork included in the text.

What makes this book so magical is that it captures the essence of a biography with so few words. Rather than exhaustively chronicling the details of Goodall’s childhood, it highlights a few key moments that guided Ms. Goodall down the path to her career. There are just a few words on each page, and the text and pictures share the job of moving the narrative along. A young reader may not know right away that this is a real story, but when we turn the final page we see a photograph of the adult Jane Goodall reaching out to a baby chimpanzee. There is an element of surprise at work, because it is the first photograph in the text. It makes for a very satisfying reveal at the end of the book.

This book is a winner not just for its composition and artwork, but because it tells the story of a truly magnificent woman.. With the many messages in our culture telling girls that they aren’t good at science and math, a story about Jane Goodall is a refreshing and welcome change.

In a starred review, Booklist said, “This remarkable picture book is one of the few that speaks, in a meaningful way, to all ages.”

And Kirkus Reviews said, “Children will appreciate McDonnell’s original format and take heart that interests logged in their own diaries might turn into lifelong passions.”

Awards and Rating
Caldecott Books — 2012 Honor
Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner
Horn Book Fanfare Book
NYTimes Best Illustrated & Notable Children’s Book
Booklist and Kirkus Reviews Best Books List
Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Book


  1. I LOVE this book, and the author. I'm so glad that I was able to find out about his books, having followed Mutts, his comic strip, for years. This is my favorite so far of his books and SO worth a read. The little boys I care for love monkeys, so this was an easy choice to get for them, and a fantastic addition to my library. I include it in my conservation/earth day book selections in my own personal library.

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