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Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Cover to Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

It sounds almost too perfect to be true. Famed primate expert Jane Goodall had a stuffed toy chimpanzee as a little girl. She went everywhere with it, and together they explored the mysteries of nature. 

Me...Jane is Patrick McDonnell’s peacefully expressive interpretation of Goodall’s childhood through his art, actual photographs of Jane, and the drawings of her youth. Jane starts out a very curious young girl, studying all sort of animals around her home. That curious nature leads to many answers.

Eventually, Jane is more inquisitive than ever. Her pictures of animals are no simple doodles of horsies. Her field drawings compare the brain sizes of different species.  These ponderings lead to dreams of the African wilderness. Eventually, the dreams become reality.

Patrick McDonnell is best known for his Mutts comic strips. The hijinks of that strip's main characters, Mooch the cat and Earl the dog, are playful but often gentle as well. This delicate nature is perfectly suited for this story of optimistic yearning for knowledge. No wonder it was given a Caldecott Honor.

I was a bit of a Jane Goodall fanatic as a child, most likely because she had recently released her film People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe. I'm not sure if children are familiar with her today. This book would be a fantastic introduction to her work. Curious children who would like to delve deeper are in luck. The Internet Archive has uploaded three films to their Web site, including Gombe.

These films are free to download and watch. Please keep in mind that, though they are family appropriate, they also could be upsetting for more sensitive viewers.  The films' unfiltered depictions of life and death amongst these amazing creatures are simultaneously joyous and heart-wrenching. These images and thorough research are what put Jane Goodall on the map. See where that journey began in Me...Jane.