Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps 
 by Jeanette Winter
Schwartz & Wade, 2011
ISBN #9780375867743
Review copy provided by the publisher
to the Southern Maine Library District

Usually the first time a child ventures into the biography section of the library it's because of a class assignment.  Luckily, there are picture book biographies like The Watcher by Jeanette Winter that will have young readers returning to the biography section again and again in search of other books just like it.

Using acrylic paint, ink and her signature folk-art style, Jeanette Winter tells the story of how Jane Goodall spent her childhood watching the natural world around her. She was inquisitive and observant from a young age.

"Jane watched ALL the animals in her world,
big and small-
earthworms, insects, birds, cats, dogs and horses."

Jane dreamed of traveling to Africa and purchased a ticket to Kenya as soon as she had completed school. Winter's illustrations reflect the lush, green beauty of the forests of Tanzania where Jane is sent to work for Louis Leakey. The book follows Jane's work with the chimps as she studies and interacts with the primates. Even though the book is aimed at young readers, Winter does not shy away from including serious events such as the shooting of chimps by poachers and the deforestation that threatens the chimps' habitat.

The story concludes with an aged Jane Goodall returning to the forest and her chimps after speaking around the globe about her work. Readers will gain an understanding of the importance of caring for our environment and an appreciation of the natural world.  In an author's note at the end the book, Winter explains how she simplified the story of Goodall's life into a book for young readers. Winter skillfully takes the story of a passionate scientist and pioneer in the field of primatology and makes it accessible to even the youngest readers. This stellar book should be included in all juvenile biography sections.

6 stars
(Grade K-4)

Pair this book with Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell or Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter.

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