Living with Chimps: Inspiring Storybooks About Jane Goodall

Parents who appreciate the efforts of conservationist and chimp researcher Jane Goodall will be delighted to share two new books with their kids. Goodall's biography as told through colorful pictures and easy-to-read text is enough to awaken curiosity in children and incite the next generation of budding scientists.

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By Polly Peterson

Jane Goodall by Nick Stepowyj

Jane Goodall in 2010, photo by Nick Stepowyj

An Inspirational Life

When I was a child, Jane Goodall was my role model. At the time, there weren't many famous female scientists to look up to, and Goodall was a real-life 'Doctor Dolittle' who could talk to the animals! She's the reason I became an anthropologist when I grew up.

One of the most famous primatologists in the world, this petite British woman observed the behaviors of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. At the age of 26, Goodall lived among chimps in Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in East Africa.

Goodall isn't your typical scientist. She graduated from secretarial school in England before being taken under the wing of expert fossil hunter Louis Leakey in 1960. She used her natural curiosity, patience, observational skills, empathy and intuition to gain the trust of chimps and develop an understanding of them that had never before been documented. For example, Goodall was the first to discover that chimps eat meat and use twig tools.

Children aged 4-8 who love discovery, adventure, animals and nature will enjoy these picture books. Readers of all ages can appreciate the message that it's possible to follow your dreams, just like Jane Goodall did.

Me Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Me...Jane tells the story of a curious little girl who once waited in a hen house to find out how such a hard egg could come from such a soft bird. Written in collaboration with Goodall herself, the book includes drawings that the young naturalist drew of animals. The story introduces us to a childhood of playing outdoors and observing nature. We catch a glimpse of the origin of Jane's lifelong passion in a toy chimp named Jubilee that joins her on her escapades.

The Watcher by Jeanette Winter

'The Watcher' by Jeanette Winter

Written to be read aloud, this bedtime story follows Jane Goodall from her childhood in 1940's England to her adult life living in the wilds of Africa. The painted illustrations get larger as the story progresses and Goodall's world expands, eventually spilling over both pages. Children will learn, as Jane did, that chimps are tool-users and that they kiss and have social bonds similar to our own.

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