The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter
Follow Jane Goodall’s life in this vivid picture book. The book follows Jane from her childhood where she spent a lot of time watching the animals around her, including having a robin nest built on her bookcase in her room. Jane left home soon after graduating from school, heading to Kenya. There she met Louis Leakey who was looking for someone to observe chimpanzees. Jane headed into the jungle to watch the chimpanzees, spending time out near them just quietly viewing them. She learned all sorts of things that no one had ever discovered before. Jane spent many years with the chimpanzees learning, but then people began to threaten the chimpanzee habitat, so Jane had to leave them and become their voice, speaking out to assure their survival.
Winter has created a book that speaks to the heart of what Goodall has done, all of her accomplishments and discoveries pale in the book and in life to her dedication to the animals themselves. Goodall is a perfect subject for a picture book. She is a brave woman who braved living alone in the wilderness to do what she felt she was meant to do with her life. Winter captures all of this in few words, allowing Goodall’s life to speak for itself.
Winter’s illustrations are done in acrylic paint and pen. They have strong forms, deep colors, and a childlike quality that make the book even more approachable for children. I especially enjoy the cover image with the reflection of the chimpanzees in the lenses of her binoculars. It sums up the book delightfully.
There is something special about a book that tells children to follow their hearts, but this one is even more special because it also shows children the value of watching and learning too. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.