Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s life with the chimps

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s life with the chimps

Jeanette Winter
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375867743

Jane was a watcher. Even when she was a very little girl she spent a lot of time watching the animals in her world, both wild animals and those that lived with humans. She was patient and one spring she spent weeks watching a robin, gaining the bird’s trust. When nesting season began the robin was so used to Jane that it built a nest in a bookcase in Jane’s room.

   Jane read books about Dr. Dolittle, who could talk to animals, and Tarzan, who lived with apes in Africa. She dreamed of going to Africa where she too would talk and live with animals.

   When Jane’s school days were over Jane worked and saved her money. She was determined to save up enough so that she could afford a ticket to Kenya, and one day she had enough money to get the ticket. Jane left her home, taking a ship to Africa where she hoped that she would be able to get a job that would allow her to work with animals.

   By sheer good luck Jane met a scientist, Louis Leakey, who needed someone to watch and study chimpanzees in a place called Gombe in Tanzania. Jane was given the job and she set out to watch and get to know the chimpanzees in the forest. Every day she went into the forest and every day she heard the chimpanzees, but she did not see them. She watched and listened. She was patient, just as she had been when she was a girl, watching and waiting for weeks and then months.

   Then, at last, the chimpanzees let Jane see them. She was very careful to respect their space and not to intrude. She sat quietly and just watched, keeping notes about what the animals did and how they behaved. She got to know the animals and named them, and because they trusted Jane they went about their business as normal. She learned that chimps use tools and that they eat meat, which zoologists did not know were common chimpanzee behaviors.

   As the years went by, assistants came to help Jane with her work, and then a day came when she left Gombe. Africa’s chimpanzees needed someone to speak for them, to save them, and Jane was the going be that person.

   This wonderful picture book biography beautifully captures the love that Jane Goodall had (and still has) for wild animals and wild places. We see how her hard work and dedication allowed her to build a special relationship with the chimps that she lived with, and we come to appreciate how valuable that work was for the future of chimpanzees in Africa.

   At the back of the book readers will find further information about Jane Goodall and her work.