In 1934 a little girl was born. Her parents named her Valerie Jane Goodall. They didn’t know it then but their daughter Jane would grow to know, understand and love chimpanzees and make it her life’s work. Even as a child Jane loved Tarzan, the ape man and her monkey toy. She also loved reading the stories of Dr.Dolittle. It was safe to say Jane loved animals and apes in particular.
First, Jane tried doing regular grown up things like doing a job. She worked as a typist and later as a selector of music for documentaries. Destiny though had other things in mind for her. She received an invite to Africa and while there she met Louis Leaky. He was a paleoanthropologist and archaeologist whose focus of work was to understand the evolution of animals in Africa. He was keen more studies be undertaken regarding primates in their own surroundings. Leaky correctly assessed that Jane was tailor-made for the job. It included sitting quietly and watching primates. It also involved making connections with primates so that they could be better understood.
Jane was finally where she belonged doing what she loved. Jane went on to study chimpanzees. Leaky also encouraged two other women Dian Fossey and Birutė Marija Filomena Galdikas to study gorillas and orangutans respectively. He christened them The Trimates. All three of them went on to make startling discoveries about each of the primates and initiated efforts to conserve them.
Jane started to make copious notes of all that she noted watching a community of chimpanzees in Tanzania after doing a course on primate anatomy and behaviour. It took her two long years to earn the trust of the chimpanzee group she was watching. Chimpanzees she learnt were highly intelligent, making basic tools to get their food. She also learnt that they ate small animals and vegetation. Soon, she could differentiate between each and had a profile for the members of the group.
In her Blank on Blank interview, she noted that each chimpanzee had it’s own ‘hello’ call. They mourned for their dead, comforted the hurting, helped each other and demonstrated their affection for each other with hugs! All of this went against the ‘dumb ape’ perception. Jane realised that she was in the midst of kind, accepting and intelligent beings.
With change came a destruction of the chimpanzee’s habitat. Jane opened a trust that conducts activities to help chimpanzees and humans who share a habitat, thrive. She notes,
“Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment”.
This gentle, kind bridge between humans and primates has many wonderful books to her credit. Her action based, tolerant approach to all living things on this planet have also made her the subject of many books. Introduce your children to the life and work of Jane Goodall through them
Historian and writer Brad Meltzer is the author of ‘I am Jane Goodall‘ is the pre-release list on Amazon. It’s great for 5-8-year-olds. The beautiful illustrations and story reaffirm the motto that ordinary people become heroes.
The wonderful author and illustrator, Jeanette Winter’s ‘The Watcher: Jane Goodall’sLife With The Chimps‘ . Meant for children in the 4-8-year-old group, this book chronicles Jane’s time with the chimps. It also details Jane’s innate love for animals and how she felt right at home when she reached Africa and met the chimps. This book shows how our childhood instincts can guide us to our life’s work.
Younger readers (1-7-year-olds) can also read and enjoy, Me..Jane by Patrick McDonnell. Her initial adventures with her stuffed toy monkey, Jubilee can be found in the book. The book traces the beginning of Jane’s dream. The New York Time’s in its review of Me..Jane says,
“With engravings of animals and natural artifacts stamped in soft colors and McDonnell’s simple line and wash drawings, “Me . . . Jane” evokes the charming journals of a child naturalist. Some of Goodall’s own sketches and drawings are included, and they feel at home here. McDonnell’s skill as a cartoonist enables him to express Goodall’s joy, wonder and satisfaction with a simple stroke of the pen.”
My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall herself is best suited for readers in the 8-12 age group. The book speaks of the challenges Jane had to face in understanding her beloved chimps.This beautiful book has many interesting details about Jane’s family and upbringing too.
Yet another book suited for 8 to 12-year-olds is Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall. In this book, author Anita Silvey writes about Jane’s intelligence, sense of adventure, curiosity, and love of animals. Text box with details and photographs make the book full of detail and interesting.
Jane Goodall’s life continues to be an inspiration and she a friend to animals all over the world.
“The least I can do is speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”