The introduction for Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey begins by noting that Jane Goodall "has been chosen as the most recognized scientist in the Western world." Regardless of how accurate that statement is, the fact remains that Jane Goodall is still alive, has been working in her field for over 50 years and her subject is something that is almost universally appealing to kids. A Caldecott award winning picture book has been written about her childhood and a phenomenal graphic novel covers her early years working in Africa, along with other fearless primatologists, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas. And then there are a small handful of biographies about her for kids, including an autobiography she wrote. Not as many books about Goodall as I had expected, which makes Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall a welcome addition to the shelves, especially because the breadth of information and the very appealing visual style Silvey's book offers.
Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall is divided into two parts. The first five chapters are traditional biography, beginning with Goodall's childhood. I especially liked this chapter because I am always fascinated to see how intelligence, curiosity and a passion for learning that lead to success in adult life manifest themselves in childhood. It is no surprise that Goodall loved animals as a child. What is fascinating is learning that, as a five year old, Goodall sat stone-still for hours observing a chicken, waiting for it to lay an egg, causing her mother to call the police because she could not find Jane. This is Jane's first documented act of scientific observation. Jane was also inspired to travel to Africa by her favorite childhood book, The Story of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.
Chapters titled Gombe, Celebrity Scientist, Transformation and Legacy follow, covering Goodall's first visit to Africa in 1957, her work with Louis Leaky, the way that her growing notoriety affected (positively and negatively) her work and her commitment to conservation and education. Information about specific chimpanzees, like David Greybeard, in Goodall's life are included, making the text more vibrant and meaningful. There are tips from Goodall for kids who want to work with animals and information as well as ways in which they can actually make a difference. There is information about new ways to photograph and study animals in the wild. One two-page spread that I especially like features people who have been inspired by Goodall over the last 50 years and the contributions they have made to the world.
The field notes offer some fantastic, basic information about chimpanzees, Gombe, Africa and a cool timeline of Goodall's life so far laid out on leaves on a vine. Early on in Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall a page is dedicated to the seven plants found in Gombe National Park that are important resources for humans and chimps, serving as food and natural medication. The stylized leaves of these plants appear are background and borders throughout the book. Notes and an index also include a list of further reading, books by Jane Goodall and films that young readers might also enjoy. This book would make a fantastic gift for any child with an interest in animals, especially when paired with the graphic novel Primates.
Primates: The Featless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks
Picture books about Jane Goodall:
Jane Goodall's autobiography for children and biographies about her:
A few of the many books Goodall
has written for adults:
Source: Review Copy