My daughter knows Patrick McDonnell because "Mutts" is one of her favorite comics (and she was happy to learn that there is the possibility of a Mutts movie). I know Patrick McDonnell because he is a brilliant author and illustrator. Together, we discovered Me... Jane (check out the video on Patrick McDonnell's site) on our recent shopping spree at The Tatter Cover here in Denver.
We have enjoyed The Gift of Nothing and Wag! and Art... but we both fell head-over-heels in love with Me... Jane. Perhaps because it tells the story of Dr. Jane Goodall from a different perspective, beginning with her stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee and ending with a subtle "to awake one day... to her dream come true." The text ends so softly and beautifully! When we read it together, side-by-side at the bookstore, an audible gasp could be heard between us... my sixth grade daughter and I breathing in the brilliance of Me... Jane as we read it "once for our heads... and then again for our hearts." (Conferring, p. 52 - and, thanks to my friend Randi Allison for introducing me to this concept).
The book tells us the story of Jane Goodall as I've never read it before... and it's written with rhythm, simplicity, and gentleness. When you open to the page with the drawing of Jane lying with Jubilee hand-in-hand, the words, "It was a magical world full of joy and wonder, and Jane felt very much a part of it," you, too, will gasp! Patrick McDonnell takes us on a journey through Jane's childhood that I can't stop thinking about... and I keep wondering, "Are we instilling the same sense of wonder, passion, and inquisitiveness in our own children or students?"
I can't get this book out of my mind. As I started school this week, looking into the faces of 29 different learners, I pondered this book and its message of hope. Are we, as teachers, doing enough to nudge and encourage the future Janes of the world, given the fact that our world is so ever-changing? Are we, as teachers, given the time, authentic resources, and freedom to let children explore their passions? Are we, as teachers, providing enough choice in our classrooms for inquiry to flourish? And, how can we, in a place called school, do more... esp. when more and more our teaching transactions are dictated by mandates, programs, and achievement pressure knocking on our doors daily telling us what's important and how exactly to teach. Important to ponder, no?
For me, it's books like Me... Jane that I need to keep in mind as I begin this school year. It's the joy that my daughter and I felt when we read this book together that I have to keep in mind as I try to blend the "mandates" with my real purpose as a teacher. I can't wait to read it to my students... it's going in my "Endurance" basket.
Check it out... it's lovely! As you read it, like Jane, you will feel "your own heart beating, beating, beating."