Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall
Anita Silvey
National Geographic, 2015  96 pgs.
Grades 3-6

Veteran author and Children's Literature expert, Anita Silvey presents an overview of the life and work of Jane Goodall suitable for young people. The book begins with a forward penned by the scientist herself with an invitation to children to become wildlife protectors. Silvey then digs into Goodall's childhood in World War II England tracing her life-long love of animals. Next we see Goodall following a dream to travel to Africa, where she falls in with renounced researcher Louis Leakey. Armed with only a secretarial degree and a great love and respect for wild animals, Leakey sends Goodall into the jungles of Tanzania to observe the wild chimps living in the Gombe Stream Game Reserve. Goodall accepts the challenge with enthusiasm and revolutionizes what we know about chimpanzees and the process in which they are studied. The second half of the book (as with Goodall's life) is spent following the celebrity scientist as she campaigns around the globe for animal rights and environmental protection. Finally, we see what is happening in the world today in regards to wildlife research and protection, a glimpse into some of the lives Goodall has touched, chimpanzee facts, brief biographies of some of Goodall's more notable chimp friends, a timeline, a map, further resources, sources, and a comprehensive index.

As I always say, "Everything I know about the world I have learned from reading children's books". Thanks to Silvey I now own surface knowledge of the life of Jane Goodall.  Silvey presents a thoroughly researched and highly readable account of Goodall's life and work in an age-appropriate fashion. Emphasis is placed on Goodall's childhood and inspirations for future study, which would be relevant to children. Basic facts about her personal life in adulthood are offered, but not explored.  Kids wouldn't care about this anyway. Instead, Silvey focuses on the work, incredible success stories of the abilities of some of the chimpanzees, and heroic efforts on Goodall's part to protect them. A perfect fit for children interested in nature or science, it will also appeal to the casual browser. The book reads quickly with distinct chapter breaks and remains interesting throughout. The real star of this book are the stunning photographs included on every page and the book's beautiful design. Anyone, child or adult, would pick up this book and start reading. I picked it up and, honestly, never thought I was interested in Goodall or the chimpanzees. Now I want to know more. Goodall started out with very little education at a time where women were not scientists, especially in the jungles of Africa. She followed her dreams, was fearless, and worked tirelessly, never loosing sight of what was important to her. Goodall's life is truly an inspiration and children will benefit on so many levels from checking out this book.

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