Book Review: “My Life with the Chimpanzees” by Jane Goodall

My Life with the Chimpanzees: Goodall, Jane, Goodall, Jane: 9781549184581:  Amazon.com: Books

Book Details:

Year of Publication: 1996

Genre: Memoir (Middle Grade)

Format (How I Read It): Audiobook

Goodreads Synopsis:

Inspired by a stuffed toy, Jane Goodall became the first woman to study chips in the wild and in the process made history.

As a child, Jane Goodall was given a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee, and she has said her fondness for this figure started her early love of animals. While others thought Jane would be terrified by the toy, she adored it and it inspired a life-long love of animals in her.

Jane dreamed of a life spent working with animals, and when she was twenty-six years old, she ventured into the forests of Africa to observe chimpanzees in the wild. During her expeditions she braved many dangers and she got to know an amazing group of wild chimpanzees—intelligent animals whose lives, in work and play and family relationships, bear a surprising resemblance to our own. Through her work at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania and her own Roots and Shoots program she has become a tireless advocate for animals and the planet.

As for that stuffed toy, Jubilee still sits on Goodall’s dresser in London.

Book Review

Themes/Main Ideas: Respect nature. Follow your dreams. Everyone can make a difference. Be kind to animals.

Character Development: Well, this is nonfiction, so there weren’t any characters! That being said, this memoir is all about the life of Jane Goodall (told by Jane Goodall herself), and yet when I finished the book I still felt like I knew very little about her. The book never really goes into depth about any aspect of her life or work, and I found myself really wanting more details throughout.

Plot/Pacing: I also found the pacing of the memoir to be a little all over the place. I had a hard time following it in an audio format at times because it felt like it jumped around more than I expected. The ending was also way too long and repetitive. The story seemed to come to a natural stopping point, but it just kept going… There were some good messages about conservation and how everyone can do their part, but it felt redundant and unnecessary.

Writing Style: Although I can’t say I was a huge fan of this memoir, I definitely think it would be accessible to kids! The audiobook has lots of sound effects, which I think would be really exciting for younger readers. As an adult, I found them a little distracting and annoying, but I think kids would get a kick out of it. As I mentioned before, for some reason the stories in the book were typically pretty vague, but I think it’s enough to get kids excited about Jane Goodall, animals, and conversation and want to learn more. The book also has great messages!

“Bingeability”: Moderate. It’s a quick and easy read, but it’s not something you’d feel the need to listen to in one sitting.

Emotional Investment: Moderate. Again, due to the lack of depth of the stories contained in this memoir, it’s unlikely to forge any strong emotional connections for readers. However, it does display how incredible Jane Goodall is and how important her work has been, so it might create a little spark of interest there!

Windows and Mirrors: Primatologist. Conservationist. Travel. Africa.

Overall Thoughts: I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. I found the sound effects annoying, but that could be fun for kids! However, it was a little hard to follow at times (even as an adult), and the ending seemed random and out of place. I don’t think this is a book that would make kids fall in love with reading, animals, or conservationism, but it might spark their curiosity! Jane Goodall is an amazing woman, but I just don’t think this book did as much as it could have to highlight her accomplishments. Honestly, I didn’t know going into this that this was a children’s book, so that might be part of why I struggled to get into it. However, I do think it’s great that Jane Goodall wrote this book about her own life and that she wanted to write it for kids! The messages she spreads about taking care of animals and their habitats are so important, and I’m glad she created something that’s accessible for kids. I wonder if there are any other books by or about Jane Goodall that are also targeted toward this age group?

Recommendation: I think this could be a good option for kids who are already interested in animals and/or Jane Goodall. I think this could also be good for kids who enjoy audiobooks (or kids who claim to not like reading, but might like an audiobook like this with fun sound effects!). I also recommended this to one of my students when we were doing biography projects this year (he had chosen to study Jane Goodall), but otherwise I don’t really see this being used in the classroom.

Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!

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