'Me...Jane': The Story of Young Jane Goodall
Patrick's acclaimed picture book Me...Jane tells the story of young Jane Goodall as she discovers a lifelong passion for animals and nature. This Caldecott Honor-winning book has received praise from outlets such as The New York Times and Kirkus Reviews, as well as from notable figures like Chelsea Clinton, Maria Popova (of BrainPickings.com), and Dr. Jane Goodall herself.
Did you know?
In 2009, while he was writing Me...Jane, Patrick created all the endangered species artwork Janey Baby tee shirt line. He donated all his drawings to the Jane Goodall Institute for this line of children’s clothing.
The Story Behind the Book
In 2007 Patrick created a MUTTS strip with his character Shtinky Puddin’ and Shtinky's photo of Jane Goodall. That strip, which appeared in newspapers worldwide, led the Jane Goodall’s Institute to contact Patrick to ask if he would allow them to use the comic for a planned event. Of course Patrick said yes, and asked if he could send the original art to Jane. Patrick was told that Jane would be in NYC in the next few weeks, and asked if Patrick would be interested in presenting it to her then.
During the meeting, Patrick approached Jane to see if she might be interested in doing a children’s book together. Jane politely replied that she was already occupied with another book that she was writing, but perhaps at another time. Patrick went home and reread Jane’s autobiography, where he saw a photo of Jane and her childhood plush toy, Jubilee. And that became the basis for Me...Jane.
In 2009 Patrick again met Jane in NYC to review the book in its early stages. Patrick called the book Me...Jane because there is a famous misquote from the Tarzan books (which Jane loved as a child). When Tarzan first met the Jane of the series he was said to have spoken, “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” The Tarzan books were a starting point for Jane dreaming of living in Africa. She has even said, “Tarzan married the wrong Jane!” So the book’s title, Me...Jane, is a tribute to Jane’s determination to take on the world.
Booklist, Starred Review
In this heartwarming picture book, Patrick tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. With anecdotes taken directly from Dr. Jane's autobiography, Patrick makes this very true story accessible for the very young — and young at heart.
2012 Caldecott Honor Book
Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner
Horn Book Fanfare Book
New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book
New York Times Notable Children's Book
Booklist Editor's Choice Book
Kirkus Reviews Best Book
Kids' Indie Next List Book
2011 Bank Street College Children's Book Committee Outstanding Book
University of Wisconsin-Madison CCBC 2012 Children's Choices Book
Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book
National Parenting Publications Awards Gold Winner
Booklinks Lasting Connections Book
2014 Illinois Monarch Children's Choice Award Winner
2014 Iowa Goldfinch Book Award Winner
Me...Jane went on to become a children’s musical which premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC., and has since had productions throughout the U.S. (Jane was present at the premiere in 2017 — watch as she shares her thoughts about the incredible performance!) Me...Jane is now under an agreement with Oscar-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon to become a children’s TV series.
From comic strips to picture books—what’s the biggest difference in creating the different kinds of art?
Children’s books certainly have a magic all their own, but are similar to comics in that they rely on a combination of words and pictures, and on getting to the essence of the story.
As a little kid, did you have a friend like Jane’s Jubilee?
Coincidently, I also had a stuffed toy chimpanzee, Zippy (who, I’ve since learned, was based on a real chimpanzee). And yes, I still have him.
Have any of your childhood obsessions followed you into adult life?
Like Jane, my life unfolded in a seemingly predestined way. From a very early age, I dreamed of being a cartoonist and children’s book author. For as long as I can remember I loved drawing, and spent many hours with paper and pencil.
Picture book biographies for younger children are a newly flourishing genre. Why do you think this might be?
That’s a very interesting question. For me, important aspects of children’s books are that they can teach life lessons and inspire. And what better way is there to inspire a child than to have them learn that their beloved book is based on a real person?
Me … Jane came to me when I was rereading Dr. Goodall’s biography Reason for Hope. Jane Goodall exemplifies how one person can help change the world. I took one look at the photo of young Jane with Jubilee and knew her story was a real-life fairy tale.
The Hugo Van Lawick photo that closes the book is one of the most famous images of the 20th century. How did you come to use it?
That photo is powerful. Similar in imagery to Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, with the hand of God reaching to man, in Van Lawick’s photo Jane is shown reaching out to the animal kingdom. It’s symbolic in many ways. Ending the book with this photo illustrates a truth of Jane Goodall’s life: her childhood dream came true.
The opening and closing of the book is a completed journey. I wanted to start the book with young Jane reaching out to receive a stuffed toy chimpanzee (a gift from her father, but I like to think it was from the hands of fate). In a way, that moment set her on her life’s path. The Van Lawick photo closing the book with an adult Jane reaching out to the baby chimpanzee is as if her toy Jubilee came to life — a magical Pinocchio moment.