With the advent of Common Core, there's been a new and refreshing openness to biographies. Contemporary biographies usually focus on a specific incident in the subject's life and employ plot devices of three attempts and failures before achieving their goal. Older biographies tended to be much drier with a straightforward "and then and then" march from childhood to death with the subject's accomplishments thrown in the middle somewhere.
Jeanette Winters has written and illustrated many contemporary biographies and in today's example, you'll see why she's so good at them. This one was published by Schwartz and Wade, who do beautiful books.
It is not often a person sticks to a dream from childhood to adult, however, Jane Goodall, always the observer, knew this was the life for her. The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps, takes the reader on Jane’s amazing life journey from watching chickens as a five year old to watching chimpanzees in Gombe, Tanzania The story, told with simple, quiet, engaging text, and quotes from Jane’s autobiography, Africa in My Blood and My Life with the Chimpanzees, is a perfect fit with the soothing-colored acrylics. Both the words and the illustrations open up as Jane realizes Africa is her home and watching is her life, “This is where I belong. This is what I came into this world to do”.
The story starts with a few spreads detailing her childhood as a curious child who loved to learn by watching things, and like Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, Jeanette visually paces the pages with borders containing her life until she goes to Africa, where the pages become 3/4 full then totally full with no borders as the text awakens with the sounds and sights of the rain forest. The charming, simple scenes, like the amusing, sleeping chimps to the playful antics at the waterfall, bring the reader into Jane’s caring world.
Another super smart thing that Jeanette Winters does in this story, is that she doesn't just focus on the chimps in general, but one in particular, David Greybeard, who becomes her special friend or companion, something that children can relate to. While Jane's life was not an easy one and she had a difficult job to do in bringing awareness to the plight of the chimpanzees, the author/illustrator does a great job in making the information accessible, aesthetic and inspiring. I'm going to share a few spreads from the book but I'm not going to give the wonderful ending away as I think this is a great mentor text for anyone open to writing beautiful and important biographies and I'm hoping that you'll help support the creator :)
Mira Reisberg has helped MANY authors and illustrators get published. She has worn just about every hat in the industry including art director, editor, illustrator/author, and literary agent. Mira holds a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children's literature. Most of all she loves nurturing her own and others creativity.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
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And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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