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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jane Goodall Rocks! (That's all I'm sayin')

Goodall, Jane  (2000) Africa in my Blood: An Autobiography in Letters.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin.

When I taught high school it often struck me how high school seniors are in a weird place when it comes to selecting books to read.  On the one hand, there are books written for your audience (Young Adult) but they are often shelved with adolescent books, which sometimes seem too young for them.  At the same time, they are only a few months away (by this time of the year) from venturing out into the uncharted waters of adult reading.  Jane Goodall's    Africa in my Blood: An Autobiography in Letters is a good example of a book that was not written with high school students in mind, but is totally accessible to them and something they well might read. 

The story of Jane Goodall is told completely through her letters.  It follows her form her childhood, as a young English girl fascinated by animals through her decision (aided by Dr. Louis Leakey) that she should go to Africa (without even a college degree to validate her) as a young woman to study chimpanzees.  It follows her early successes and frustrations, her eventual support by the National Geographic Society, her completion of a college degree, her courtship and marriage to a man who was sent to her to film the chimps she had coon studying, and more besides.  It is an exciting and gripping story.

It is also a story that has a lot to say about how science works -- how important it is to try to enter into observations without preconceptions.  This is a book that science teachers should have on hand for students who say they love animals, but aren't sure what sort of a career that could lead to.  English Teachers and Language arts teachers might also want to have it on hand to serve as examples of how a story can be told through the form of a letter.  It is a good one.  

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