Jane Goodall for Kids: Sharing Her Life Story and Philosophy with Children

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

The cover of the book I Am Jane Goodall“As I traveled, talking about these issues, I met so many young people who had lost hope,” Jane Goodall told CNN in 2005. The great British primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist spent her life working with and on behalf of chimpanzees, but now she was concerned about the young adults she was meeting. “Some were depressed; some were apathetic; some were angry and violent. And when I talked to them, they all more or less felt this way because we had compromised their future and the world of tomorrow was not going to sustain their great-grandchildren.”

It’s easy for children to grow disheartened and disillusioned as they become increasingly aware of the daunting challenges facing our planet. That’s why it’s critical that children learn about environmental heroes like Jane Goodall — people who have dedicated their lives to scientific observation and preserving what little natural habitat remains. But Jane Goodall is much more than a scientist and environmentalist. She’s also a stellar example for young women and, as an individual with strong convictions who practices what she preaches, she’s a role model for all of us.

Now there’s an easy way to share Jane Goodall’s life story and philosophy with children. I Am Jane Goodall (public library) is a children’s book written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos that summarizes Jane Goodall’s life in about 40 pages. The story is based on Jane Goodall’s own books and written in first-person narration. With eye-catching, comic book-style illustrations and lots of thought bubbles, the book is perfect for kids ages 5-12.

The story starts by recounting several specific events from Jane Goodall’s younger years.

I wanted a job where I learn more about animals. But back then, if you were a girl, people didn’t think you could become a scientist. They expected girls to become nurses, secretaries, or teachers.

I wanted to go to Africa. I wanted to study animals. Luckily, my mom always told me: ‘If you really want something, work hard for it. If you don’t give up, you’ll find a way.’

I never forgot that.

The cover of the book I Am Jane Goodall

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

As you might imagine, the majority of the story is focused on Jane Goodall’s adult years and the time she spent researching chimpanzees. It’s a beautifully concise summary that accurately captures the highlights of Jane Goodall’s life in Africa. In many ways, the best part of the story comes near the end of the book, when a moral is drawn from the lessons Jane Goodall learned along the way. It’s an uplifting message that provides concrete advice for young people.

In my life, people told me there was a ‘certain way’ to do things: a ‘certain way’ to study animals, a ‘certain way’ that girls should behave. They told me to follow the rules. Instead, I followed my gut.

In your life, it will be easy to see how others are ‘different’ from you. But there’s so much more to gain if you instead see how alike we all are. All of us — all living things — share so much. We have so many things in common.

Watch. Observe. Be patient. It’ll teach you this: We don’t own this Earth. We share it.

Listen to the feelings in your heart. We are responsible for the animals around us. We must take care of them. When one of us is in trouble — be it human, creature, or nature itself — we must reach out and help. When we do, we build a bridge… a bridge that will carry all of us.

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

Artwork from the book I Am Jane Goodall

The book is one in a series entitled “ordinary people change the world,” a description that certainly seems to fit Jane Goodall. As a child, she had a dream. As an adult, she followed it — to great success.

Children can learn a lot from the example set by Jane Goodall. As she’s quoted saying at the end of the book, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

To that end, Jane Goodall founded the Roots & Shoots program in 1991. It’s a network of more than 150,000 groups of young people who share a desire to create a better world. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action through service projects and youth-led campaigns. Please join us in making a donation.

I Am Jane Goodall is a must-read book for kids concerned with the environment, girls in need of a strong role model, and children who like reading about successful people who have changed our world for the better. Complement with A Little Bit of Dirt, a book with over 50 science and art activities for children, then revisit Mossy, a beloved children’s book by Jan Brett about a turtle plucked from her native habitat and put on display in a museum.

Talking to Kids About Their Bodies with Amazing You!

An honest book about private parts designed for preschoolers who are becoming sexually aware, but aren’t ready to learn about sexual intercourse.

The cover of the book Amazing You! by Dr. Gail Saltz“Honesty needs no disguise nor ornament; be plain,” Thomas Otway wrote in his play The Orphan. But when it comes to talking to children about private parts, many parents are happy to let somebody else handle the dirty work. That’s a bad idea, says Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and the author of Amazing You! (public library), a children’s book about body awareness for preschoolers.

“If you feel awkward having these first conversations about sexuality, remember you’re not alone,” says Dr. Saltz in her author’s note. “The key is to be open and honest.” That’s where Amazing You! comes in handy. The book is designed for preschoolers who are becoming sexually aware, but aren’t ready to learn about sexual intercourse. It’s filled with clear, concise illustrations and information about reproduction, birth, and the differences between boys’ and girls’ bodies.

Speaking in a friendly and direct manner, the text addresses many of the questions children have about their bodies and where babies come from. The illustrations add a playful feel to the serious subject matter.

But what about the other parts, the parts that nobody else but you sees? What can they do? We call those parts ‘private parts’ because they stay hidden under your clothes or underwear. They belong to you, and they are special.

Artwork from the book Amazing You!

Artwork from the book Amazing You!

The cover of the book Amazing You!

In her author’s note, Dr. Saltz provides some advice on how to use the book and talk to children about sexuality. She advises being open with them.

Sexual curiosity starts at a very young age, so it’s perfectly normal for your children to be interested in their private parts. It’s normal for them to ask you questions, too. If you feel awkward having these first conversations about sexuality, remember you’re not alone. The key is to be open and honest. When your child begins to ask questions, take the opportunity to establish yourself as the primary source of information about sex.

As parents, we pass along many things to our children, including our sexual attitudes. It’s up to us to set the stage for their sexual life, which means helping them to not feel ashamed of their own bodies. If you harbor feelings that sex is dirty and shameful, then you may unwittingly pass this on to your child. You may also convey a sense of shame when you avoid giving any name to your child’s genitals. References to ‘down there’ and ‘that place’ imply that it’s too embarrassing to even mention one’s private parts.

In order for our children to have pride in their genitals, we have to view them positively ourselves. It’s best to use universal terms that are anatomical, such as vagina, labia, penis, and testicles. If you are unsure of the anatomical terms, get familiar with them so that you can explain them to your children when they ask.

Artwork from the book Amazing You!

Artwork from the book Amazing You!

Amazing You! has a positive message that makes children feel good about themselves. Frankly, the text and illustrations are a breath of fresh air in a culture where many people are still ashamed of their bodies. You can boost your child’s confidence by reading this book and providing timely information in a matter-of-fact manner

Complement with Gossiea tender story for preschoolers about a gosling who likes to wear bright red boots, then revisit Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie’s children’s book about the search for self-identity and becoming the people we are.

Beekle: An Imaginary Friend in Search of a Child

A beautifully illustrated exploration of courage, perseverance, and eternal friendship.


“Whosoever is delighted in solitude,” quipped Francis Bacon, “is either a wild beast or a god.” It’s an observation that speaks to the fact that our deep, universal desire for companionship and connection can feel overwhelming, especially when we’re lonely. We feel slighted when others ignore our overtures of friendship, but if we persevere and continue reaching out to others, we may eventually be rewarded with the ultimate gift of lifelong friendship.

This is the challenge facing Beekle, the main character in The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (public library), a children’s book by Dan Santat about an imaginary friend who is overlooked by children again and again. In the story, imaginary friends are born on an island where they wait to be imagined by children. Once imagined, they’re magically transported to the real world to join their new human friends.

Unfortunately, nobody imagines Beekle. He eventually takes matters into his own hands: he courageously starts looking for a friend himself. It’s an incredibly beautiful journey with a touching ending.

He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created. Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child.

Every night he stood under the stars, hoping for his turn to be picked by a child and given a special name. He waited for many nights. But his turn never came.

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

Beekle decides to do “the unimaginable” and leave the island in search of his friend. He builds a boat and sails across the sea to “the real world,” which is portrayed in the book as a dark, dreary place. The juxtaposition between the real world and the children’s world is striking and, for adult readers who inhabit “the real world,” maybe a little too realistic and depressing.

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

The real world is strange. Beekle eventually finds a playground full of children, but he still can’t find his friend. Finally, after climbing to the top of a tree, he meets the girl who eventually becomes his friend. She calls him “Beekle,” and the two of them start having adventures together.

At first, they weren’t sure what to do. Neither of them had made a friend before. But… after a little while they realized they were perfect together.

Beekle and Alice had many new adventures. They shared their snacks. They told funny jokes.

The world began to feel a little less strange.

And together they did the unimaginable.

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

Artwork from the book Beekle by Dan Santat

In an interview, Santat explained where the name “Beekle” came from, and how he came up with the idea for the story.

The name ‘Beekle’ was actually my oldest son’s first word for ‘bicycle.’ My wife thought it was a cute name for a book character and so I kept it in the back of my mind for years. When I finally found the time to write the story I had this idea about an imaginary friend who was already born on an island where imaginary friends were born but had to wait to be imagined. I always thought it was interesting to explore the thoughts of an imaginary friend waiting to meet their friend because, when you look at the whole situation, you realize that they don’t have a choice in the matter. They’re a utility to serve the purpose of a child’s needs.

Later in the interview, Santat says that he believes the story is a metaphor for the birth of his son.

To me, the story is a metaphor about the birth of my son. There’s the initial anxiety of being a first-time father realizing that there is this inevitable destiny of meeting this new person but knowing you’ll love them unconditionally without having ever met. Then the imagination becomes a reality when you finally hold your child in your arms for the first time, and that’s when your imaginary friend gets his name, Beekle.

Winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend is destined to become a timeless classic. Complement with Rude Cakes, a hilarious children’s book that uses humor to talk about bad behavior, then revisit Mr. Meebles, Jack Kent’s story about an imaginary friend whose biggest worry is being forgotten.