Friday, January 07, 2011

Jane Goodall: A Twentieth-Century Life by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Of all the people I have heard speak at public events, my favorite has to be Jane Goodall. Bonnie and I attended her lecture at Navy Pier in Chicago four or five years ago, at which she spoke about the human and ape relationship, ethical primate reserch, and the effort to conserve habitats for primates and other wildlife. She reported findings from throughout her career and told what her foundation plans. I was spellbound.

Having heard Goodall, read her articles in National Geographic, and seen numerous documentaries, I know her story fairly well. Still, when I found Jane Goodall: A Twentieth-Century Life by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen in our teen biography section, I was eager to read more. At only 218 pages including the notes, bibliography, and index, the book is a compact biography telling just the central part of Goodall's long career as a primatologist. Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen tells how a young woman who grew up moderately poor in the Depression and World War II was able to break into the field of wildlife research with Kenya's famous scientist Louis Leakey. She tells how Goodall conducted her research in the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania and became on advocate for primates. The author is obviously a fan as well, but she does not shirk from telling about Goodall's faults and failures. Goodall seems more to be admired for having had difficulties.

With biography assignments on the increase in middle schools in our area, our library needs to have a good collection "middle size" biographies to serve our community. Heather Booth and I have spoken about this countless times. With oversize bindings and a reliance on photos, too much of what we find retains a children's book look that turns off middle school teachers trying to prepare their students for high school. More book like Up Close series title are what we need.

Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta. Jane Goodall: A Twentieth-Century Life. Viking, 2008. ISBN 9780670062638

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