Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Jane Goodall - Scientist, Environmentalist, Writer, and Reader

Illustration by Petra Braun 

When I was a student at the University of Oxford studying zoology, Jane Goodall, the famous primatologist, came to town to sign her latest book at Blackwells, Oxford's most marvelous bookshop. Naturally I went to the signing, and as the line was not too long I was able to have a short talk with Dr. Goodall. She was a very slender, almost fragile, looking lady with a soft voice. She looked at me with her penetrating eyes as I stumbled over my words, blushing furiously "Take a breath," she said smiling and tilting her head slightly to one side. Her words made me laugh, and after that I was able to tell her how the books she, Gerald Durrell, and David Attenborough had written had set me on my current path. 

   Later that evening I was invited to attend a gathering that was being held in her honor. Dr. Goodall has difficulty remembering faces and yet for some reason she remembered mine. "Ah, the reader," she said looking at me. She asked if I had ever visit Gerald Durrell's zoo on the island of Jersey, and I told her about how I had worked there for a whole summer. We chatted about my experiences there briefly and then she moved on. Dr. Goodall gave a talk about her new book and I remember feeling deeply moved by the words of this unassuming woman, who was so determined to do all she could to protect the chimpanzees that she had studied for so many years. I could see that Dr. Goodall was the kind of woman who would fight, tooth and nail, in her own quiet way, to protect the animals of this world. She was, and is, an inspiration. 

   Not surprisingly, it turns out that Jane Goodall is also a great reader. In 2020 Enchanted Lion published a book called A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. In it, artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, philanthropists, musicians, and businesspeople who have been lifelong readers offer letters to children in which they talk about their love of reading. Jane Goodall wrote one of these letters. 

Dear Children,

I want to share something with you — and that is how much I loved books when I was your age. Of 
course, back then there was no Internet, no television — we learned everything from printed books. We didn’t have much money when I was a child and I couldn’t afford new books, so most of what I read came from our library. But I also used to spend hours in a very small second hand book shop. The owner was an old man who never had time to arrange his books properly. They were piled everywhere and I would sit there, surrounded by all that information about everything imaginable. I would save up any money I got for my birthday or doing odd jobs so that I could buy one of those books. Of course, you can look up everything on the Internet now. But there is something very special about a book — the feel of it in your hands and the way it looks on the table by your bed, or nestled in with others in the bookcase.

I loved to read in bed, and after I had to put the lights out I would read under the bedclothes with a torch, always hoping my mother would not come in and find out! I used to read curled up in front of the fire on a cold winter evening. And in the summer I would take my special books up my favorite tree in the garden. My Beech Tree. Up there I read stories of faraway places and I imagined I was there. I especially loved reading about Doctor Doolittle and how he learned to talk to animals. And I read about Tarzan of the Apes. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

I was ten years old when I decided I would go to Africa when I grew up to live with animals and write books about them. And that is what I did, eventually. I lived with chimpanzees in Africa and I am still writing books about them and other animals. In fact, I love writing books as much as reading them — I hope you will enjoy reading some of the ones that I have written for you.

Jane Goodall

More about Jane Goodall's Work

You can find out more about Dr. Goodall and her work on the Jane Goodall Institute websiteIn addition she has created a special global organization called Roots and Shoots who mission is to "empower young people to affect positive change in their communities." 

You can hear her read some of her children's books on her story time page . Here is more information about her books on the Astra Publishing House website. 

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