I know it's a good picture book when it makes me cry. I know it's an indescribably amazing picture book when I begin to cry in the first four pages. I guess that's what baby chimpanzees and Jane Goodall can do to me.
The story of Rickie and Henri, by Jane Goodall, illustrated by Alan Marks, is not a typical picture book. While it's got about 32 pages, a publisher page in front, a letter from the author in the back, it touches on a pretty big topic. The killing and orphaning of chimpanzees in Africa. For little kids, it might almost seem like too much.
Rickie is a chimpanzee, and her story starts out happy in the forest with her mama, living a regular chimpanzee life. But it quickly becomes a tale of horror and sorrow as Rickie's mother is killed by poachers, and the baby chimpanzee is taken to market to be sold. Personally, I can't hear stories like this without collapsing into a bucket of tears. I can imagine the fear, feel the pain, comprehend the suffering a little too much. Lucky for me, or rather lucky for Rickie, the story takes another turn as Rickie finds a compassionate man who takes her in. There the young chimpanzee clings to Henri, a furry dog who acts as a friend and adult figure to the baby, until she is take to a chimpanzee refuge.
Sadly, this picture book is based on a true story of a young chimpanzee that came to the Jane Goodall Institute's Tchimpounga Sanctuary many years ago. And more sadly still, chimpanzees continue to be poached, orphaned, misunderstood, and booted from the last remaining territory they have in the wild. Jane Goodall has been fighting this for many years, and I have always admired her work. This simple picture book however, made it all real to me once again. It made me cry for sure, but it also reminded me of the immense and ongoing need for compassion we have in our world. We all need so much, so maybe we all need to give a little more than we think we can, every day, a little bit. More. I think we can.