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PRIMATES by Jim Ottaviani


The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

by Jim Ottaviani ; illustrated by Maris Wicks

Pub Date: June 11th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59643-865-1
Publisher: First Second/Roaring Brook

Veteran science writer Ottaviani (Feynman, 2011, etc.) teams up with illustration newcomer Wicks in this semifictionalized overview of the “Trimates,” three women primatologists championed by Louis Leakey.

The book opens with Goodall’s cozy first-person account of her childhood dreams of studying animals in Africa, her recruitment by Leakey, the establishment of her long-term chimpanzee study in Nigeria and her key discoveries regarding chimpanzee behavior. The narrative then shifts from Goodall to Leakey’s other protégées, Fossey and Galdikas, and their influential research on, respectively, gorillas and orangutans. Fossey and Galdikas also tell their own tales in distinct, often funny, voices. Wicks’ cheerful drawings complement the women’s stories by highlighting their humorous moments. However, the simplicity of Wicks’ rounded figures and flat backgrounds make the panels documenting primate behavior less effective than they could be. Another weakness is the text’s tendency to summarize when more scientific and biographical detail would be welcome. For example, the final chapter covers the later stages of the Trimates’ careers but only briefly addresses the circumstances surrounding Fossey’s death. Readers looking for more substantial biographies or science should seek out other sources after whetting their appetites here.

More story than study, the book provides an accessible introduction to Goodall’s, Fossey’s and Galdikas’ lives and work.

(afterword, bibliography) (Graphic novel. 10-14)