Review of the Week

primatesOttaviani, Jim.  Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikus.‡ Maris Wicks, Illus. Graphic novel.  First Second, 2013. 144p. $19.99. 978-1-59643-865-1.

The surprising and groundbreaking stories of the three greatest primatologists— – Goodall (who worked with chimpanzees), Fossey (gorillas), and Galdikas (orangutans) —is told in graphic novel form. The author-illustrator team based their work on extensive study of the scientists’ lives and work but fictionalized some dialogue and compressed events, producing a vivid story that conveys the spirit of the women, the tenor of their times, the difficulty of their living conditions, and the quality of their discoveries. Wicks’ clean, engaging, Herge-like drawings bring humor and clarity, illuminating the character of the individuals, their study subjects, and their
intertwined relationships. The book entertains but does not pander. Leakey’’s womanizing is alluded to, marriages fail and readers must use observational skills to get the most from the story. Lively, humorous, and respectful, Primates piques interest in three inspiring lives. An afterword and bibliography point the way to more information.

Melissa McAvoy, Live Oak School

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