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

Image of Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas
Author(s): 
Illustrator(s): 
Release Date: 
June 11, 2013
Publisher/Imprint: 
First Second
Pages: 
144

“. . . the kind of book that teachers, librarians, and booksellers will be talking about all summer.”

There has been a strong push for the inclusion of graphic novels in schools and libraries over the last seven to eight years.

We have seen the recognition of graphic novels as legitimate literature, as evidenced by their receipt of awards from The American Library Association, The New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. It is with those awards for excellence in literature in mind, that I am so pleased to discuss Jim Ottaviani’s new book Primates.

Primates is an entrancing introduction to the life and careers of three of the most prominent primatologists of the last 50 years. The three scientists—Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas—have dedicated their lives to the study of chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and orangutans, respectively.

We are introduced to these women as their younger selves, and we are given a truthful and captivating account of their successes, their failures, their sacrifices, and their passion for the acquisition of knowledge.

Through Maris Wicks’ enlivening illustration, we are able to truly understand where imagination turns to curiosity and turns again to scientific exploration through scenes of a young Goodall pretending to be Jane (of Tarzan and Jane) swinging through the jungle. We are able to understand the caustic nature of Dian Fossey toward those she viewed as obstacles through her body language, while also seeing the fierce loyalty she shows to her peers and beloved gorillas.

The inclusion of Biruté Galdikas is a welcome treat. Probably the least well known of the primatologists, Dr. Galdikas originated the Orangutan Research and Conservation Project in Indonesia during 1971.

We are able to follow her during the early years of ORCP, when their primary goal was retrieving orangutans kept as pets and reintroducing them to the wild, to the establishment of a true scientific outpost through her daily observations and tracking of the great apes.

Jim Ottaviani concedes that this is an honest presentation if not a truthful one. How so? Well, we can’t know all of our protagonists’ thoughts, and some situations can only be left to the imagination. But their work, their studies, their presentations are available. Research, however, has provided a thorough foundation from which calculated guesses can be relied upon to not deviate so far as to call it true fiction.

Graciously, Mr. Ottaviani has provided a fantastic bibliography and suggested further readings that will be able to help sate the appetite for knowledge that will be sparked by this title. Also included are links to the organizations that have been established to further the work of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, and a portion of the author’s proceeds will be donated to these foundations.

This is the kind of book that teachers, librarians, and booksellers will be talking about all summer. It has become much more difficult to find engaging, entertaining, and educational titles for preteens with the plethora of titles being published.

It is even harder to find ones that can reach pre-teen girls. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas is an incredible jumping off point to expanding every young girl’s imagination, and possibly awakening a curiosity that will stay with them to drive them the rest of their lives.

If reading about Tarzan and Jane started Jane Goodall down a path that led to some of the most groundbreaking research into primates, just imagine what reading about three female pioneers of science could lead to!