FICTION

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

illus. by Maris Wicks. 144p. bibliog. First Second. June 2013. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-865-1.
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Gr 7 Up—This engaging graphic novel (part story, part group biography) introduces readers to three unique women whose different personalities and lives intersected because of their love of primates. They would never have met without the guidance of Louis Leakey, an anthropologist who believed that women were better at studying animals in their native environment because they were more patient and perceptive than men. Over a period of several years, he recruited and inspired these women to study chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and orangutans. The book jumps back and forth among the different narrators, so that each of the women and even Leakey are sharing their views about their work and about one another. In the afterword, Ottaviani explains how he and Wicks wanted to create a story rather than a textbook, and so they combined the facts with some imaginative fictionalizing. While this might not be the best resource for homework assignments, it is an enjoyable and informative read. The illustrations are lively and cartoonish, using a natural palette of browns and greens to tell the story. Overall, the graphic-novel format makes what could be a dry subject more appealing for young people. The story of how each of these women loved primates and lived among them to study their behavior is compelling, and might inspire a whole new generation of scientists to follow in their footsteps.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
A graphic format admirably propels this lightly fictionalized group biography of "Leakey's Angels": Jane Goodall (chimps in Tanzania), Dian Fossey (gorillas in Rwanda), and Birute Galdikas (orangutans in Borneo). The book proceeds chronologically, starting with Goodall's childhood, her meeting with anthropologist Louis Leakey, and her early work in Gombe, and then braiding in the accounts of Fossey and Galdikas as Leakey recruited them. In a neat division of labor, the scientists (occasionally including Leakey) themselves narrate the story in captions that can be read continuously, with color and font indicating who's narrating, while speech balloons and the small, tidy comic illustrations take readers to each present moment. While Fossey tells us about "the one [Alan Root] who taught me how to track gorillas," the accompanying sequence of twelve panels shows us just how initially hopeless she was at the task. The tone is lively but respectful, with a moving account of Fossey's difficulties and death: "Most people just didn't understand her," writes Jane. "Very few people tried." The afterword is an interesting note about separating fact from fiction: "So, can you trust what I wrote, or what Maris drew? Well, yes...mostly." roger sutton

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