Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (Illustrator)
Pub: First Second Books (2013), Hardcover, 133pg
Filed under: Biography, Graphic Novel, History, Non-Fiction
Buy it: Amazon (affiliate info) | Shelve it: Goodreads
Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. These three ground-breaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves. Tackling Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas in turn, and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining, and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.
I don’t know much about primates. Monkeys, apes, whatever: besides what little I know from watching a few specials on the Animal Planet channel I caught years ago, they’re basically a mystery. I know even less about the three women who researched primates SO HARD they’re still creating shockwaves.
Primates is an adorable and informative biography of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, with a mini-bio of Louis Leakey thrown in for kicks. It’s adorable because of the art style, which makes everyone looks slightly chubby and round. It’s friendly! Everybody looks friendly, even when they’re poaching animals.1 The colors are bright and clear and the whole look of it makes me smile.
Like I said, I don’t know a lot about most of the things in this book. There’s not a lot of pages to spend going really in depth on each primatologist’s life. We see their pre-primate life, we see how they meet Louis Leakey, and we see the beginnings of their studies. It’s enough to get someone interested in learning more about them without being overwhelmed by page after page of them staring at apes. I definitely want to pick up some (non-graphic) biographies of all three of them now!
Because it’s a kids book (I guess?) and because it’s trying to be positive book (maybe?), some aspects of their lives were glossed over or cut out. For example, Dian Fossey’s murder isn’t mentioned at all, just that she died.2 There also isn’t much about the resistance from the greater scientific community about their work.
That doesn’t even really bug me that much, except that there’s this whole author’s note in the back about truth vs. fiction and whether or not the book could be considered truthful if, say, Jane Goodall is depicted wearing a green shirt on a day when she was really wearing a blue one.
Clothing is not important! How someone died is important! How someone fought for their life’s work to be taken seriously is important! It’s just such a strange thing worry about smaller truths when you’re glossing over bigger ones, y’know?
Read: August 8, 2014