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

Jim Ottaviani , Maris Wicks

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Book Description

June 11 2013

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.

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Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas + Feynman
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Praise for Feynman:

"Splendid." —The Miami Herald

"Entertaining and informative." —Science

"Lovely." —Newsday

"Captures the jazzy flow of Feynman’s life in its spare lines." —USA Today

"These images capture with remarkable sensitivity the essence of Feynman’s character. The comic-book picture somehow comes to life and speaks with the voice of the real Feynman." —Freeman Dyson, The New York Review of Books

Praise for Primates:

"An accessible introduction to Goodall’s, Fossey’s and Galdikas’ lives and work." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A graphic format admirably propels this lightly fictionalized group biography." -- The Horn Book

"Presented as dedicated, iconoclastic, and profoundly in awe of the creatures around them, Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas are inspiring figures, and Ottaviani does a first-rate job of dangling enough tantalizing tidbits to pique readers’ interest in the topic." -- Booklist

"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." -- School Library Journal

"This is an inviting introduction that will undoubtedly lure many readers into further investigation of this groundbreaking fieldwork." -- BCCB

About the Author

Jim Ottaviani has written nonfiction, science-oriented comics since 1997, notably the number one New York Times bestseller, Feynman and Fallout which was nominated for an Ignatz Award. He has worked as a nuclear engineer, caddy, programmer, and reference librarian. Primates is his first collaboration with artist Maris Wicks. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Maris Wicks (Primates) lives with fellow primate Joe Quinones and their cat, Biggs, in Somerville, Massachusetts.  She has used her opposable thumbs to draw comics for Adhouse Books, Tugboat Press, and Spongebob Comics, and written stories for Image and DC Comics.  When she's not making comics, Maris works as a program educator at the New England Aquarium.  She is an avid tool user and is particularly fond of bananas.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, but a Great Overview of their Lives June 19 2013
By OpheliasOwn - Published on
Having just read Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, it seemed fortuitous that I would wander into a local bookstore to find this little gem facing out at me from a shelf in the children's department. Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas is a graphic, slightly fictionalized history of the three women who started with Louis Leakey and transformed the world's knowledge of the great apes.

Jane Goodall is probably the most well known of these three women, and she was the first woman Leakey was successful in sending to study the great apes. When his former secretary wasn't successful with the chimpanzees (or terribly interested), Goodall, a woman with no formal degree or experience in conducting such a study, was sent. It was there that she conducted some of the most groundbreaking research ever done on the chimpanzees.

Dian Fossey didn't wait for Leakey to discover her, she hunted him down and demanded to be sent to study the mountain gorillas. Leakey, still convinced women are better at this kind of research, put her study together and sent her. It was there that the gorillas became the life and death of Dian Fossey. Her refusal to back down from dangerous people's protection of the poaching of the gorillas was her undoing, but even in death, she is a champion for these beautiful animals.

Birute Galdikas is the least known of these three women. Having come to Leakey after Fossey and Goodall, she was most interested in the illusive orangutans. Lucky for these creatures, their ability to fade into the mist also made them difficult to hunt, which was a protection in and of itself. Galdikas herself was as illusive as her orangutans, but the research she gathered is still unmatched.

This was a lovely little graphic non-fiction mini-biography of how these ladies came to study the great apes and forever shape the way the world viewed them and connected them to the human species. While the book is short and the stories are brief, it is a great starting point if you have a student interested in the study of the great apes. This would be a great paring with Endangered or "Gorillas in the Mist". After they have a taste of these three amazing (and very different) women, it would be fabulous to send them off for further research. I really enjoyed this little book, and I am so glad I happened to stumble upon it!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Primates good! June 11 2013
By capreece - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ottaviani delivers yet another page turner. Once you pick it up you can't turn away. It congeals three fantastic scientific lives, how they met, how they stumbled upon doing the work and how their work went.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Primates July 10 2013
By Nicole Levesque - Published on
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas written by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel
144 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Whoa was I excited for this one! After loving Ivan my third graders researched animal relationships (between humans and/or other animals). The topics vary widely, but I knew this book, that takes them back to the root of primate and human relationships, would pique their interests.

However, the story feels too jumbled to me. We meet Jane Goodall, then Louis Leakey, then Dian Fossey, then Biruté Galdikas, and each time we meet a new character we must flashback to how they became players in the primate research game. Some of the details shared were odd to put it mildly. I don't think young readers need to know that Leakey was cheating on his wife with his secretary.
I do give credit to how the author pulled together all the points in these scientists' lives where they intersect, that must have taken a lot of careful research. And yes, I certainly learned new information about all of the scientists, but I think they either could have had their own books, or this could have been longer and not so compacted. The illustrations are wonderful!

Though this book will appeal to younger grades, I would suggest it for 5th and up due to text and story complexities.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars EXTREMELY abridged summary. For kids? Oct. 9 2013
By Diego M - Published on
Honestly, it was an OK book. I did not feel that it was anything spectacular. Nothing new was brought to the table, but as a summary of the lives of three impressive women, it was moderately successful. I say moderately, since each individual was given roughly 40 pages of a graphic novel to tell who they were, how they got there, how they first adapted in the jungle, one or two of their revelations, and an aftermath of sorts. Frankly, 40 pages of a graphic novel to cram all that information is not enough and does not do their stories justice. And a good portion of that 40 page summary was used for transitions to connect the stories and talk about how they got the job; Which I approve of since there is nothing worse than a choppy story, but therefore meant that there was even less content in the book itself. It was a good simple summary and I liked how the stories were connected, but I just can not help but wish it was longer so that I could learn more about the primates, their work with the primates and what they pioneered! Sadly, the majority of this book was set outside of the jungle.

I believe that this book is meant to be directed for a younger audience because this book is very short (I read it in roughly an hour), the reading level was low, and I found the book to not be as descriptive/informative as I thought it should be. They had to cut out many scenes to squeeze each biography in 40 pages, and did not have the opportunity to go into much detail as to what these brilliant women actually pioneered.

My biggest quirk was probably how often they alluded to their boss's unfaithfulness with his wife. The author is extremely limited in space for the novel, and each page and panel is crucial. So I thought it was odd when they had enough time to mention that their boss, Louis Leakey, cheated on his wife with his former secretary. After which, throughout all three of the protagonists biographies, he would consistently hit on each of the female protagonists and then it would show his wife disapproving of the situation. The story uses Leakey's constant flirtations and his wife's jealousy for comedic effect, but I personally did not find it very amusing. What is this doing in a children's book? More importantly, why is this a constant theme in a children's book? I would have preferred it if they instead added more actual content to the story. But that is just me.

Other scenes that bugged me was that in addition to the constant allusion to Leakey's unfaithfulness, they showed Biruté losing her husband after a couple of years in the jungle (whom we don't really get to appreciate, despite the fact that he helped, supported and encouraged her throughout the entire process), and Dian growing up to be a bitter old woman who is killed by the locals. A small part of me thought that this book was meant to inspire younger audiences, not scare them. It seems to me that the authors attempted to put too much information into the book, and basically crammed the entirety of someone's life into 40 comic book pages each, which just leaves the reader with a bland aftertaste afterwards.

One thing I did enjoy tremendously was the art. The line work is very clean, the colors well chosen, and the images are fun to look upon. The artwork is not in any way distracting from the actual plot and compliments the writing very well. It is a simple style that works! If anything, a young child will enjoy the book just to turn the pages and see the different images.

Overall, I found that this story is too terse and not very informative to be taken seriously by older audiences, and too mature and depressing for younger audiences. I am not quite certain who the targeted readers are.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly fictionalized, graphic story of three women who revolutionized our understanding of the great apes June 11 2013
By Ursiform - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although called "Primates", this is really about the (other) great apes*, and three women who were inspired by Louis Leakey to study them: Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Dian Fossey (gorillas), and Birute Galdikas (orangutans). Having read books by each of these women, this overview rings largely true, although it is obviously not a very deep look at its subjects.

Reading this book you will get an introduction to Louis Leakey, the famed fossil hunter of east Africa. Unconventional and an outsider to the anthropological community, he was long disregarded and looked down on from their ivory towers. Between some spectacular discoveries, his flair as a showman, and the world stage offered him by the National Geographic Society, he became the public face of paleoanthropology. This led to great public interest in the topic, but probably also led to Leakey being overvalued by the public as the key figure in the area.

Leakey understood that to understand people and our ancestry we also needed to understand our closest relatives. Thus he recruited or sponsored Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas. Each made breakthroughs in our understanding of their respective apes, but this book is more about their stories than their discoveries. Some key discoveries are mentioned, but I would have liked this book to offer a little larger window into our relatives.

These women's stories are interesting and inspiring. Until I read them juxtaposed in this book it hadn't occurred to me how the personality of each somewhat mirrored the ape she studied. Goodall seems the best able to move from the field into the public eye, and she studied the very social chimpanzees. Fossey, who became a fierce protector of gorillas, eventually being killed in her quest to save them, most likely by someone her efforts had caused problems for, studied gorillas, who live in small groups which fiercely protect their own. Galdikas, who has stayed more out of the limelight, choose the reclusive orangutans.

This is a quick to read, nicely illustrated introduction to three remarkable women and "their" apes. With luck, it will inspire some readers to read the books they, themselves, wrote. "Primates" should be accessible to a young teen, while still being interesting to an adult.

I was provided a copy for review by the publisher, but have purchased a copy of the final version for a niece.

* Bonobos used to be viewed as a subspecies of chimpanzees, but are now considered a separate, but closely related, species, so we now recognize four other species of great apes.

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