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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas, by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks. First Second, Roaring Brook Press, Raincoast. 2013. $22.99 ages 9 and up

"Because of her, I learned a lot about chimpanzee child-rearing. Strike that. I learned a lot about child-rearing, period! When Flint or Fifi misbehave, or do something she doesn't want, she doesn't hit them. She gently stops them. And if that doesn't work, she still doesn't hit them - she distracts them instead. And touching. Always grooming and petting and touching. This works wonders..."

Wow! Three strong, intelligent women in one brilliant graphic novel. Who could ask for more?

We begin by meeting Jane Goodall as a young girl, always with her head in a book and dreaming of living in the jungle as Tarzan did, and that 'other' Jane. She was recruited by anthropologist Louis Leakey who recognized the skills that a woman would bring to studying chimpanzees. Jane lived quietly among the chimps while watching them carefully. Eventually they accepted her presence among them. The success of her research is well-documented. She was able to teach leading scientists much that was previously unknown:

"We now know that chimpanzees and humans share a great deal of DNA...96% or more. But in 1960, "human = tool user" was the prevailing wisdom, and I put that to rest. Meat eating and fishing for termites in the first two months. Not bad. Now, I started getting closer and following them more actively. It worked in large part because of one individual. I called him David Greybeard."

The second woman recruited by Leakey was Dian Fossey. She was similar to Jane Goodall in terms of research techniques, and her study was with gorillas. She was feisty, outspoken and even belligerent when dealing with poachers, or those who allowed for mistreatment of the gorillas she so loved, and the work she was doing. She was advised to get out of the Congo. Not interested in politics, she moved on to Rwanda:

"I'm here to stay, and I'm here for the gorillas.
So when I find a poacher's camp, I know what to do.
I'm not a vandal, or a thief, but...
This is part of my job now."

The third woman included, and also recruited by Leakey, was Birute Galdikas and her abiding interest was with the orangutan. She lead an adventure-filled life while always following the orangs and keeping careful field notes about them:

"Orangutans, compared to other primates, live in slow motion. They have all the time in the world. And as far as orangutan-to-orangutan interactions go...
Jane Goodall observes as much chimp social behavior in a few hours as I do for orangutans in two months. Make that two years."

Much respect is given to the three women who changed the way the world looked at primates. The author and illustrator include a good deal of humor to engage their audience and to provide a close-up and personal look at some of the many trials and tribulations of the research scientist, while also sharing the endless joy they found in their work. Each voice is strong and clear, allowing readers a unique look all three women. When they were together (as they are at a few different times), they are clearly exceptional and very different, one from the other. 

What a truly wonderful introduction this is to three women who changed the world and how we look at it. Funny, informative and totally engaging, it is worthy of a place in every school library.
The creators tell their stories with panache and exceptional art. It is not to be missed! 

1 comment:

  1. Google is honoring the American zoologist Dian Fossey on her 82nd birthday by showing a Doodle for her on its Home page.