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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fearless Science! Pioneering Primate Biologists! Jane Goodall! Dain Fossey! Birute Galdikas! (And all this wrapping in a beautiful graphic novel)!

Ottaviani, Jim; Wicks, Maris.  (2013) Primates:  The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas.  New York:  First Second.

 Best non-fiction graphic novel I have read in a long time!  I mean, Jim Ottaviani does excellent work (Feynman and T-Minus for example) but this is exceptionally wonderful.  I have never seen the artist Maris Wicks before, but her images are very clean and simple, yet detailed -- and absolutely perfect for this book.

oh, right.  I should explain what the book is about.  Okay, so this is a kind of triple biography that looks at Jane Goodall, the famous biologist that studies chimpanzees and first discovered that they can use tools; Dian Fossey, who studied (and fearlessly protected) mountain gorillas; and Birute Galdikas (I had never heard of her) who studied and rehabilitated orphaned orangutans.  It turns out that all three of them became interested in primates before they had any kind of formal training in animal biology or anthropology, but were encouraged to go into the field and begin pioneering work by Louis Leakey, the famous archaeologist and anthropologist who was convinced that amateur, untrained observers could see things which academically trained scientists could not.  This is the story of their journeys into jungles and how they coped with poaches, aloneness and medical disasters.  And maybe that doesn't sound like that much fun -- maybe it sounds like reading a textbook.  If that is so, my apologies for not capturing it the way I want to.  This is a book where every page is an interesting journey.  If you teach science, art, or language arts, this would be a good one to have in your classroom library.  I recommend this book for advanced fourth grade readers through 47 year olds. 

Seriously, get this one.  Support good graphic novels like this and maybe we will get more of them!

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