Comic Solutions

Book Review—Primates

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas
Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks
June 2013

Prior to 1950 the world knew very little about primates.  While many researchers tried to understand and observe these creatures in their natural habitat, they all failed and came back frustrated and dejected. And then….three women, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, all students of Louis Leaky, changed everything that we knew about primates and changed what we understood about ourselves. While they worked on different continents with different primates at different times, these three women challenged the world and showed us just what we have left to learn. This book weaves a story and introduces the reader to the woman and their work…and leaves us wanting more.

For me Maris Wicks artwork is what sells this book. Don’t get me wrong Ottaviani’s writing and storytelling are par none, but Maris’s art takes this story and makes it special. In fact when I heard she was going to be illustrating this book I couldn’t wait to see it because I love her style.  Not familiar with who she is?  Well check out her illustrations for this book and you’ll see why I love her style so much.  Her character design effortlessly captures the movement of not only the human characters, but the grace of the various primates they studied. It feels like we’re out in the jungle with Jane, Dian, and Birute watching these amazing animals with them.  Maris’s color choices are bright and vibrant and help breathe life into the story making it feel like we can reach out and shakes hands with Jane or brush the fur of a great ape.  If I were to make a comparison of who Maris reminds me of it would be Smile by Raina Telgemeier.

Ottaviani’s writing style is pitch perfect for this type of book and helps the reader feel like we’re a part of the adventure vs. reading a history book.  We’re actively participating in the research and the adventure and learning along with these three women.  What I really like about this book is that he intertwines their stories together to help create one cohesive narrative and flowing story. In fact he leaves me wanting to know more and makes me want to tell other people to go read about these three amazing scientists.

Were parts of the story imagined to make a good story? Yes, but it helps readers better understand these three powerful and free thinking women who challenge preconceived notions on how things should be and helped make the world their own. Ottaviani’s and Maris provide a biography and an explanation of how the book was created to help readers understand what was changed and how they can learn more. I highly recommend this book for all ages and anyone that wants to learn more, not only about primates, but about the three amazing women that helped us begin to understand them.  5 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond

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