Primates Review

primatesPrimates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

First Second, 2013. 978-1596438651

Winner of the 2014 Green Earth Book Award,

Winner of the 2014 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year

Synopsis: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas have become some of the biggest names in primatology during the 20th Century. Recruited by Louis Leakey, these women dared to go into the bush during a time when women were not yet taken seriously as scientists, and yet were considered better for field studies than men. Their work has influenced how the world now thinks about primates and about themselves.

Why I picked it up: A library colleague of mine highly recommended it.

Why I finished it: This book is every bit as amazing as I have been told it was. It’s a fun, funny, and inspiring look at how the study of primates has evolved (no pun intended) and even how women were able to make a name for themselves in what was still greatly considered to be a male dominated field. Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas all had a clear idea of what they wanted to do with their lives, and they found a largely uphill battle to be able to be with the animals for which they felt such a strong passion to understand. I was sitting on the edge of my seat through most of the book, living out these adventures with Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas and admiring their sheer gumption. It’s one thing to want to study gorillas or chimps or orangutans, but to do out and do the field work, live in the jungle, and truly immerse yourself in the research takes some definite guts. I’m truly in awe. And despite the stories about how awful it sometimes got, it makes me want to go out and do something groundbreaking. Ottaviani does a beautiful job of highlighting the major life events of these three women and the major breakthroughs they experienced that would enable them to present themselves as serious researchers. There is a little bit of fiction inserted into the plot, but I didn’t find that it affected the overall story – I mean, it’s pretty hard to even just fit one scientist’s life into a book, let alone three! Wicks art beautifully depicts each of the women’s lives and really bring to life each species of primate and their natural habitats. I loved that so many of the sequences were based on real photographs of Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas during the prime years of their research. It’s a truly inspiring read about some truly inspiring women that reminds us that we are never done fighting and that we must never back down from defending something in which we truly believe.

Other related materials: Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists by Jim Ottaviani, Linda Medley, and Donna Barr; Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists by Jim Ottavini, Mark Badger, Donna Barr, Colleen Doran, and Rob Walton; Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann, Amelie Welden, and David Hahn; Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Lives of Six Pioneering Naturalists by Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Paula Conner; Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey; The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter; Dian Fossey: Friend to Africa’s Gorillas by Robin S. Doak; Light Shining Through the Mist: A Photobiograhy of Dian Fossey by Tom Matthews; Dian Fossey: Among the Gorillas by Wil Mara; Among the Orangutans: The Birute Galdikas Story by Evelyn Gallardo; Orangutan Odyssey by Birute M.F. Galdikas; Mary Leakey: Archaeologist Who Really Dug Her Work by Mike Venezia; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby


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