Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas


This science biography about three anthropologists who lived with primates is astounding. I’ve heard of Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey before, but I didn’t realize just what they accomplished. Primates brings their discoveries to life.

In 1960, Goodall lived in Africa for a long-term observation of chimpanzees. It’s a good thing that she didn’t mind spending a lot of time alone, doing nothing but watching animals, because she discovered them using tools. That was a revelation, since until that time, it was thought only humans could do so. In 1971, Biruté Galdikas was the first to closely observe wild orangutans. Dian Fossey wanted to see mountain gorillas, and her writing allowed her to get to Rwanda, where she also fought poachers, ultimately leading to her death.

Maris Wicks’ art is nicely simple. It makes me happy to read about these people and monkeys; they’re cute, but their experiences are also clear and inspiring. I’ve only read one of her books before (Yes, Let’s), but I’ll be on the lookout for anything else she does in future. She does great work with the various apes and their behaviors, so important to a book about observing them.


Jim Ottaviani, on the other hand, has been writing about scientists for years, but his clear explanations bring historical figures to life as people. He’s very good at picking out telling moments that are often quite funny, as when the mentor of all three, Louis Leakey, grades his own exam in college. From the portrayal here, he was quite the impulsive man, selecting women without classic training because he thought they’d do better and be more patient. I’m curious to read more of his story sometime.

That’s not the only way that this book is a starting point. To make it okay for younger readers (I suspect), some of the details (like what happened to Fossey at the end of her life or the malady Galdikas suffered) are handwaved or glossed over. But then, to talk about the lives of three women and their accomplishments in under 140 pages must have been a struggle in itself. Still, what’s here is inspiring.

Primates can be ordered from your comic shop with Diamond code APR13 1147. It’s due out in early June. There are preview pages at the publisher’s website, and their blog has a great book walkthrough. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


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