They called them "the Trimates" or "Leakey's Angels," but however we characterize them, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas changed the face of primatology. Each of them benefited from their mentor Louis Leakey's belief that women had superior observational than men. Their personalities and scientific breakthroughs are the subject of this graphic novel by comics science writer Jim Ottaviani (Feynman; Fallout) and self-professed "primate artist" Maris Wicks. An accessible introduction to an exciting scientific field that is mostly unknown even to general science readers. Editor's recommendation.
The New York Times Book Review - Carl Zimmer
…[Ottaviani and Wicks] succeed in conjuring the feel of extraordinary science. And they do so not by manufacturing fake emotion, but by sticking to the reality of being a scientistthe hard punishments of fieldwork, the strains on marriage, the cocktail-party diplomacy back home and, most important of all, the elation of discovery. Especially in its portrayal of this final element, Primates is the kind of book that can produce new scientists.
Ottaviani(Feynman) examines the lives and scientific work of the three great primatologists of the 1960s, as they intersect through mutual mentor Louis Leakey. The book begins with a young Goodall, who is fascinated by Tarzan (and is jealous of “the other Jane”), as she’s drawn into research by Leakey, who believes that women make better researchers than men due to their observational skills . Fossey and Galdikas have similar stories, studying gorillas and orangutans respectively. The women make groundbreaking discoveries in primatology, forever changing scientists’ views of humans’ closest relatives while battling obstacles—from poachers to government obstruction. Ottaviani succeeds in capturing their hard work and the thrilling breakthroughs during years of research, without looking away from some of the darker details, such as Leakey’s womanizing. Wicks’s cartoony illustrations are a great match for the story; they never get bogged down with unnecessary details and briskly move forward the account of the women and their subjects. A riveting, jargon-free overview of one of the great stories of animal research. (June)
From the Publisher
“An accessible introduction to Goodall's, Fossey's and Galdikas' lives and work.” Kirkus Reviews
“A graphic format admirably propels this lightly fictionalized group biography.” The Horn Book
“Presented as dedicated, iconoclastic, and profoundly in awe of the creatures around them, Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas are inspiring figures, and Ottaviani does a first-rate job of dangling enough tantalizing tidbits to pique readers' interest in the topic.” Booklist
“The story of how each of these women loved primates and lived among them to study their behavior is compelling, and might inspire a whole new generation of scientists to follow in their footsteps.” School Library Journal
“This is an inviting introduction that will undoubtedly lure many readers into further investigation of this groundbreaking fieldwork.” BCCB
“Splendid.” The Miami Herald on Feynman
“Entertaining and informative.” Science on Feynman
“Lovely.” Newsday on Feynman
“Captures the jazzy flow of Feynman's life in its spare lines.” USA Today on Feynman
“These images capture with remarkable sensitivity the essence of Feynman's character. The comic-book picture somehow comes to life and speaks with the voice of the real Feynman.” Freeman Dyson, The New York Review of Books on Feynman
Children's Literature - Maria Lamattina
The names of the scientists in this text are certainly familiar to most adults, but for young adults, Ottaviani has created an entertaining peek into the lives of three remarkable women. Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas all worked for famed anthropologist, Louis Leakey. Through personal motivation, passion for studying primates, and Leakey’s inspiration, these scientists contributed to our understanding of these animals, and, ultimately, ourselves. Young readers will undoubtedly be intrigued to learn how a passion developed early in life can lead to a lifetime of study, personal satisfaction, and professional success. Maris Wicks’ comic illustrations invite young readers into the world of primates as much as Ottaviani’s words. In the process, the reader gains much intriguing scientific information. For example, chimpanzees and humans share 96% of their DNA, and, chimps, like man, use tools something that may, on the surface, not impress except for the fact that it takes thought to do so. Different fonts and text features to differentiate dialogue, thought, and journal entries (which are written in a script font) are just a few of the important stylistic choices made by Ottaviani and Wicks. As part of a genre study, one of the more interesting aspects of the structure of the work is the Afterword, in which the author points out that although he and the illustrator certainly conducted research on the lives of the three women (as well primates), and worked to accurately portray anything of significance, much of what they wrote was inventedthey wanted to tell a story that would convey the major themes and discoveries of these three lives. The resultan entertaining introduction to research that young adult readers might easily overlook. Reviewer: Maria Lamattina; Ages 12 up.
VOYA - Rebecca Denham
As the title suggests, Primates details the life and research of three female scientists who changed the face of primate studies. Told through graphic panels, Primates follows the events leading to each scientist's work with primates and their impact on primatology and anthropological studies. Readers are given a first-person glimpse into Jane's passion for chimps, Dian's determination to protect the world's gorillas, and Birute's enthusiasm for orangutans. The art is simplistic, yet powerful, with interesting details about the scientists' introductions to life with and the study of primates. Each scientist has a distinct personality and motivation which is used to illustrate how each of these women approached scientific inquiry. One of the most interesting points illustrated in this graphic novel is that none of these women had a degree in primatology, or a background in science, when they began their observations of chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. Overall, Primates is an intriguing introduction to three female scientists who changed the way the world defined "human." Reviewer: Rebecca Denham
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—This engaging graphic novel (part story, part group biography) introduces readers to three unique women whose different personalities and lives intersected because of their love of primates. They would never have met without the guidance of Louis Leakey, an anthropologist who believed that women were better at studying animals in their native environment because they were more patient and perceptive than men. Over a period of several years, he recruited and inspired these women to study chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and orangutans. The book jumps back and forth among the different narrators, so that each of the women and even Leakey are sharing their views about their work and about one another. In the afterword, Ottaviani explains how he and Wicks wanted to create a story rather than a textbook, and so they combined the facts with some imaginative fictionalizing. While this might not be the best resource for homework assignments, it is an enjoyable and informative read. The illustrations are lively and cartoonish, using a natural palette of browns and greens to tell the story. Overall, the graphic-novel format makes what could be a dry subject more appealing for young people. The story of how each of these women loved primates and lived among them to study their behavior is compelling, and might inspire a whole new generation of scientists to follow in their footsteps.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
Veteran science writer Ottaviani (Feynman, 2011, etc.) teams up with illustration newcomer Wicks in this semifictionalized overview of the "Trimates," three women primatologists championed by Louis Leakey. The book opens with Goodall's cozy first-person account of her childhood dreams of studying animals in Africa, her recruitment by Leakey, the establishment of her long-term chimpanzee study in Nigeria and her key discoveries regarding chimpanzee behavior. The narrative then shifts from Goodall to Leakey's other protégées, Fossey and Galdikas, and their influential research on, respectively, gorillas and orangutans. Fossey and Galdikas also tell their own tales in distinct, often funny, voices. Wicks' cheerful drawings complement the women's stories by highlighting their humorous moments. However, the simplicity of Wicks' rounded figures and flat backgrounds make the panels documenting primate behavior less effective than they could be. Another weakness is the text's tendency to summarize when more scientific and biographical detail would be welcome. For example, the final chapter covers the later stages of the Trimates' careers but only briefly addresses the circumstances surrounding Fossey's death. Readers looking for more substantial biographies or science should seek out other sources after whetting their appetites here. More story than study, the book provides an accessible introduction to Goodall's, Fossey's and Galdikas' lives and work. (afterword, bibliography) (Graphic novel. 10-14)