Friday, May 15, 2015

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

This introduction to three women that studied primates in the wild will appeal to readers that want less text and more visuals. The graphic novel follows the lives of Jane Goodall who studied chimps, Dian Fossey who studied gorillas, and Birute Gladikas who studied orangutans. The famous archeologist Louis Leakey drummed up funding for all three women and supported them in their research, as well as, furthered their education. He believed that women made better researchers than men because the primates did not see them as a threat like men. The weird tidbits will appeal to kids, such as Leakey telling each woman she needed her appendix taken out or sifting through dung to gather evidence of diet, but the dialogue had some choppy parts and the text was vague when it came to some specifics. Overall, the book is an introduction to these three women's contributions to the field as female scientists. It raises questions that made me look up some facts online.

While the artwork is fine showing facial expressions that give clues to characters feelings and complementing the text, the line-work is mostly vertical or horizontal and comes across flat after a while. I would have liked more diagonal lines to break the repetitive jungle pattern and add energy. The illustrations are fine and well drawn, but not particularly memorable. Perhaps my resent spat into reading superhero graphic novels has skewed me. They are awfully bright with lots of action and cool villains. I know. I can't believe I wrote that. Roll your eyes.

The text uses different colors to separate dialogue and while this helped me, I found the beginning confusing and had to reread it to figure out what was going on. The narrator is in blue with the dialogue between Jane Goodall and others in white. Next you have Leakey having a flashback and dialogue as well but some of the dialogue is in the present and some is in the past. Next is a flashback with his secretary working. It got too cluttered and the beginning of her reading the book playing Tarzan and Jane is what really had me tripping over text. Part of the problem is me though. I don't look close enough at the details in the graphic novels. The cues are in the visuals as much as the text and I tend to approach the text first and skim over illustrations.

The women are introduced and it shows how they broke into their fields. Jane Goodall proved that chimps use tools. Dian was accepted by a gorilla and warred with local farmers and poachers. Birute shows orangutans travel on the ground. While Jane and Dian get a brief outline of accomplishments giving the reader the gist of what they do, I thought Birute was not sketched out as well. Birute is known for helping orphaned orangutans and this wasn't particularly clear in the text, but it was in the visuals. I also wished they had named the irritation Brute got by sitting on something in the jungle and getting laid up for a week. When the three meet up in Austria, I found the dialogue and pictures hard to follow. While I enjoyed this graphic novel, I don't think I'll remember it in a few months.

3 Smileys

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