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International Primate Day

For International Primate Day, here are a few books to get you in the swing of things.

abc_browne_one-gorillaOne Gorilla: A Counting Book
by Anthony Browne; illus. by the author
Preschool    Candlewick    32 pp.
2/13    978-0-7636-6352-0    $16.99

For Anthony Browne, a gorilla is never just a gorilla. In this seemingly simple counting book from one to ten (plus a final coda), generous white space and classic type treatment balance expertly with large head-and-shoulders portraits of primates: “1 gorilla / 2 orangutans / 3 chimpanzees” up to “10 lemurs.” Browne’s watercolor technique is just about perfect, combining realism and exaggeration, mass and focus. He moves from large wet strokes showing hair and fur (around the edges) to a detailed drier brush (around the eyes). For some traditionally black and brown animals, he homes in on blue or orange highlights and makes them more prominent. For others, like the smaller spider and colubus monkeys, he varies the posture or silhouette. It’s about taking something that is usually seen as all the same and emphasizing each one’s individuality. Every face reveals emotion and a unique personality—some easily read (open friendliness, shyness), others complex and inward-looking, à la Mona Lisa. Two final spreads underscore and personalize the visual subtext. Browne is seen in a self-portrait that mirrors the gorilla on the first spread, the text (“All primates. All one family. All my family…”) leading to a final spread (“and yours!”) filled to brimming with head-and-shoulder views of humans. Like everything that came before, at first we see pattern, then endless variety. LOLLY ROBINSON

From the March/April 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

dickinson_eva

Eva
by Peter Dickinson
Delacorte     219 pp.
1989     0-385-29702-5     $14.95

A superb storyteller, Peter Dickinson has used his energetic imagination to add driving force to a variety of first-rate novels. Now he has written an astonishing work of biological science fiction that, in its portrayal of a future time on the brink of a new dark age, seems to be a devastating extension of the theme of his first children’s books. The planet is vastly overpopulated; wilderness areas have disappeared; and animals are all but extinct. People are aimless and dispirited, spending most of their time indoors with their eyes riveted on the huge “shaper.” Eva, the daughter of a zoologist working with laboratory chimpanzees, has been in a terrible car accident; her body smashed, she lies in an irreversible coma when her father’s colleagues perform a stunningly successful experiment. Implanting her own “neuron memory” into the brain and body of a now-dead female chimp, they regenerate Eva’s own functions. Once an active, beautiful child, Eva maintains her high human intelligence and instincts while gradually assimilating the mentality of a chimp. Returning home to her parents, she actually tries to resume some of her old life but discovers that in order to pay for her enormous medical and rehabilitative expenses, she has been subsidized by a corporate sponsor and is now mercilessly besieged by the media. The account of her mental and physical reconstitution is dramatic, but the reconciliation of her dual nature, of which she is acutely conscious, becomes a stormy, shocking, yet ironically logical process. “I’m more chimp than you expected, aren’t I?” says Eva, becoming enraged by the exploitative aspect of this venture. As the ruination of the planet is paralleled by the increasing disintegration of the people, Eva ultimately makes the decision to lead the chimps away from their human captors — to a remote island, where she uses her human reasoning to teach them the rudiments of survival. The differing personalities of chimps and humans are clearly defined, Eva’s mother especially adding a credible note of ineffable sadness. It is difficult to imagine a more timely book, and while it succeeds as a daring, often horrifying adventure story, it is also a work of passion and eloquence, and its sobering significance increases in proportion to the reader’s maturity. ETHEL L. HEINS

From the July/August 1989 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas
by Jim Ottaviani; illus. by Maris Wicks
Middle School, High School    First Second/Roaring Brook    140 pp.
6/13    978-1-59643-865-1    $19.99

A graphic format admirably propels this lightly fictionalized group biography of “Leakey’s Angels”: Jane Goodall (chimps in Rwanda), and Biruté Galdikas (orangutans in Borneo). The book proceeds chronologically, starting with Goodall’s childhood, her meeting with anthropologist Louis Leakey, and her early work in Gombe, and then braiding in the accounts of Fossey and Galdikas as Leakey recruited them. In a neat division of labor, the scientists (occasionally including Leakey) themselves narrate the story in captions that can be read continuously, with color and font indicating who’s narrating, while speech balloons and the small, tidy comic illustrations take readers to each present moment. While Fossey tells us about “the one [Alan Root] who taught me how to track gorillas,” the accompanying sequence of twelve panels shows us just how initially hopeless she was at the task. The tone is lively but respectful, with a moving account of Fossey’s difficulties and death: “Most people just didn’t understand her,” writes Jane. “Very few people tried.” The afterword is an interesting note about separating fact from fiction: “So, can you trust what I wrote, or what Maris drew? Well, yes…mostly.” ROGER SUTTON

From the May/June 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

silvey_untamedUntamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
by Anita Silvey
Intermediate, Middle School    National Geographic 
   96 pp.
6/15    978-1-4263-1518-3    $18.99
Library ed. 978-1-4263-1519-0    $28.90    g

Jane Goodall has spent a lifetime dedicated to understanding and protecting chimpanzees. This accessible account of her life (with a foreword by Goodall herself) emphasizes the qualities that will likely resonate with young readers: her intelligence, sense of adventure, curiosity, and love of animals. Detailed coverage of her early years explores her nontraditional entry to scientific field-work and the attention from the National Geographic Society that made her famous, but without losing focus on her work ethic and innovative scientific methods. The second half of the book focuses on Goodall’s efforts to bring attention to and reform the use of chimpanzees in research laboratories, and the technological advances in primate research that are currently in place. Silvey accompanies her main narrative with informative text boxes and vivid photographs that are integral to understanding the places, people, and animals in Goodall’s life — including the chimpanzees she spent years observing. Along with an index and source notes, copious additional resources are gathered in a “Field Notes” section at the back of the book, including a bibliography of Goodall’s own writings, a timeline, a map of Gombe (in Tanzania where she worked), and a link to Roots and Shoots, the environmental advocacy group for children that Goodall founded. DANIELLE J. FORD

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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And just for fun…

hat monkey menuLet me say straight out that I don’t like monkeys. But I set my personal primate feelings aside to look at app Hat Monkey (2014), trusting in both creator Chris Haughton and developer Fox & Sheep — whose Nighty Night I liked a lot — to provide an enjoyable experience. Happily, the breakdancing, “meep-meep!”-ing Monkey soon won me over.

The app opens with Monkey dancing to surf jazz music, then offers a simple menu (scene selection, language options, a link to info about Haughton’s books, and a link to download more Fox & Sheep apps). From there the app begins a prompt-and-activity structure (“Monkey is coming! Can you open the door?”) that continues throughout the app as Monkey makes himself at home.

hat monkey hiding

“Monkey is hiding. Can you find him?”

The illustrations feature stylized shapes and a limited palette of hot pinks, purples, and oranges in high contrast with Monkey’s royal blue.

What could easily be familiar Pat the Bunny territory instead takes a meta, super-modern direction. After the prompt “Can you send Monkey a text?” choose one of four emoji to send to Monkey — who’s busy reading Haughton’s picture book A Bit Lost, by the way — and watch his cute and funny responses.

hat monkey text hat monkey reading
(Send the banana, and Monkey surreptitiously licks his phone.) Other prompts include giving Monkey a high-five, learning Monkey’s sweet dance moves, talking to him on the phone using your device’s microphone, and playing saxophones together. The app ends with reading Monkey a bedtime story (Haughton’s Oh No, George!, of course) and turning off the light, sending him off to contented, lightly snoring sleep.

Preschool- and early-primary-perfect humor — including a more-endearing-than-gross fart joke — is communicated through all the app’s elements: the deadpan text; the illustrations; the animations, especially in the movements of Monkey’s huge, expressive eyes; and sound effects. Read a making-of blog post by Haughton here.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $0.99. Recommended for preschool and early primary users. KATIE BIRCHER

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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