Author Jennifer Keats Curtis talks with us about the process of writing Primate School and how one idea lead her to a deep study in animal behavior, feelings and thinking.
When I learned that orangutans were using iPads, my first thought was, Oh good, there’s hope for my mother. Ok, I’m kidding. My real thought was that despite extraordinary study and learning, there is so much about animals that we still don’t know.
As I set off to learn about orangutans and other primates for the nonfiction Primate School, I thought about how much I love animals and want to understand them. I thought about my own connections with animals and my personal belief that animals have feelings and emotions. I believe that they feel joy and sadness, perhaps not in the same way that we do, but that they are conscious, sentient beings and I wish I could better relate and communicate with them. I think that we have missed a lot with animals in the past for fear of anthropomorphizing them.
I joyfully learned about how primates communicate with each other through verbal cues and behavior and how they express themselves, show happiness and love, and learn from each other and keepers. I loved learning about how primates connect to each other and to humans. I was fascinated to learn about aunting behavior among langurs and saddened to learn about the gibbons who had been raised as pets and had trouble relating to other gibbons.
I wrote Primate School ecstatic to use what I’d learned from cognitive ethologists. Ethologists study animals in their natural settings and cognitive ethologists get to focus on the thinking process, including communication, culture, and learning. I embrace this concept and cannot get enough of what these scientists have to say. Even though that book is complete, I never want to stop learning about what primates and other animals think and feel, how they learn from us, and how we can learn from them. That is one of the main reasons that I write about animals for children.
Award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis is frequently found among students and teachers, talking about literacy or conservation. In addition to Primate School, Salamander Season, the Animal Helpers series, Baby Owl’s Rescue, Kali’s Story, and Turtles In My Sandbox for Arbordale, some of her other recent titles include Osprey Adventure, Saving Squeak: A River Otter’s Tale, and Seahorses. Jennifer resides in Maryland, with her family and a wide variety of pets. Visit her website at www.jenniferkeatscurtis.com.
Learn more about Primate School and Jennifer’s other Arbordale books here!