Even though we’re taking the day off, we couldn’t ignore a bunch of press for LEVITATION and WIRE MOTHERS by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Dylan Meconis and Janine Johnston, respectively. Newsarama raps with Ottaviani about both books. We’re especially interested in WIRE MOTHERS which recounts the background of Harry Harlow’s terrifying experiments with monkeys and terry cloth “mothers”…as a kid, we saw this special when it was rerun, and the image of the sad, alienated baby monkeys clinging to a rag over a piece of wire as if it was all that they had in the world is one that haunts us to this day.
Jim: Well, for Wire Mothers, the pitch is that there was a time not so terribly long ago when scientists didn’t think that love was real– you know, “We’ve got the word, but is there any such thing as love? Isn’t it just attachment? Isn’t it just the desire for food, warmth…whatever it is?”
And one guy, Harry Harlow, said, “You know, I’m dead certain that love exists, and that it matters. And I’m going to set about to prove this, because all the advice that scientists are giving to parents these days – don’t hug your kids, don’t kiss your kids, be very cool and distant – I think that’s nonsense.” And he was able to prove that love exists – not only is it learned, but that it matters to all sorts of creatures, from monkeys on up to humans.
Levitation is best described by a quote from Scientific American in 1897 that I put in the front of the book, which explains how there’s been very little written explaining stage illusions – how these illusions bring together performance, psychology and science to achieve their effects. That’s the book – it’s the story of one of the most famous illusions ever performed, and the science and evolution of that illusion.
We’ve read both books, and although not without some flaws (lettering, ahem) they are a fine continuation of Ottaviani’s quest to humanize science through comics.