Emily Gale, Aussie STEM Stars, Gisela Kaplan, Wild Dingo Press, April 2021, 170 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925893465
Gisela Kaplan: Bird and primate scientist is part of the first release of five books in a new real-life biographical series called Aussie Stem Stars. In this story we learn about Gisela Kaplan, an inspiring Australian scientist. Gisela has contributed incredible new knowledge about animal behaviour, particularly primates and Australian birds, through her studies of orangutan in Borneo and magpies and tawny frogmouths in Australia.
Aimed at 10 to 13 year old readers, the story of Gisela’s childhood in Berlin during the 1950s is a moving account of her life, very sensitively told by accomplished children’s author Emily Gale. There are also helpful illustrations by Diana Silkina and a glossary of terms to assist younger readers with some concepts.
Emily Gale captures the immense difficulties of Gisela Kaplan’s childhood, one of constant hunger, and the confronting antisemitism Gisela experienced because her family was Jewish.
Complicated family relationships as well as inspiring and influential adults in Gisela’s life, set the context in terms of how such circumstances and experiences shaped Gisela’s decisions and choices. Gisela’s story of forging a career from adversity, that eventually led to science is told with very moving explanations of the sheer hard work and convoluted path that was necessary.
With incredible insights into some of Gisela’s Australian bird research, this story will also interest readers who are curious about animal behaviour. There are fascinating accounts of interactions with animals that created some scientific leaps that Gisela and her partner Lesley were able to write about in their many of their published books.
Each book in the Aussie Stem Stars series also has teaching notes, chapter sample and STEM resources. Teachers and readers can use the website to follow-up on some of Gisela Kaplan’s research.
Reviewed by Angela Brown