Naturalist Montgomery (The Soul of an Octopus) rekindles her dormant childhood desire to talk with animals in a narrative that shimmers with grace and wonder. Ten tales poignantly personify 13 critters both commonplace and exotic, from Tess the border collie and Chris the extroverted pig to spiders and octopuses. “Many young girls worship their older sisters.... was a dog, and I... wanted to be just like her: Fierce. Feral. Unstoppable,” Montgomery writes of Molly, her family’s Scottish terrier. Other animals she writes about live farther from home, and Montgomery tells of quitting a newspaper job to shadow emus in the Australian Outback and befriending a tarantula in the jungles of South America. In the cloud forest of Papua, New Guinea, she rediscovers “the wildness that keeps us sane and whole, the wild, delicious hunger for life.” Back on her New Hampshire farm, an ermine plundering the henhouse on Christmas offers a unexpected perspective on her difficult mother and a vivid dream of a deceased pet opens her heart to a new dog in need of rescue. Montgomery’s lyrical storytelling and resonant lessons on how animals can enhance our humanity result in a tender, intelligent literary memoir. Illus. (Sept.)
"Montgomery’s lyrical storytelling and resonant lessons on how animals can enhance our humanity result in a tender, intelligent literary memoir."—Publishers Weekly "The National Geographic channel meets memoir in this brief, compelling examination of what animals can teach us about ourselves."—Kirkus "Mongtomery’s gorgeously illustrated memoir is a must-read for animal lovers of every age."—HelloGiggles "Filled with fascinating stories of encounters and relationships with animals in various locations, this moving memoir will leave readers thinking about life on Earth, the creatures we share the planet with, and that 'brilliance' we have yet to fully understand."—School Library Journal “How to Be a Good Creature should be required reading. A superbly crafted memoir, this book brims with wonder, empathy, and emotion. It stands as a vivid reminder of the deep and necessary connection we share with all living things.”—Nick Jans, author of A Wolf Called Romeo “How to Be a Good Creature is one of the most moving books I have ever read. Sy Montgomery’s open honesty about her life allows her to find guidance from the unlikeliest creatures, and in their own ways these animals speak with the same spiritual purity as she speaks to us in this breathtaking work.”—Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved by Ducks “I don’t know anyone whose animal empathies and scientific bona fides I admire more than Montgomery’s—from the curiosity she holds for a tarantula to the tender longing she has for an octopus. Told with characteristic humility and gorgeous language, How to Be a Good Creature is a remarkable achievement.”—Eliot Schrefer, author of Endangered, a National Book Award finalist “A truly beautiful book about life, family, loss, and love.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals “How to Be a Good Creature is a rare jewel, full of empathy and the profound wisdom Sy has received from animals she has loved over her extraordinary lifetime. This sweet book is a triumphant masterpiece that I’m recommending to everyone.”—Stacey O’Brien, author of Wesley the Owl “This is a beautiful book—essential reading for anyone who loves animals and knows how much they can teach us about being human.”—Gwen Cooper, author of Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder
Gr 7 Up—When asked by a journalist what life lessons animals have taught her, acclaimed writer and naturalist Montgomery hardly skipped a beat in responding, "how to be a good creature." Here the award-winning author elaborates on what she has learned from the animals she has loved and studied. Unable to conform to her parent's idea of how a young daughter should behave, this only child in a military family found her closest ally and a beloved friend in her first dog, a rambunctious Scottish terrier named Molly, and it appears from there on in her destiny was sealed. The author has traveled the world and worked with animals in the remote locations under less-than-ideal, often physically challenging, situations. However, it was the death of two of her beloved pets and a profound depression, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, that nearly brought an end to Montgomery's career. What ultimately saved the writer was a return to work and the "wildness" of nature that she believes keeps us "sane and whole." As Montgomery demonstrates again and again, it's not only the "tools of inquiry and intellect" it's also "heart" that allows us to glimpse into a world that "is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom." VERDICT Filled with fascinating stories of encounters and relationships with animals in various locations, this moving memoir will leave readers thinking about life on Earth, the creatures we share the planet with, and that "brilliance" we have yet to fully understand.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal
With plenty of heart, acclaimed naturalist Montgomery (The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, 2015, etc.) makes the convincing case that all animals—great and small—can teach us compassion.Ever since her parents gave her a Scottie puppy, the author's fascination with the animal world has been insuppressible, and she made that obsession into a career writing about animals in more than 20 books. Montgomery's latest, however, is not merely an examination of one species, as in The Soul of an Octopus and other books. Here, the author looks at 13 of the most important animals in her life and how they changed her. There's the aforementioned Scottie, Molly, and three other beloved dogs, but there's also a pack of emus, a tarantula, and an octopus named Octavia. Each animal receives its own praiseful chapter. For instance, Clarabelle the tarantula is treated with wonder: "Most spiders, after injecting prey with paralyzing venom, pump fluid from their stomach into the victim to liquefy the meal, then suck it dry and toss the skin away. Tarantulas do it differently. Clarabelle ground up her food with teeth behind her fangs." Montgomery consistently depicts nature scenes with awe, and she occasionally borders on a preachy tone—but not often, and she also reveals certain details about her personal life, including her rocky relationship with her parents. In "The Christmas Weasel," Montgomery compares her difficult mother to an ermine. As she watched the furry white animal (its fur "seemed to glow, like the garment of an angel") after it attacked one of her hens, the author couldn't help but think of her mother's own ferocity: how she overcame poverty, learned to fly, got a job at the FBI, and married an Army officer. "Her achievement," writes the author, "was a feat as staggering as an ermine taking down a hen."The National Geographic channel meets memoir in this brief, compelling examination of what animals can teach us about ourselves.
From tarantulas to tigers to tree kangaroos, National Book Award finalist Montgomery (The Soul of an Octopus) knows her animals, and she believes that understanding the furred, hoofed, finned, and feathered creatures with whom we share this earth can transform our lives. The 13 animal friends she cites here teach us empathy, passion, purpose, and how to build a family, among other values, and we also get insight into her work as a naturalist.