How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals
Sy Montgomery


The more Sy Montgomery studies animals and nature, the more she knows that humans have a lot to learn about the creatures that share our world. In this book, she describes her unique relationships with 13 animals and what they have taught her.

Montgomery realized at a young age that her connection to animals was unique, and in fact, it has become a defining part of her personality. As a shy, only child, she related to animals more than people. Daughter of an Army general and a mother who dressed her in frills and bows, her best and only friend was her Scottish terrier, Molly. And it was Molly who introduced her to what has become her real world of animal life.

While the cover and illustrations suggest this is a children’s book, it is not. (It’s in the Young Adult section at our library.) The author describes her intense relationship with animals and explains how, in learning about and relating to them, she has overcome many challenges, including estrangement from her parents, their deaths and depression, often over the loss of a pet.

The author’s career as a researcher, naturalist and writer has enabled her to engage with many types of creatures and she shares many surprising facts. It is her curiosity and willingness to immerse herself in their habitats and lives that sustain her. In each chapter, she describes a different animal or pet, including their border collies, a sisterhood of chickens and a beloved piglet that grew to over 700 pounds. She became attached to many other animals during research trips: a Goliath tarantula, several emus, tree kangaroos and a giant Pacific octopus.

I enjoyed reading about Montgomery’s experiences, which are very different from my own. She has made it her purpose to know, honor and learn from every creature she encounters.

Montgomery is the author of 28 books for children and adults and her New York Times Best Seller, The Soul of an Octopus, was a finalist for the National Book Award for nonfiction. I’ve already put a hold on it at the library because her octopus chapter was my favorite. I recommend How to Be a Good Creature to anyone who is interested in animals, from those in the wild to the ones curled up in your lap or at your feet.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

22 thoughts on “How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

    1. Hi Jennifer – I liked it very much. I learned a lot too. Montgomery has an openness with nature that has allowed her to relate to animals in ways most people don’t. I’m not sure I could cuddle up with a tarantula or an octopus, but her descriptions about these encounters were fascinating. Makes you realize humans are a part of the world, but maybe not the biggest. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thanks Ann. Her name was familiar to me, but I hadn’t read any of her books. One of my work friends read and reviewed it for our “Staff Picks” and when I saw it, I knew I wanted to read it. I think you would enjoy the parts about her pet dogs and how much a part of her family they have been.

    1. Hi Annika – it was definitely different from what I usually read, but my work friend suggested it and it was a night I was working at the library, so I just grabbed it off the shelf – the perks of being a librarian! Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you are doing well. 🙂

    1. It is, Robbie. I really enjoyed reading something different from the usual fiction I read. Thanks for the visit. Hope you are well. I took a little break, but now I’m back and getting ready to visit some blogs 🙂

      1. Hi Robbie, I did. It’s going to take me a while to catch up, but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope you are doing well and baking up something creative and yummy!

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