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