As “The Animalist”, former Boston Globe reporter Vicki Croke brings us news about the natural world. Vicki and Sy are kindred spirits, so it was a great pleasure to have Vicki visit.
Vicki asked Sy: Do you feel as though you’ve learned, not just about an animal’s natural history, but lessons about life for yourself?
Sy answered: How to be a good creature. How do you be compassionate?… I think that animals teach compassion better than anything else and compassion doesn’t necessarily just mean a little mouse with a sore foot and you try to fix it. It means getting yourself inside the mind and heart of someone else. Seeing someone’s soul, looking for their truth. Animals teach you all of that and that’s how you get compassion and heart.” Watch a video of the interview here.
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats has been chosen as A Junior Library Guild Selection for Spring 2014. The Junior Library Guild’s honor is unique because it is awarded in advance of the publication date. Chasing Cheetahs will be published this April.
Booklist has chosen The Tapir Scientist as one of its Top Ten Books on Sustainability for Youth: 2014.
How Thinking in Pictures Brought Temple Grandin Success. The fourth, fifth and sixth graders who are part of Wolcott Elementary School’s Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Club have been reading Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. Many of the students wanted to know more about Temple Grandin’s work with animals. Others were interested in how Sy researched and wrote her books.
Sy answered their questions on Vermont Public Radio. You can listen or read a transcript of the short interview here.
Laurie Marker. She has dedicated her life to saving cheetahs.
Cheetahs are coming. Sy’s newest book in the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series will be published this April. Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat features Nic Bishop’s award-winning photography. Read about the making of Chasing Cheetahs here.
Temple Grandin has won a 2014 Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award Honor. The Sugarman Award is given biennially by the Cleveland Public Library to honor excellence in the field of biography for children. Endowed by the Joan G. Sugarman family, the Norman A. Sugarman Children’s Biography Award was established in 1998.
Portrait of a writer. Age two:
Q. What came first, the fascination with and love of nature or the desire to write? When did the two intersect?
A. I loved animals and plants long before I could read or write. I am told that before I was two, I toddled inside the hippo pen at the Frankfurt zoo—and the massive hippos were apparently quite welcoming and did not (obviously) bite me in half, as they are prone to do to humans in similar circumstances in the wild.
From an interview with Sy in The Penmen Review, Southern New Hampshire University Online Journal for Creative Writers. Read more of the interview here.
Go pig, go! There are now 100,000 copies of The Good Good Pig in paperback, and more than 40,000 copies in hardcover in the U.S. and Canada. And Christopher Hogwood has ventured overseas in Dutch, British, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese editions.
The Tapir Scientist has been chosen as an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 for 2014. This list is a cooperative project of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the Children’s Book Council.
The Journal of Children’s Literature Fall 2013 issue has a long interview with Sy Montgomery and the photographer Nic Bishop. Working together in the field they have created seven acclaimed children’s books. They have followed scientists in the field as they study snakes (18,000 in one big pit!), tarantulas, tree kangaroos (who knew that kangaroos climbed trees?), snow leopards, kakapos (“the world’s strangest parrot”), tapirs and cheetahs (forthcoming).
What’s next? Octopuses. But Sy does listen to her readers: “I have piles of great letters from kids. One child urged me to write about eels to show they don’t just want to electrocute people. I thought that was great.”
Thinking Deep. Sy will be the first of a dozen speakers at the day-long TEDx AmoskeagMillyard 2013. The day’s theme is “Mindset.” Sy’s talk is titled: “Thinking Deep: Octopus Mind, Eel Dreams and the Consciousness of the Other 99%.” Watch the TEDx talks streamed live, starting at 9 am here.
National Book Month 2013. The New York Public Library has created this guide to the Best Children’s Books of 2013. And who’s that we see waiting for readers, age 12 to 14, but our favorite tapir. This is a clever, inviting map that directs young readers to the next book. See it here.
The Octopus Whisperer. A short interview with Sy about her work with the octopus scientists on Moorea (near Tahiti). “You put on your wetsuit, go down with an underwater dive slate, and set about administering a personality test to octopus,” she said. “So you float there and take notes like a psychologist on whether this particular octopus to advances or retreats, changes color or reaches out, and so on.” That’s Sy at work underwater. Read more: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/octopus-whisperer-183901707.html
Just published: The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal
If you’ve never seen a lowland tapir, you’re not alone. Most of the people who live near tapir habitat in Brazil’s vast Pantanal (“the Everglades on steroids”) haven’t seen the elusive snorkel-snouted mammal, either. In this arresting nonfiction picture book, Sibert winners Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop join a tapir-finding expedition led by the Brazilian field scientist Pati Medici. Aspiring scientists will love the immediate, often humorous “you are there” descriptions of fieldwork, and gadget lovers will revel in the high-tech science at play, from microchips to the camera traps that capture the “soap opera” of tapir life.
The Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards are given annually to the children’s books published the preceding year that effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence. The awards have been presented annually since 1953 by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the Jane Addams Peace Association.
A Snake Cake — as well as a fabulous banner, good questions and student performances — greeted Sy at her presentation April 18 at Cutler School in Swanzey, NH
Fourth and fifth graders at Chamberlain School in South Burlington, Vermont showered Sy with their great artwork and letters after they talked by Skype. Some students had suggestions for subsequent books. Taken under consideration!
Consider a Skype session: Sy is dramatically limiting her appearances over the next 9 to 12 months as she concentrates on researching and writing her book on octopus. But happily, there’s Skype. Readers can visit with Sy in her office, meet her border collie and watch as Sy shares some of her treasures, including the shed exoskeleton of a tarantula and the beak of an octopus. Email Sy for details: email@example.com
Sy’s newest book for kids, Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo, sold out at its debut March 1 in New York at the Barnes and Noble on 86th Street. With video of Snowball dancing and talks by Sy, illustrator Judith Oksner and Irena Schulz, the founder of Snowball’s bird rescue, Bird Lovers Only, the New York event drew more than 100 people, including kids from three schools.
The dancing cockatoo is a charmer, but at Abby Emerson’s 5th Graders at La Cima Charter School in Brooklyn they love The Tarantula Scientist.
New book. All my proceeds go to benefit Bird Lovers Only.
Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo, for kids in grades 3 and up, is the true story of how an unwanted cockatoo achieved international fame as a YouTube sensation, television star, and scientific study subject, all by rocking out to the beat of his favorite tunes.
Snowball tells the story (well, this is what he would have said if his language skills were as good as his dancing.) But everything he says is true, including how he inspired the World’s First Bird Dance-Off Contest, became the subject of a groundbreaking study about music and the brain, and has now gone into teaching children how to dance and doing charity work.
The book is illustrated with the whimsical paintings of my friend, Judith Oksner.
All author’s proceeds from this book go to benefit Bird Lovers Only, the bird rescue where Snowball now lives.
How to get the book?
– Order through Birdloversonly.org (all these copies are signed by Sy and Judith!)
– Order through University Press of New England at www.upne.com/0872331563.html
– Ask for it at your local independent bookstore (the ISBN is 978-087233-156-3)
My friend and master quilter Mary Strzelec of Lynnwood, WA created this fabulous work of fabric art celebrating the Giant Pacific Octopus, star of my book-in-progress.
What an incredible gift! While others can sleep in the arms of Morpheus, I can sleep wrapped in the eight arms and 16,000 suckers of Enteroctopus dofleni–sans slime. Mary’s husband, Mike, has been an indispensable help with the book, discovering all sorts of obscure cephalapodan information.
Temple Grandin has been selected for the list of Notable Social Studies Trade Books for 2013. This list is a cooperative project of the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council.
At Heavy Medal, a School Library Journal blog, they have convened a “mock” Newbery Award contest, and thrown opening the judging for discussion. Temple Grandin is one of the books under consideration. Here’s what Heavy Medal says about Temple Grandin:
“Though I always point out that ‘no book is flawless,’ I’ve been hard pressed to find the flaws in this seamless and engaging read. Montgomery creates a “you are there” feeling both without intruding as author, but also while being totally transparent as author. It is clear, from the way she constructs her sentences and from her backmatter explanations, how she has put together each piece of her vivid narrative from interviews and other sources. This is not flashy writing, and the emotional punch always comes from the story itself, not from the heavy hand of an author driving it home. “Heart-warming-ness” of the story aside (which is where the Newbery committee will have to put it), this is a wonderfully constructed piece of nonfiction, tuned perfectly to its audience in every respect.”
Temple Grandin is on the CCBC Choices list for 2013. CCBC Choices is the annual best-of-the-year list of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has chosen Temple Grandin as the recipient of the 2013 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
The AAAS prize celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. This year’s finalists were selected by a panel of librarians, scientists, and science literacy experts. They chose the four winners out of nearly 170 books up for consideration.
The judges note: “Sy Montgomery’s excellent biography of Temple Grandin focuses not just on Grandin’s research and accomplishments, but also on the role her autism played not just in terms of obstacles, but also in terms of opportunities to see things differently. This is also an important message for children with autism or other disabilities because it provides them with a role model who broke barriers and made significant contributions to science and to society.”
The AAAS award will be presented in Boston in February.
Magnificent! The School Library Journal blog, Fuse #8, has chosen Temple Grandin as one of the One Hundred Magnificent Children’s Books of 2012.
Temple Grandin has been chosen by the New York Public Library as one of its One Hundred Children’s’ Books for Reading and Sharing.
The National Science Teachers Association has named Temple Grandin one of its Outstanding Science Trade Books of the year: “The autobiography of the autistic expert on animal treatment will be inspirational to a subset of students as well as to all readers.”
The Mind of the Octopus: “They’re so different from us. They can taste with their skin, have no bones, they can squeeze through a tiny opening, oozing as if they are a liquid themselves. A hundred pound giant pacific octopus can get through the opening the size of an orange. I mean unbelievable. But what I think is even more unbelievable is the fact that these guys have developed intelligence and emotions and personalities that are enough like ours that we can recognize them as such,”
The Wisconsin Public Radio show, To the Best of Our Knowledge, interviews Sy:
The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2012 has been published. Sy’s Orion story on the octopus, “Deep Intellect,” is part of this collection.
There’s a thorough interview with Sy at: http://www.highsmith.com/librarysparks/pages/web-resources-current
Sy talks about Temple Grandin, The Snake Scientist, Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, and about all sorts of other animals.
Highlights for Children
In its September issue, Highlights for Children ran a story on Sy’s children’s books, “Adventures with Animals: Pink Dolphins and Tree Kangaroos Inhabit the books of writer Sy Montgomery”. The story was written by Sy’s friend and neighbor, the children’s book writer Marcia Amidon Lusted, who lives up the street!
“Meet the Author” movie
A “Meet the Author” movie of Sy, filmed at home in Hancock, NH (with a guess appearance by Sally, her border collie) is now among the excellent videos available to teachers and librarians who have joined teachingbooks.net.
At the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia
Sy spent the first part of June at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, bathing in cheetah purrs and researching a new Scientists in the Field book with photographer Nic Bishop. CHASING CHEETAHS: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat, features CCF founder Laurie Marker and her staff’s extraordinary conservation work, and will be published next year. Nic Bishop took this photo of one of the very tame young cheetahs there who was captured by a farmer in infancy—so young he had to be bottle-fed to survive. Today he lives at CCF as an ambassador for his species, in the effort to protect wild cheetahs throughout their shrinking range.
At the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia
Book Links, ALA Booklist’s supplement for librarians and teachers, featured a long interview with Sy about her biography of Temple Grandin in May.
May 18, 2012
Temple Grandin, Sy Montgomery & Dr. James Birge
Naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, animal scientist Temple Grandin, and Franklin Pierce University (FPU) President James Birge shared a moment of celebration over Montgomery’s new book about Grandin just prior to the FPU Commencement Exercises on May 12th. Sy Montgomery was awarded an Honorary Degree at last year’s FPU Commencement; this year, she was on hand to see FPU alumna Dr. Temple Grandin receive an Honorary Degree and to hear her remarks upon acceptance of the honor.
Montgomery’s book, Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, (published April 2012), is a tribute to Temple’s unique view of the world and how she brings her talents to improve the lives of humans and animals alike. Dr. Grandin is an autistic who uses her special way of seeing the world to design humane livestock facilities, and in doing advocacy work for people with autism. Montgomery remarked that Temple’s life “is a story of very broad compassion for those who can’t speak for themselves, both humans and animals. If not for the blessings of autism, these other minds, these minds and lives that are thinking and feeling, these lives would be so much more difficult – and our lives would be diminished.”
Octopus in Hebrew! Haaretz, in Jerusalem, has reprinted Sy’s Orion story. http://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/1.1580659
Thomas Remp, a student photographer and writer Sy met during a visit to Franklin Pierce University, founded the website StudentatLarge.net to promote and inspire young people in their creative endeavors. Here’s his interview with Sy: http://www.studentatlarge.net/sy-montgomery.html
The Undercover Quilters strike again! This talented group of a dozen avid readers and quilters meet monthly create quilts inspired by their favorite books. The Good Good Pig was their first project.
You may recall seeing their quilts on display at the nationally-recognized Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, which is posted under the information about The Good Good Pig on this website: symontgomery.com/?page_id=848
Sy talked by speakerphone with about 30 children and their parents at the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library in Mansfield, Ohio on January 16. The children had read Kakapo Rescue and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo. Children’s Librarian Amanda Fensch set up the program. Sy thanks everyone for all the good questions.
One parent asked: How did you become interested in animals?
Sy’s answer: “I always loved animals, from the moment I could see. I was born in Germany, and before I was two I managed somehow to toddle into the hippo
pen at the zoo, to my parents’ horror. The hippos obviously didn’t bother me at
all, and I felt at ease among them.”
Sy began a busy December speaking schedule with the enthusiastic students at Thatcher Brook Primary School in Waterbury and Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vt.
Assemblies at both schools featured a Powerpoint show on some of the animals she’s met in her work. The kids correctly identified both the wombat and the tapir in the pictures!
At extended question-and-answer sessions for individual grades in the schools’ libraries, Sy’s books inspired thoughtful queries: How do you decide which animal/book to do next? How did the photographer take the close-ups of the tigers? What do you do if you get sick in the field? A boy always asked “What was the most dangerous animal you studied?” while a girl usually asked, “What was the cutest animal you’ve ever written about?” (The photo above was taken at Crossett Brook Middle School.)
Later on in the month, Sy spoke on her work “Off the Beaten Track” at the Peterborough Rotary’s well-attended luncheon, and Dec. 7, will speak on her first book “Walking with the Great Apes” as part of the Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesdays program in Montpelier, Vt. Later she’ll be driving down to Boston to WGBH to talk about octopuses.
Sy and Callie Crossley talk octopuses:
And there’s more octopus talk when Sy and Living on Earth visit the New England Aquarium:
Sy’s story “Deep Intellect” on the mind of the octopus in the November-December issue of Orion magazine is generating a great deal of interest in cephalopod consciousness!
The story was recommended:
as the top Longread of the week of November 1 on Longreads.com—picks of the best longform journalism stories of the week;
in Andrew Sullivan’s popular blog in The Daily Beast;
in the Boston Globe’s idea blog;
The story is featured in radio interviews with Sy on the national environmental radio show, Living on Earth and WRCT in Pittsburgh (we’ll post them when they’re released under “Media” on this website)
and in a live, online event, with New England Aquarium’s Scott Dowd and Animal Behaviorist Marc Bekoff hosted by Orion November 15 at 7 EST hosted by Orion (see story above for how to sign up and participate)
The story will also appear in Hebrew thanks to an Israeli news service!
Sy and Nic will be traveling to the world’s largest wetland, the Pantenal, in Brazil in search of tapirs with Brazilian researcher Pati Medici for a new book in their Scientists in the Field series.Though it looks like an elephant crossed with a pig, the tapir’s closest relatives are actually horses and rhinos! Above is a photo by Pati of an adorable striped and spotted baby; and below is Pati giving a captive lowland tapir a welcome scratch.
May 26, 2011:
Sy’s Book Birdology honored by the Boston Authors Club as a Highly Recommended book in its awards for 2010. Visit the club’s website at http://www.BostonAuthorsclub.org.
June 27, 2011:
Sy and collaborating photographer Nic Bishop will accept the Sibert Medal, the highest honor in America for nonfiction children’s literature, at the American Library Association’s meeting in New Orleans for their book Kakapo rescue.
May 21, 2011:
Sy awarded Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Southern New Hampshire University. She’ll be joining the faculty as an associate this summer for the Masters of Fine Arts program.
May 18, 2011:
New Hampshire Magazine honors Sy as one of six “Remarkable New Hampshire Women of the World” at a breakfast celebration at Bedford Village Inn.
Sy’s graduation speech at Franklin Pierce was chosen by The Chronicle of Higher Education in this year’s roundup story, featuring the five best and most insightful 2011 commencement speeches on college and university campuses nationwide.
May 14, 2011:
Sy and husband Howard Mansfield were awarded honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters by Franklin Pierce University.
At Franklin Pierce University, we prepare our students to make significant contributions to their professions and communities as citizens and leaders of conscience. Today, we honor an individual who has distinguished herself as an author, environmentalist, scientist and advocate of animal rights in this same tradition.
Sy Montgomery believes that only if we “learn to function as morally engaged citizens and be brave enough to lead others in sometimes difficult talks is there any hope of healing our poisoned, overcrowded world.” And, she has been ‘brave enough’ traveling to exotic and dangerous locations to research and tell the true insightful story.
This prolific and award-winning author has written over 15 books for both adults and children including the international bestseller, The Good Good Pig, about her relationship and love for her charismatic pig, Christopher Hogwood. She has never considered animals less than humans. Animals have always been her friends, teachers and inspiration. She has traveled from Cambodia to Brazil, from New Guinea to Mongolia, and beyond to learn from her animal teachers – the South East Asian golden moon bear, the tarantula, the Sundarban tiger.
Sy Montgomery, through her writings, has educated and inspired her readers to “treasure and protect this sweet green Earth.” She has revealed with the fine skill of her craft and vast knowledge of the vivid, rich lives of animals that, in the words of Henry Beston, are “gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear,” to bring us joy and deepen our understanding of this planet and all creatures. She has shown us that we can choose a new way and make a more compassionate world.
Because she is passionate and tireless in her dedication to the environment and all living species, because of her fearlessness in researching the beautiful yet often dangerous creatures in the wild, and because of her considerable humanity and the care she takes in telling accurate and compelling stories about these wild places and beautiful animals, Franklin Pierce University is proud, on this 14th day of May 2011, to confer upon Sy Montgomery the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.