Saving the Ghost of the Mountain:
An Expedition Among Snow Leopards in Mongolia
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), September 2009
Saving the Ghost of the Mountain

“It’s no easy feat to write a book about one of the most charismatic yet notoriously elusive creatures on the planet without a single sighting, but Sy Montgomery pulls it off with style. This latest in the superlative Scientists in the Field series focuses on wildlife biologist Tom McCarthy and his efforts to study and preserve the snow leopard. The author and photographer accompanied him on an expedition to Mongolia, and they put themselves right into the narrative, introducing the other members of the group and describing their relationships with local herders, the exhausting hikes, the excitement of scat discoveries (‘As if he’s savoring some special cheese or fine wine, Tom picks up the poop and sniffs it’) and the progress made in conservation efforts. The lively narrative is interspersed with accounts of leopard encounters from McCarthy’s previous expeditions as well as supplemental facts about Mongolia and its people. The ample backmatter includes a Mongolian phrase glossary, information on the Snow Leopard Trust, McCarthy’s advice to budding scientists, author’s and photographer’s notes and an index. A bibliography of sources used is available online.”
—Kirkus Reviews


“Reading this book is an extraordinary experience. It has an elegant layout featuring ornamental lettering, watermarks, and gorgeous photos; were it not for the delightfully exuberant text, it would be a stately coffee table book. But kids will giggle about the central role of scat or, as Montgomery often writes, ‘poop,’ in the research of snow leopards’ habits. Children will be swept up in the buoyant account of the journey through Mongolia led by Tom McCarthy, conservation director of the Snow Leopard Trust, in search of the elusive cat known as the ‘ghost of the mountain.’ He has devoted much of his life to studying these animals and persuading their human neighbors of the importance of their survival. Montgomery’s enthusiasm translates well to the page and will have readers cheering for the entourage as they attempt to spot a snow leopard. This slender book abounds with information, including stories of McCarthy’s rare, powerful past encounters with the cat, as well as zoological and cultural sidebars. Bishop’s trademark stunning photography fills out the book with breathtaking views of the extreme environs of Central Asia and warm portraits of the charming people who live there. Author’s and photographer’s notes aren’t typically as engaging as the main text, but the reflections of Montgomery and Bishop on their experiences with McCarthy’s crew are eloquent, integral parts of the book. A great way to learn about a spectacular animal and its habitat.”
—Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR for School Library Journal, Starred Review


“Imagine trekking through one of the most rugged, physically challenging places on the planet and rarely seeing the elusive creatures you are researching! The beautiful snow leopard is such a camouflage expert that even scientists armed with radio technology walk within feet of the tagged animals and never see them. It takes a special scientist to persevere and Tom McCarthy is clearly exceptionally dedicated. A nonfiction dream team of Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop spent three brutal weeks in Mongolia with McCarthy and his research group and never saw a single snow leopard. So how good can a book about such an expedition be? Fabulous — trust me! Montgomery tells a fascinating story about McCarthy’s research process, past encounters with the beautiful creatures and his efforts to save them from extinction. The text is lively and informative, packed with intriguing anecdotes about McCarthy’s research and the realities of working in such a remote place. Nic Bishop’s photography is stunning as always, gifting us with a sense of actually seeing the place, its people and rare animals. Additional resources are available on listed websites and of special interest are the author’s and photographer’s notes. Sy Montgomery says, ‘my big problem was trying not to fall off the mountain.’ Thank goodness she didn’t! This awesome book is a treasure for readers of all ages.”
—Lynn Rutan in Bookends, A Booklist Blog


“Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop team up once again, this time for an expedition to remote Mongolia, tagging along with conservationist Tom McCarthy in search of the rare snow leopard. There are so few of these animals, and they are so elusive, it is difficult to count them accurately—which makes it equally difficult to tell if conservation measures are working. In the nature-travel narrative style she has perfected, Montgomery invites readers along to learn not just about the leopards and the American and Mongolian scientists who track them but about the land and people she gets to know on her journey. She describes the lengths the team goes to in order to find traces of the leopards, detailing their camping provisions and arduous hikes, careful data collection, and the hospitality and customs of the people they encounter. There are also asides on Genghis Khan, fauna both living (camels) and long gone (the famous Mongolian dinosaur fossils), and tales of McCarthy’s prior encounters with snow leopards. Montgomery is careful to show that research takes time and effort and does not always lead to a tidy conclusion. Bishop’s excellent photographs feature the arid, rocky landscapes of the region, the research team in action, and the Mongolian residents met along the way.”
—The Horn Book