Sy enjoyed discussing The Hawk’s Way on 90.5 WICN public radio. Listen here.
Sy joined Diane Rehm for her Book Club podcast. This month’s book was Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing. Diane was also joined by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, author of The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You and Jean Zimmerman, author of The Orphanmaster and Savage Girl. Listen here.
Welcome home, Bonaparte! About 100 people turned out to wish this oldest denizen of Springfield, Mass., and a number of his turtle companions, a happy return to Watershops Pond. The turtles fled the pond when it was drained to repair a dam. Thank you, Turtle Rescue League, for saving the turtles and housing them for the past year. And thank you to all who joined us to celebrate.
“The best summer reads for 2022 by New Hampshire authors” from New Hampshire Magazine: “You can discover the wondrous world of one of nature’s fiercest creatures, the hawk, with Sy Montgomery, follow Ken Sheldon down the rabbit hole of a WWI-era true crime story, distract yourself by trying to untangle the (fictional) mystery in “Whirlybird Island” by Ernest Hebert, get literary with a volume of poetry by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson and much more.”
To celebrate Sy’s new picture book, The Seagull and the Sea Captain, the sea captain himself, Captain Heath Ellis, invited passengers on a commemorative sail out of Gloucester harbor onboard his schooner, The Lannon. Sy, along with the book’s artist Amy Schimler-Safford (who came up from Georgia!), and Sy’s BFF Heidi Bell joined a boatload of avid readers for a reading from the new book. And best of all, the book’s other star, Polly the five-toed seagull, appeared from the sky to enjoy a treat of oyster crackers, and a round of applause! Everyone got a commemorative pin and a sticker designed by Amy. All the kids got a Polly the Seagull stuffed toy, and all the books were signed by the author, the artist, the Captain – including a five-toed stamp to show that Polly had really appeared.
Hawk Watch. The Hawk’s Way is number one on the New England Independent Booksellers Association hardcover nonfiction list. And it’s number six on the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association list.
Guess whooo joined Sy at the Odyssey Bookshop in S. Hadley, Mass., recently. Many thanks to the wonderful Tom Riccardi who shared the company of these ambassador birds from his Massachusetts Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Facility. (They are: great horned owl; peregrine, and sawhet owl.)
Q & A. The Boston Globe interviewed Sy for a short Q & A that ran in the June 22 edition. Here’s two of those questions with answers
Q & A. The Boston Globe interviewed Sy for a short Q & A that ran in the June 22 edition. Here’s two of those questions with answers:
Q: And what did the hawks teach you?
A: The transformative value of loving someone without expecting them to love you back. That frees you as if you have grown wings. So many relationships are transactional. Getting to know hawks allows you to have another kind of love — an extremely pure, wild love that opens up your soul.
Q: You make clear in the book that falconry is dangerous. What hooked you?
A: Being so close to pure wildness. I wasn’t afraid. It was worth the risk to be so close to these birds. Any bird you’re hunting with has the option to fly away.
Octopi Not. The novelist Geraldine Brooks was recently talking to The New York Times Book Review about what’s she has enjoyed reading. The Times asked her:
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
Brooks answered: “That the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi, since you can’t put a Latin “i” ending on a Greek word. Just one of the interesting things I learned from “The Soul of an Octopus,” by Sy Montgomery.”
Hooked on Octos. Debbie McIntosh of Littletown, Colorado, made this octopus hooked rug after being inspired by The Soul of an Octopus. The rug is hooked in monochromatic green wools in the “steampunk style,” says McIntosh.Thurber coaches Sy as she reads from The Hawk’s Way at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH.
The Hawk’s Way arrives on the Boston Globe’s local bestseller list at number 5 on the hardcover nonfiction list for May 15.
… and a week later The Hawk’s Way is number 2 on the Boston Globe bestseller list.
Talking Hawks. Sy has been talking about her new book, The Hawk’s Way:
Boston Public Radio. Every two weeks Sy talks with Jim Braude & Margery Eagan on their WGBH radio show Boston Public Radio. It’s all about critters, of course. Her section of the show is called The Afternoon Zoo, and Sy does her best to get as many animals as she can into the mix in her 15 or 20 minute visit.
Most recently she was talking with Jim & Margery about her new book, The Hawk’s Way. At the end Jim said, “You are amazing. Not only your relationship with other species. This book is so terrific and gives such insight in ways I couldn’t even imagine. You’re amazing Sy.” Listen to the interview here.
Here & Now. (WBUR & NPR). Sy tells host Robin Young that “working with hawks requires the purest form of love.”
What Matters Most. Sy loves talking with her generous and insightful friend Paul Dolman on his appropriately-named podcast What Matters Most. Hear their conversation about hawks, wildness, and the meaning of love here.
Psychology Today interview: “The Hearts and Souls of Passionate, Grudge-Holding Hawks.”
You can also find interviews with Sy in these magazines, websites, and radio shows: New England Pet and Home, New Hampshire Magazine, Earth Food Life,, Living On Earth — PRX, Public Radio Exchange (Live show at NH Audubon Center), Where We Live — Connecticut Public Radio, Troy Public Radio – Serving Alabama, S.W. Georgia & the Florida Panhandle, KWMR radio — Pt. Reyes California, Dave Nemo Weekends — SiriusXM, The Not Old Better Show — Smithsonian Institute, Pet Life Radio, and these podcasts: Keen On, Inquiring Minds, Mongabay, Sparks in Action, A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach, Wayne D. King, NH Secrets, Legends & Lore, and BookRiot.
And read an excerpt on LitHub: What Animals Can Show Us about More Meaningfully Encountering the Wider World.
The Hawk’s Way is the book trailer of the day at Shelf Awareness.
Sy picks her six favorite books for animal lovers. Read it here in The Week.
The New York Times asks: Where to Find Comfort in a World of Invasive Headlines? And answers: “In times of turmoil and loss, treasured nature books can offer solace and guidance.” And one of the books they recommend is Sy’s How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals. This a good list. Check out the other books here.
The Hawk’s Way is “gorgeously illuminating and deeply affecting,” writes Donna Seaman in American Library Association’s Booklist. It is “succinct, intimate and captivating.” She loved Tia Strombeck’s great color hawk photos, too. The Hawk’s Way will be published May 3.
Sy joined her good friend, Living on Earth radio host Steve Curwood, at New Hampshire Audubon’s McLane Center on May 25 for an in-depth conversation about The Hawk’s Way. before both a live and Zoom audience. The edited interview will be broadcast May 6 on 250 radio stations nationwide.
Sy is a Literary Light. She was honored at the 32nd Annual Literary Lights by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. Sy fellow honorees are Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Joseph Kannon, Meg Wolitzer and Patrick Radden Keefe. With her for the evening was her beloved HarperCollins editor, Kate O’Sullivan. Dr. Charlie Innis, the head vet at the New England Aquarium, introduced Sy. Here’s part of what he said:
We often become entangled in our human existence. We focus on our families, our careers, our possessions, the economy, politics. It’s easy to forget that we’re incredible biological creations, and that we’re surrounded by other incredible biological creations. Isn’t it amazing that I can lift my arm on demand, as my brain instantaneously communicates with my nerves and muscles using basic elements that were formed in the heart of stars; and complex molecules that have only developed here on earth. And isn’t it amazing that an octopus can do that with eight arms at once, with finer control than a human could ever achieve. But it is easy to forget how miraculous life is. Fortunately, we have Sy Montgomery to remind us.
I met Sy 10 or 12 years ago years ago when she became a groupie at New England Aquarium while researching her next book, The Soul of an Octopus. I am a veterinarian at the Aquarium, and Sy quickly took interest in our work. We now have many mutual non-human and human friends, and our interests and networks often intertwine. Sy’s 31 books (and counting) take us into the lives and consciousness and habitats of other living beings…. beings that have sensory capabilities, athletic skills, and biological histories far greater than our own. Sy has introduced her readers to familiar species, like gorillas, and cheetahs, and dogs; and many less familiar, like the pink dolphins of the Amazon, the tree kangaroos of New Guinea, the kakapo, a flightless giant parrot from New Zealand; octopuses from around the world, and spiders, and condors. She takes us to India, and Cambodia, and Rwanda, and Brazil, and New Hampshire, and Australia.
We learn a lot about Sy’s life in reading her books. She had no human brothers or sisters. But she had many non-human childhood family members: fish, and dogs, and lizards, and turtles. She found love and companionship and adventure through these relationships. We should all remember that animals can be so important to our families and our development, fighting off loneliness, and teaching compassion, and giving hope. In reading about her early life, we gain context for the changes that occur as one begins to know other beings and other places. We’re inspired to consider our own lives, and where we might go if we were more curious and adventurous, and what creatures we might meet, and what we might learn from them.
Sy recently said: “I feel sorry for people who only have friends of one species. I feel as sorry for them as people who only have friends of one race or socioeconomic class. It’s like being surrounded by a hall of mirrors. What are you ever going to learn? There are great souls and teachers everywhere. It is our job to recognize them.”
Learning and teaching are at the center of Sy’s world. Throughout her work she cites conventional teachers, but more often she describes what she has learned from other teachers… fishermen and women, hummingbirds, wildlife rehabilitators, worms, shamans, emus, the kids next-door, aquarists, and pigs. She often takes the most interest in the less obvious and the introverted. They teach her, and she teaches us. In describing the new human friends that she met during her expedition to study tigers in the swamps of India, she wrote, “They taught me how to listen for truth, even when it comes in stories that at first seem impossible–and how to look for wisdom in places that at first seem humble and poor.”
Sy has achieved notoriety. She’s been a finalist for the National Book Award, and she’s won many other distinctions. But she derives much more satisfaction in increasing our awareness and our amazement. She especially delights in educating children. Twenty-one of Sy’s books are written for children. The physicist Max Planck once said, “A new truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” This idea is not lost on Sy. Her books are creating an army of child conservationists and animal lovers. I’ve met some of them, and they’re incredible. Sy’s writing is helping these children to understand the complexity of living beings and the great risks that we all face.
So….On behalf of the children and the creatures and your many adult fans, thank you, Sy, for teaching us and inspiring us.
Anna-Grace and the Grace of Wild Animals. Anna-Grace is an inspiring young scientist, age 7. Her school has a “Living Wax Museum” day. Each student picks someone, dresses up as them, makes a poster and gives a presentation about the person. This year Anna-Grace chose to portray Sy. Her mother writes:
I read your book “The Soul of an Octopus” and it’s one of my favorite books. Even though I read it in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic I find myself frequently thinking of it and how truly little we know about the world and creatures around it. It had a profound impact on me. I then introduced my 7 year old daughter to your picture books and she was hooked. She has chosen to portray you in a Living Wax Museum presentation where the children pick someone, dress up as them, make a poster and give a presentation as the person. Anna-Grace has autism and is very passionate about animals and conservation efforts. She especially loves wild cats. She is a bookworm and can’t get enough of your books and had taken many of them out from the library to display next week at her presentation. It would be such an honor for her if you would respond to this email so that she is able to display your response with her project. I know you are so busy but hope you will find the time to respond for my little girl. Keep up the excellent work! You are very inspiring!
Another kindred spirit. Eisley’s first-grade class was asked to dress up as their favorite character from their favorite book. Eisley chose Becoming a Good Creature. She also wore a small backpack with some other creatures inside including a cheetah, an ostrich, and an octopus. She loves learning about all different animals, and wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She often goes for walks in the woods with her mom, hoping to meet their own good creatures. Her mom says, “Eisley cares deeply for all living creatures, and is very interested in keeping the planet healthy and clean for all the animals who live here.”
Pigs We (Absolutely) Admire. Sy joined Steve Levitt to discuss her life and her writing for the podcast, People I (Mostly) Admire. The episode “No One Can Resist a Jolly, Happy Pig” was just released. You can listen and find the transcript here, or download on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
People I (Mostly) Admire is hosted by Steven Levitt, a University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series. Leavitt tracks down high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask. Guests include all-time Jeopardy! champion (and now host) Ken Jennings, YouTube C.E.O. Susan Wojcicki, W.N.B.A. champion Sue Bird, Operation Warp Speed chief Moncef Slaoui, and now Sy.
Tierisch Gute Freunde. Becoming a Good Creature is now available in German from Diogenes Verlag.
Thurber congratulates Matt Patterson for his fine paintings of turtles that are in the Spring 2022 issue of Orion with an excerpt from Sy’s forthcoming book Travels in Turtle Time, which will be published by HarperCollins in fall 2023.
Just published: The Seagull and The Sea Captain, Sy’s picture book with her artist and friend Amy Schimler-Safford. It’s the true story of an inter-species friendship. Here’s the cover, and a photo of the real captain and his herring gull friend, Polly. You can even sail on Capt. Ellis’ schooner, the Thomas E. Lannon, out of Gloucester Harbor
Know your enemy. This grouse is studying up on a skilled adversary by reading an advance readers copy (or bound galley) of Sy’s forthcoming book, The Hawk’s Way to be published in May. Get a copy for the literate bird you know.
The Wonders of Life Underwater. Sy joined an all-star underwater line-up on the radio show and podcast Constant Wonder to talk about intelligent life in the sea. On the show are Craig Foster, the filmmaker who brought us the magical My Octopus Teacher, the marine biologist Helen Scales, author of the fabulous Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality, among other books, and Luke Harris, a high school junior at Horace Mann School in New York City who has created Inspired by the Deep, a competition for fellow students. Listen here.
Monet is eating again! Not bad for a baby turtle who was dead two weeks ago! (See below in the January news.) The key was providing tiny bits of food, including chopped dried mealworms (a birthday gift from Jack McWhorter) live mealworms (thanks to Blackfire Farm) and bits of ReptiSticks (green in the video). Sy reports, “I’m so happy!”
Eight Arms, Eight Decisions. Octopuses have a complex neural network running throughout their body. They can make different decisions for each arm without having to send messages back up to the central brain. How can this be? Sy discusses octopus consciousness on the BBC radio show, NatureBang in the episode, Octopuses and the Mind-Body Problem. Philosopher Julian Baggini, author of How the World Thinks, joins the discussion. Listen here.
Maria Popova in her blog The Marginalian – formerly called Brain Pickings – choses The Hummingbirds’ Gift as one of her favorite books of the past year. See all her picks here.
Sy petted an octopus, caressed a sea slug, and kanoodled with a giant clam; met a sea turtle resurrected from being poisoned, drowned and hooked, and a pelican whose pouch was under repair; and strolled the Ding Darling National Wildlife refuge and “shelled” at Sanibel Island’s famous beach. All thanks to the good folks at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, who invited her to speak on octopus at their 25th anniversary celebration, drawing a crowd of more than 200 people. Thanks also to Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) for saving that sea turtle, the pelican, and the 6,973 animal patients they saw last year.
Monet resurrected! On Saturday morning, January 22, Sy found one of her four baby painted turtles had drowned! Monet was stuck beneath their floating basking platform, trapped freakishly in a suction cup that had come undone. (This cup holds the platform in place.) But after 45 minutes of turtle CPR, he began breathing again — and now Monet is fine! In the photo he is recovering in his warm, dry hospital box, which I floated in the larger tank.
Should you ever need to revive a turtle, gently pull and push the turtle’s limbs in and out to get the lungs working, Gently pressing on the plastron may re-start the heart. Sy had seen this done once while visiting the wonderful Turtle Survival Alliance in South Carolina, and her friends at Turtle Rescue League in Southbridge, Mass., have used it several times to successfully revive drowned turtles.
The New Hampshire Union Leader has caught up with the story. Read it here.
Sy enjoyed talking about The Hummingbirds’ Gift with Laurent Levy on his podcast, The Other Animals. Listen here or on Spotify.
The Soul of an Octopus keeps finding new readers. It is number 4 on The Los Angeles Times bestseller list of paperback nonfiction for November 17.
Lookin’ sharp. A fan’s black Lab modeling a t-shirt of Sy.
Go pig, go! The Good Good Pig is in its 22nd trade paperback printing. There are now 123,244 trade paperbacks in print.
Turtles for the winter. Thanks to a state permit, Sy gets to head-start four, darling, infant painted turtles in her office. They just hatched a few weeks ago from the nest protection area where turtle artist extraordinaire Matt Patterson and Sy volunteer. Once they’re no longer snack-sized for every frog and fish in the river, they’ll release them in the spring back in their home waters. Note the egg tooth on the first baby pictured, which is used to escape from the egg and later resorbed.
Sy was thrilled to be able to release a broad-winged hawk at the annual hawk release held by the Harris Center and New Hampshire Audubon at the Pack Monadnock hawk watch. The three hawks who flew to freedom were rehabilitated after injury by the angelic Maria Colby of the Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation Sanctuary. Safe travels to all the migrants.
Author Barbara Page wrote to Sy to tell her that The Soul of an Octopus inspired this lovely artwork in her imaginative new Book Marks: An Artist’s Card Catalog. You can see some of her other artwork (and which books inspired them) here.
Susan Orleans, author of The Orchid Thief, and the new essay collection On Animals, recommends six books about animals in The Week. “Only one of these books … completely changed my attitude toward a species,” says Orleans. That book is The Soul of an Octopus. “In this case, I went from being neutral about octopuses to being awed by them and their remarkable, sophisticated intelligence. I never imagined I would feel so moved by an eight-legged creature!”
The Living on Earth radio show’s reporter Bobby Bascomb visited Sy at home to talk about The Hummingbird’s Gift:
BASCOMB: What do you hope that readers get out of your book?
MONTGOMERY: I hope that they see that miracles happen all the time, and that we can take a hand in them. And that even in small ways, we can heal the problems that are besetting our Earth. The hummingbirds to me, are a great symbol of hope. Because after all, you know, it’s their fragility and their vulnerability that gives them their strength. And right now, so many of us are feeling vulnerable and fragile, and we don’t know what’s ahead. But if you look at a hummingbird, and what it’s able to accomplish, the superlatives that it can achieve. Well, we should be able to help heal this earth we messed up to begin with.
Listen to the interview here.
Sy loved her visit, via Zoom, with the Krempes Center — a nonprofit devoted to improving the lives of people living with brain injuries. The good folks at the Center read Sy’s books and joined a Zoom with Sy discussing How to Be A Good Creature. They loved meeting Thurber (who’s in the book) as he walked in for a guest appearance.
Robert Frost was the first and Sy is the latest. Sy is honored to be counted among the great writers, starting with Robert Frost in 1956, to receive the Sarah Josepha Hale award at the beautiful Richards Free Library in Newport, New Hampshire. She thanks her hosts, including Richards library director Justine Fafara (seen here with Sy on the porch of the library), the trustees, and judges for a spectacular evening.
Long live the Octo. Following Sy’s talk with Ezra Klein, The Soul of an Octopus swims back to the August 1 New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list at #13.
Becoming a Good Creature is a finalist for the 2021 New England Book Awards.
The Hummingbird’s Gift has landed on The Boston Globe’s bestseller list.
“I’ve spent the past few months on an octopus kick. In that, I don’t seem to be alone,” says journalist Ezra Klein. Octopuses (it’s incorrect to say “octopi,” to my despair) are having a moment: There are award-winning books, documentaries and even science fiction about them. I suspect it’s the same hunger that leaves many of us yearning to know aliens: How do radically different minds work? What is it like to be a truly different being living in a similar world? The flying objects above remain unidentified. But the incomprehensible objects below do not. We are starting to be smart enough to ask the question: How smart are octopuses? And what are their lives like?”
So he talked Sy about her “dazzling book,” The Soul of an Octopus.
His talk with Sy “was a joy. She “writes and speaks with an appropriate sense of wonder about the world around us and the other animals that inhabit it. This is a conversation about octopuses, of course, but it’s also about us: our minds, our relationship with the natural world, what we see and what we’ve learned to stop seeing. It will leave you looking at the water — and maybe at yourself — differently.”
Monday, July 12 at 2:00 pm. Join Sy Montgomery and bestselling author Peter Wohlleben for an uplifting conversation about the natural world, in celebration of Wohlleben’s new book The Heartbeat of Trees. Wohlleben. the author of The Hidden Life of Trees, returns to his favorite subject—trees—in this powerful, timely new book. Click the link above for your Zoom connection.
After reading The Soul of an Octopus, Penny Howe wrote a song, My Octopal:
Long before the dinosaurs were ever born,
The very first octopus faced its first dawn.
At first with a shell that it very soon shed,
Still millions of years before the first biped.
With a beak like a bird,
A bite like a snake,
And ink like an old fashioned pen.
It can sneak like a fox,
And walk like an ape.
But what more could you want in a friend.
So if you feel blue,
If you’re feeling down,
There’s nothing like an octopus
To help you come round.
A hug from this pod,
Will work like a charm.
When you feel all the love
In three hearts and eight arms.
The writer Annie Graves has written a warm and appreciative portrait of Sy and her world for Yankee magazine. Read her story here.
Sy was asked to share some life lessons with the good folks at World Class Performer.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I wish I could go back to my childhood and youth and tell that desperate, young person “one day, you will live your dreams, and wake up every morning crazy in love with life.”
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” If you are kind and thoughtful, if you work hard and give back, not only will you accumulate knowledge and skill–but also genuine friends who will help you. Both are essential.
Read more of the short interview here.
Sy enjoyed her visit to the Townsend, Massachusetts, library where they created this lovely story walk for Becoming a Good Creature.
Here’s Sy reading The Hummingbird’s Gift at one of the best bookstores around, Gibson’s in Concord, New Hampshire.
My animal teachers. Betsy Groban interviewed Sy about Becoming a Good Creature for the Boston Globe:
- Q: You assert in the book that animals can be great teachers for kids. Can you say more about that?
- A: Humans have been important in my life — I even married one. But animals, too, have been essential as friends, mentors, teachers, inspiration. My first dog, Molly, showed me what I wanted to do with my life: learn the secrets of animals. Three emus showed me the path to do so: to follow wild animals wherever they were, and tell their stories. A pig showed me that family is not made out of genes, but love. An ermine taught me forgiveness. This doesn’t mean that humans don’t make good teachers, but it’s great to reassure both kids and grownups that teachers are everywhere, not just in the classroom, and they don’t all have two legs and opposable thumbs.
AudioFile likes Sy’s reading of The Hummingbird’s Gift for the audio-book: “Montgomery’s warm and intimate delivery makes listeners care about each development and setback. And her descriptions of these tiny marvels will almost certainly inspire you to step outside and observe the natural world with a new appreciation.”
And you can watch Sy talking about the new hummingbird book here. Thurber is also here to help.
Hummingbirds Coast to Coast. The Hummingbird’s Gift has debuted at number nine on the hardcover nonfiction bestseller list of the New England Independent Booksellers Association. And the new book is Number 4 on the Sonoma-Index’s Nonfiction Hardcover Bestseller List.
Hovering at the Edge of the Possible. On her Brainpickings website Maria Popova has written a paean to humming birds: “Between Science and Magic: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible. How a tiny creature faster than the Space Shuttle balances the impossible equation of extreme fragility and superhuman strength.”
Her focus is Sy’s new hummingbird book. Maria Popova writes:
“We have The Hummingbirds’ Gift to widen us with wonder at the seeming impossibility of these fragile, fierce marvels of nature — and to render us wondersmitten with the hope that if individual humans are capable of bring individual hummingbirds back to life from the brink of death, then perhaps our entire species is capable of rehabilitating an entire planet; perhaps we are capable of a great deal more care and tenderness than we realize toward the myriad marvelous creatures with whom we share the ultimate cosmic miracle of life, this staggering improbability that is — somehow, somehow — possible.”
Read the rest of the post and see some beautiful hummingbird art here.
The Hummingbird’s Gift has taken flight. In the photo, Sy is signing books at the fabulous Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire. She also shows off a hummingbird’s nest with two navy beans standing in for the diminutive eggs.
“Montgomery has written another engaging work of popular science, similar to her previous books,” says Library Journal.
“Zippy as its titular bird,” says the Associated Press, and “quite fascinating.”
“Montgomery’s bright, richly illustrated chronicle stirs renewed appreciation for human empathy, skill, and wonder and a miraculous winged species,” says Booklist.
The Washington Post suggests it as a “feel good book to brighten your summer: Ah, to be able to fly far, far away. The hummingbird — an inspiring creature — can do that and more. It’s the lightest bird in the sky, able to fly backward and beat its wings more than 60 times a second. This slim book, centered on two abandoned hummingbirds who are nurtured back to health, is ideal for garden reading.”
Barnes and Noble’s “Most Anticipated New Book Releases of May 2021” looks forward to Sy’s new book, The Hummingbird’s Gift:
“In each of her books, Sy Montgomery has introduced adults and children to the complicated, intelligent spirits of our fellow creatures in the natural world, be it an octopus, a good, good pig, pink dolphins, or golden moon bears. This tale of an intervention to save the lives of two orphaned, nearly microscopic hummingbird babies is a rumination on fragility and interdependence, and an extraordinary close-up on the wonder that is a hummingbird. ‘Hummingbirds are less flesh than fairies … little more than bubbles fringed with iridescent feathers — air wrapped in light.’”
Portrait of the young writer as a toddler. Sy was interviewed by Onlypicturebooks.com. She told them:
“I don’t even remember this, but my parents told me: When I was younger than two, my parents took me to the Frankfurt Zoo, in Germany — where I was born – not in the zoo, but in the city of the Frankfurt! I broke free of my parents’ hands for a few moments and disappeared. When they found me, I had toddled into the hippo pen — right next to a 3,000-pound hippo, considered the most dangerous animal in Africa.
“My parents weren’t happy, but clearly, both the hippos and I were fine about it. I always felt comfortable with animals—far more so than with most people.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
Kudos for Condor Comeback, winner of a Green Earth Honor Award. Check out the whole flock of winners here.
Sy enjoyed her visit via Zoom to the Chelmsford Library in Massachusetts for their All-Community read of How to be a Good Creature.
What better place to read about octopuses than while in the water? My book is in great company in the bathtub with author Chris Bohjalian, as he told the New York Times Book Review:
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I can read for hours in the bath. In the winter, when the sun sets early, it’s pretty close to heaven to read there on a Sunday afternoon and watch the sun disappear over the small mountain west of where I live. I also loved to read in swimming pools, pre-Covid, when vacations were a thing. I’d stand waist-deep in the water, the book open flat on the coralline lip of the pool.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
From Sy Montgomery’s lovely The Soul of an Octopus: An octopus would make a terrible pet, but not because they’re dangerous. Rather, they’re playful and smart and usually gentle with humans, but they’re likely to get themselves into trouble slithering out of their tank.
After reading her book, I went to the New England Aquarium just to watch them.
First Review. Booklist loves Sy’s new book, The Hummingbirds’Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wing:
“ Hummingbird rehabilitator Brenda Sherburn Labelle and two tiny orphans, Maya and Zuni, first appeared in passionate, prolific, and beloved naturalist Montgomery’s world-circling avian chronicle, Birdology (2010). Here she tells the entire tale of the hummers’ rescue and thriving, thanks to rigorous human attention involving feedings with a syringe every 20 minutes, nerve wracking treatments for a mite infestation, and clever ways to help them learn to fly.
“Montgomery shares an array of astounding facts about hummingbirds, from their proportionately enormous heart to how each day these little beings sup from 1,500 flowers and eat approximately 700 insects; how their wings beat 60 times per second; how they can hover, a unique ability; and how very combative and strong these little feathered marvels are, enduring long migrations year after year. Montgomery describes Maya and Zuni’s “remarkably expressive” little faces and different rates of development, and describes the fear and joy attendant upon their release into a world in which pollinators are severely imperiled.
“Montgomery’s bright, richly illustrated chronicle stirs renewed appreciation for human empathy, skill, and wonder and a miraculous winged species.”
The Pima County Library in Tucson, Arizona, suggests that you spend National Pet Day – April 11 – or any day really, with A Good, Good Pig.
Inspired by Becoming a Good Creature, the young writers of the Pierce School in Bennington, New Hampshire, created books of their own. Sy can’t wait to zoom with them, author-to-authors, and tell them how proud she is of their work. Above are two samples.
The new German translation of How to be a Good Creature. In translation “good creature” may have become “mensch”– a good, honorable person. Hmm.
If you happen to tune into New Hampshire Public Television you may catch Sy talking about Becoming a Good Creature. This brief film — 1 minute, 30 seconds — is running between programs. Watch it here.
Hometown Vulture. Condor Comeback is in the Santa Barbara News-Press, the hometown paper for the project which is restoring condors to the wild. Dr. Estelle Sandhaus, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s director of conservation and science, is in charge of the condor project. She stars in Condor Comeback.
Lone Star Octo. Sy was interviewed by Jim McKeown for his show Likely Stories on KWBU, “Heart of Texas Public Radio.” Jim gives The Soul of an Octopus “8 tentacles” (out of 8, we assume). Listen here.
A big thank you to the good folks at The Arts Fuse, a fabulous online guide to the arts in New England, for featuring How to be a Good Creature in its March edition. Read the other excellent recommendations here.
A Double Honor. The nonfiction committee of the Missouri Association of School Librarians has chosen two of Sy’s books for their lists of top twenty best nonfiction books. Condor Comeback is on the list for grades 3 to 5, and The Magnificent Migration is on the list for 6th to 8th graders.
The Dutch translation of The Soul of an Octopus has been published in the Netherlands.
Researching her next book, Sy visits with her buddy Fire Chief, a snapping turtle who is in rehab at a turtle hospital. “Fire Chief looks as big as a dinosaur, but he’s gentle as a puppy,” says Sy. “Here we are at Turtle Rescue League doing physical therapy to help strengthen his legs. He was injured when a truck ran him over.
“Thank you, Matt Patterson for the photo, and Alexxia Bell, Natasha Nowick and Michaela Conder for the great care all the turtles get at Turtle Rescue League.”
Becoming a bestseller. On Sunday, January 17, Becoming a Good Creature will nuzzle its way on to The New York Times Bestseller List for Children’s Picture Books at number 8. Sy thanks Rebecca Green for her superb illustrations and the Salt Project for its beautiful video. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.
“I learned animals matter.” Sy recently visited The Well School in Peterborough, New Hampshire, via Google Meet. She spoke to two groups of students: Kindergarten through the 4th grade, and then 5th through 8th grade. They had questions about almost every animal on earth, and – no surprise – Sy has met many, many of these animals. They learned about sloths, tigers, sharks, Sy’s dog Thurber, and most of all they learned, as one student said, that “animals matter.”
Inspired. After reading The Soul of an Octopus, artist Megan Dalziel created this stunning painting showing how the wonder of consciousness connects all life. The combination of an octopus with an extinct triceratops represents the vast diversity of life that has existed on earth. Sy is honored that her book inspired this thoughtful artwork.
Just published. Lisa Dabek has spent her life studying tree kangaroos. Dabek is the senior conservation scientist and director of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program at Woodland Park Zoo. And now she has edited an essential book about these beguiling marsupials. Tree Kangaroos: Science and Conservation has twenty seven chapters by the world’s top tree kangaroo researchers, with a final chapter by Sy.
Lucky wrists. “In northern Thailand, a tribal shaman once foretold [Sy’s] future by looking at the pattern of blue veins on her wrists. He said that her wrists ‘were the luckiest wrists he had ever seen.’ Indeed.” Read about the adventures behind Becoming a Good Creature in this charming, short interview in New Hampshire magazine.
Win a book. Do Good. Help wombats and turtles. Deborah Furchtgott writes the lively blog, The Children’s Bookroom. She’s a mother, and a Harvard PhD (in medieval poetry) who is “passionate about children’s literature.” Sy is an “influential author” in her house. And in honor of that The Children’s Bookroom is holding a Thanking Good Creatures giveaway. She writes: “If you donate to one of the following charities (I encourage at least a $10 donation) and email me proof of donation at email@example.com then I will enter you to win one of these gorgeous books. Deadline: December 31, 2020. I will draw two names at random in the first days of January, 2021, and ship them out the first week of January. I will ship worldwide!
“To win Becoming a Good Creature, please donate to Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary near Gundaroo in Australia; the donation page is here.
“To win How to Be a Good Creature, please donate to the Turtle Rescue League here in Massachusetts; the donation page is here.
“So, please! Consider making a donation, send me a note with which charity you supported so I know which book you’re entered to win. Again:
- Donate at least $10 to one of the above charities by December 31, 2020
- Email me with your receipt and chosen charity/book
- I will notify you if you win in the first days of January and ship your book shortly afterwards!
“Thank you so much for helping to make the world a better place! And thanks so much to Sy Montgomery and Rebecca Green for their work and for showing all of us, kids and adults, concrete ways to work with our fellow creatures to be better ourselves.”
Sea Turtle Rescue Accomplished. With colleagues from Turtle Rescue League, wildlife artist Matt Patterson and Sy have returned from a 10-mile nighttime patrol along Cape Cod’s stormy beaches. They rescued five highly endangered, cold-stunned Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. Matt dragged the cold turtles by sled to Audubon’s Wellfleet facility. They will be transfered to New England Aquarium’s Quincy marine animal care facility. All are expected to fully recover.
The Good Good Pig is now in its 21st printing, adding 3000 more copies. There are now more than 120,000 paperbacks in print.
Author and educator Mary Bleckwehl has chosen Becoming a Good Creature as one of her Top 10 Books for 2020. Check out the other great picture books she loves here.
Sy is a character in someone else’s novel! In a German work of fiction titled The Octopus’ Ninth Arm, Sy appears in a chapter in which, with the help of an octopus friend at New England Aquarium, she meets Vladimir Putin and… well, you’ll have to read the book (in German) to find out.
It debuted at number two on the Der Spiegel’s bestseller list. Watch out Putin, the octos are coming.
Becoming a Good Creature is a Number 1 Amazon bestseller in children’s science biography. And:
- Kirkus Reviews picks Good Creature as one of the 20 best middle-grade books for 2020.
- The National Science Teachers’ Association and the Center for Books for Children has selected Condor Comeback as one of the Outstanding Science Trade books of the year.
- It’s been a good year for good creatures.
Sy is delighted that the prestigious Science magazine gave Condor Comeback a wonderful review.
And if you missed the segment on condors on New England Chronicle last week, you can watch it here
Sy spoke via Zoom with the fourth graders of PS 163 in New York City who had read The Tarantula Scientist. They peppered Sy with smart questions for an hour. Elizabeth Bullock, age 9, created this portrait of the “Queen of Nature” to commemorate the occasion. Could this be Sy’s new author photo?
Sy talked with Paul Samuel Dolman, host of the podcast What Matters Most, to discuss Becoming a Good Creature. Listen here.
Condor Comeback is on the Longlist for 2021 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Middle Grades Science.
Ahtapotin Ruhu. Turkish readers will soon be reading this translation of The Soul of an Octopus.
Sy is sporting these festive octo masks thanks to a reader.
Condor Comeback is a one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2020
Another good creature gets behind Sy’s new book.
A voracious reader visits the River Bookshop in Amherstburg, Ontario. (That’s Canada, y’all.)
Sy enjoyed talking to the blog Rover about Becoming a Good Creature. Read the short interview here.
Becoming a Good Creature is one of 17 children’s titles selected as a Powell’s Pick of the Season.
In honor of Octopus Month (October, of course) OctoKing Warren Carlyle again called upon Sy to address the OctoNation, which is the world’s biggest octopus fan club. Watch the octo-chat on Facebook here.
Becoming a Good Creature. Watch this fabulous short – minute and a half — introduction to the new book filmed by the amazing Salt Project.
Pre-order Becoming a Good Creature from our wonderful local Toadstool Bookshop.
Condor Comeback. Chronicle, Boston’s WCVB-TV’s long running show, visited Sy to create this fine introduction to Sy’s new book. There’s also plenty of Tia Strombeck’s stunning images of everyone’s favorite vulture, and star turns by Thurber, the snapping-turtle extraordinaire Fire Chief, and even the late, beloved pig Christopher Hogwood. Watch it here.
The bear who sniffed a sleeping homeowner’s foot, a baby condor who survived wildfire, and the hummingbirds and monarch butterflies to watch for in your yard – All these showed up in Sy’s discussion on yesterday’s Afternoon Zoo on WGBH radio — along with why people are painting their cow’s butts with eyes. Listen Here:
The Washington Post tells kids about Condor Comeback. Read it here.
Becoming a Good Creature is one of Amazon’s monthly picks for the best children’s nonfiction in September.
Beach reading. Willow, dog about town, studies up for her next swim in Norway Pond.
The Condor book is out and this reader likes what he sees.
Watch Sy and Tia talk about the new book as they show cool pictures of condors here.
Sy talks baby turtles, friendly sharks, sexy frogs, and murder hornets on the Afternoon Zoo on WGBH. Listen here:
New editions. Journey of the Pink Dolphins in a German translation. And everyone’s favorite octopus in a forthcoming Danish translation.
Listening to the audiobook of Soul of an Octopus while recovering from an eye injury, artist Maria Curcic fell in love with Athena, Octavia, Kali and Karma. In their honor she created the painting seen above. Check out her work on Facebook: Maria Curcic Fine Art. And on Instagram: @curcicfineart. Thank you, Maria.
Just published. The Korean edition of Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind by Sy and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Don’t let this cat’s stare put you off.
Becoming a Good Creature will be published this September, but until then the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, has created this cool activity guide. See it here.
Sy gets wonderful letters from readers. We liked the look of this crafty critter drawn on this envelope from a reader in Valencia, Spain.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books loves Condor Comeback: “It’s a wide-focus take on an environmental success, tempered with patience, the odd condor bite (Montgomery gets nipped helping out with the exams), and setbacks (the first young condors released into the wild were basically adolescent vandals), but ultimately it’s a story of unusual triumph for a species so close to extinction…. Youngsters will be galvanized by the possibilities of this kind of scientific work and keen to find ways to join in.”
And so does ibookdaily.com: “Montgomery’s powerful prose does justice to these ancient, sociable, and elegant creatures. Complete with world-class, full-color photography… Condor Comeback is an inspiring story of groundbreaking science, perseverance, and cooperation.”
The Catch of the Day — on Your Wall. Joe Higgins makes prints of fish “the old-fashioned way, using a technique called gyotaku – applying ink to a fish, placing rice paper over it, and pressing,” says Yankee magazine in a recent tour of artists. One of Higgins’ inspirations is The Soul of an Octopus. That’s one of his prints above. You can see more at: fishedimpressions.comThe Catch of the Day — on Your Wall. Joe Higgins makes prints of fish “the old-fashioned way, using a technique called gyotaku – applying ink to a fish, placing rice paper over it, and pressing,” says Yankee magazine in a recent tour of artists. One of Higgins’ inspirations is The Soul of an Octopus. You can see his art at: fishedimpressions.com
Octo in the City of Angels. The Soul of an Octopus has returned to another West Coast bestseller list. Sy’s octo book is number nine on The Los Angeles Times’ nonfiction paperback bestseller list for May 31.
Two years ago, Sy had the good fortune to speak at Pioneer Works, an artist-run cultural center in Brooklyn. They now have a great new media site, The Broadcast, and have created a series of commemorative bandanas — including this one designed by Andrea Lauer featuring an octopus brain and Sy’s signature. Here’s where you can see (and order) the bandana, listen to Sy’s talk, and read a recent interview.
Yes, that’s one big bug. Meet Jeannie, a Malaysian jungle nymph. Though she’s not a caterpillar herself, she lives at The Caterpillar Lab in Marlborough, New Hampshire, along with thousands of awesome larvae of butterflies and moths. Sy enjoyed her visit with Sam Jaffee. The lab is closed to the public at this time. Check out their Facebook page.
The wonderful citizen-science group Earthwatch has compiled their researchers’ favorite science and nature books. The list that includes How to be a Good Creature:
“‘I was first introduced to Sy’s incredible writing when I picked up The Soul of an Octopus years ago,’ says Alix Morris, Earthwatch’s director of communications. ‘I was riveted. The way she explores the consciousness of creatures is profound, reminding us how much we still have to learn about the world around us.’
“In the opening of her book How to Be a Good Creature, Montgomery attributes her impressive career as a science writer and naturalist to Earthwatch, and details her first expedition following emus in the Australian Outback. ‘Sy shows us how much we can learn from creatures, how to see and hear the wild world in new ways, and how to better understand and appreciate our place in this universe. Combine this with a heavy dose of humor and poetic prose and you have yourself a fantastic read.’”
Thurber visits Spain – via video. To mark the Spanish publication of How to be a Good Creature, Sy reads a chapter about Thurber, as we see many of his puppy photos with Spanish subtitles:“Sy Montgomery nos habla de Thurber, su border collie, una historia de Cómo ser una buena criatura.” Watch it here.
Octo Art. Twelve-year-old Kaia M. from Plainfield, Illinois, created this window art after reading The Soul of an Octopus with her mom. With her art, her mom wrote, Kaia honors Athena, Octavia and Kali from the book. Thank you, Kaia!
Cephalo-Ed is a work of love and devotion. Gary started this You Tube channel. He’s been studying cephalopods since he was 3 years old when he first saw a Giant Pacific Octopus in a book. It was “unique and exquisite.” He was inspired right then to learn everything he could about octopuses. “They are truly one of the most magnificent animals in the world,” says Gary. And so, by and by, he read The Soul of an Octopus and interviewed Sy, who also loves these “most magnificent animals.” Watch the interview here.
School Library Journal loves Condor Comeback: “Like many of Montgomery’s nonfiction titles in the series, this recent entry does an excellent job of incorporating facts and narrative information about an animal not typically covered in stand-alone titles. The engaging call-to-action message is paired with gorgeous photographs that immerse readers in the condors’ world.”
The California Condor’s stunning and fragile existence swoops into focus in the latest Scientists in the Field title,” says Publishers Weekly in a starred review. “Though the condor’s future remains tenuous, Montgomery’s compelling page-turner inspires optimism.”
Octomom. Radiolab has a great Mother’s Day story: “In 2007, Bruce Robison’s robot submarine stumbled across an octopus settling in to brood her eggs. It seemed like a small moment. But as he went back to visit her, month after month, what began as a simple act of motherhood became a heroic feat that has never been equaled by any known species on Earth.” Sy has a small role in the show as she describes the courtship and mating of octopuses.
Critters Down Under. Sy talked about emus, octopuses and other Good Creatures on Australia’s venerable public radio show, Uncommon Sense. Listen here.
Soul of an Octopus has returned to the bestseller lists. It is number seven on the Boston Globe’s list of nonfiction paperback bestsellers for the week of May 3.
Octo-school. Homeschooling her four kids, Melissa Tuttle of Santa Barbara used Soul of an Octopus for her weekly lesson plans. Among the results is this fine illustration of an episode in the book, executed jointly by artists Henley, 3, and Charlie, 5.
Kirkus gives Condor Comeback a starred review: “Montgomery, no stranger to science in the field” joins the “ongoing California fieldwork in the form of condor checkups. These birds are still so endangered that wildlife specialists attempt to recapture each condor living in the wild every year, to check on its health and tracking devices. In an immediate, present-tense narrative, the writer describes the details of these checkups and some of the hazards: While holding birds, she was pooped on and bitten. They visit a biologist watching a nest site and see a new fledgling. After readers are thoroughly engaged with the birds, the writer steps back to describe continuing dangers…. She touches on the effects of wildfires in the birds’ neighborhoods; visits another nest watch; and talks with a tribal educator with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who revere the condors and are especially interested in their return…. Close-up and long-range photos enliven every page…. Hopeful news in the natural world.”
Condor Comeback will be published in July.
Sy sent greetings to her Spanish publishers by talking about book, Spell of a Tiger, which has been translated into Spanish. Watch her short video here and test out your Spanish by reading the subtitles.
Your friendly neighborhood octopus. Fayetteville, Arkansas, artist Graham Patterson has drawn a giant octopus in the street to help cheer up his neighbors during quarantine. Thanks to Dustin Bartholomew of the Fayetteville Flyer and Octo Nation for sharing this Octo Art.
Inky’s Amazing Win. 8,169 students in grades 3 to 5 from 105 Rhode Island schools and libraries have voted, and the results are in: Inky’s Amazing Escape, with illustrations by Amy Schimler-Safford, won the 2020 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. The breakdown of the vote, and the other great titles nominated, can be found here.
Sy addressed the Nation on March 27. OctoNation, that is — the world’s largest octopus fan club. Answering questions and speaking with founder Warren Carlyle, she appeared live for an hour and a half Facebook event that also raised money for New England Aquarium. Check out OctoNation’s awesome Facebook page.
The Associates of the Boston https://www.facebook.com/TheOctoNation/Public Library will honor Sy as one of its “Literary Lights”—authors and scholars from the Northeast whose contributions to American letters are considered outstanding. Others so honored in the past include William Styron, John Updike, Seamus Heaney, Annie Dillard, E.O. Wilson, Ada Louise Huxtable, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
The awards gala is the Associates’ biggest fundraiser and supports the preservation of Boston Public Library’s Special Collections, which include a first edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, Shakespeare’s First Folio, a score written by Mozart, and one of the world’s most extensive collections of anti-slavery and abolitionist papers. Originally scheduled for April 26, the awards dinner has been postponed to September 20.
Seen in San Francisco’s Browser Books: “If you read only one octopus book this year make this labor of love your baby.”
Sy is delighted to hear from Mel Zukernic, founder of the “Animal Love Library” – Fauna Querida – in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that the Spanish translation of How to be a Good Creature is included in her library. Here’s Mel holding the book. You can find out more about the Animal Love Library on Instagram: www.instagram.com/faunaquerida (which means dear fauna).
Sy will be on Alan Alda’s podcast, Clear and Vivid. Here’s a preview at about 16:20 until 27:26, after Tom Hanks and Paul McCartney. Alan Alda has this to say about Sy: “She’s wonderful. She has that ability to communicate with animals just by standing there and looking at them, and they want to come over to her.”
Sy enjoyed talking with Maria Milito, an advocate for animal rights who can be heard daily on Q104.3 New York’s midday show. Now she has her own podcast, Maria’s Mutts & Stuff. Sy provided the “stuff,” talking about octos, pink dolphins, man eating tigers and man-eating tigers. That’s a lot of cool “stuff.” Listen here.
“Beautiful … profound … transformative”— heady praise for How to be a Good Creature from the folks at the Today Show. Check out the other great books they recommend, too.
The Good Good Pig is still winning friends. His memoir – as grunted and snuffled to Sy – is now in its 20th printing. There are more than 117,000 copies of the paperback in print.
The Travels of a Very Smart Octopus. Inky’s Amazing Escape is a Junior Library Guild Selection.
Sy was a guest again on one of her favorite radio broadcasts, Living on Earth. She was discussing the wonderful stories she chose for Best Science and Nature Writing 2019. Here’s the link to the whole show. (All the stories well worth listening to.)
Octovision. The folks at CBS Sunday Morning are the latest to be charmed by Octopuses:
“Chip Reid visits scientists at New England Aquarium in Boston, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and talks with Sy Montgomery, author of “The Soul of an Octopus,” about these curious creatures.” Catch the January 12 show here.
OctoDay-by-OctoDay. Wisconsin Public Radio is reading The Soul of an Octopus – the entire book – on their show Chapter a Day.
The Soul of an Octopus has returned to The New York Times Bestseller List! The Octo was swimming at #11 on January 5, and #13 on January 12 on the nonfiction paperback list. A lot of folks must have found Sy’s octo book under their tree this Christmas – or stuffed in eight Christmas stockings.