Good News: Things Will Go Horribly Wrong!

The artistic students of Lesley U. march in to hear Dr. Sy.
The artistic students of Lesley U. march in to hear Dr. Sy.

Dr. Sy. “I have good news and bad news about your future. First the bad news: Things are going to go horribly wrong. And now the good news: Things are going to go horribly wrong,” Sy told the Lesley University Class of 2024. Embrace the real world — full of dangers, beauty, and breathtaking surprises — that’s Dr. Sy’s Rx.  She’s not a medical doctor, but, hey, she has an honorary Ph.D. from Lesley U. So listen up!  Watch Sy here.

Nautilus Award logoThe Book of Turtles has won a Green Earth Honor Award from The Nature Generation.  And it has also won a silver medal from the Nautilus Book Awards. The awards honor “Better Books for a Better World — books that support conscious living and green values, wellness, social change, social justice, and spiritual growth.”

Secrets of the Octopus has been named one of Barnes and Noble’s “Best Books of 2024 (so far).”

We Love Turtles! And Octopuses!

Matt talks to school kids
Matt brings the turtle gospel to Tenacre School

Kids, octopuses, good creatures all. After a warm welcome for Sy and Matt in Stoughton, Mass., they headed to Tenacre Country Day School in Wellesley to meet awesome earth lovers before the octo finale at Stoughton Library.

Sign: We love turtlesWelcome to Tenacre Sy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Octopuses with top hatsWhat is intelligence? How can we recognize it in other lifeforms on Earth, as well as in space? Sy talks to Cosmic Connection.

A table covered with Sy Montgomery's books
The Sy Channel. A full table of her books.

Sy loved hanging out with 500 librarians at the combined conference of the Utah Library Association and Mountain Plains Library Association. Sy’s keynote address was received with a standing ovation. Thank you to Patrick Horcherl, Marissa Bischoff, and all the other librarian/superheroes who made Sy feel so welcome.

Librarians buying Sy Montgomery's books

The Book of Turtles has won the gold medal from the Cook Prize. The prize honors the best STEM picture book for children aged 8 to 10 and it is chosen by them. This year more than 11,000 children across the United States, Europe, and Asia voted. And they have spoken. They love The Book of Turtles.

Sy and Matt talked turtles with Connecticut Public Radio’s podcast, Where We Live. Listen here.

Ten books that will transform how you see nature

Never Cry Wolf by Farley MowatTen books that will transform how you see nature. For Earth Day, The Washington Post asked ten authors to recommend books “that influenced their relationships with the natural world.” Sy talked about Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf:

“The book moved me deeply. True, though originally published as a factual account, parts of it were later decried as fiction. (“Never let the facts get in the way of the truth,” Mowat would later tell me, when he generously welcomed me to his home while I researched my first book.) But while I’ve remained a stickler for facts in my own writing, this book showed me the importance of remaining true to matters of the heart as well — and that a writer must use not only the fruits of the intellect but also honor one’s emotion and intuition to tell a story that moves readers to action.”

See the rest of the suggested books here.

Everything’s coming up Octos on this week’s Boston Globe bestseller list. See Number 6:
Boston Globe bestseller list

And on the Other Coast: Secrets of the Octopus is Number 9 on the Seattle Times bestseller list.

Now in Japanese: Secrets of the OctopusNow in Japanese: Secrets of the Octopus. (And, we hear, in German, though we haven’t seen the book yet.)

The Book of Turtles has been short-listed for a Green Earth Book Award, a national honor for children’s books promoting environmental stewardship.

Oklahoma octo-fans Cal and Lyle Clifford
Tiktok Okto. They love octos, Sy’s new book, and OctoNation. Oklahoma octo-fan Cal Clifford’s pet octopus, Terrance, became a “Tiktoktopus” after videos of her unexpected babies went viral. Some two million folks have been following his pet octo’s 50 babies.

Seen above is Cal with his brother Lyle showing their prize loot from OctoNation. Their advice for all but the most serious (and wealthy) aquarists: get octo plushies, not pets! (In captivity, baby octopuses have an unfortunate tendency to eat each other.) And Cal’s father says, “It’s expensive, wet chaos” – but the whole family loves Terrance and her babies.

Stoughton (Mass.) ReadsSy is looking forward to joining Stoughton (Mass.) Reads for April 22 and 23rd. It’s all-out-octos for Earth Day.

 

Boston Globe bestseller list
Meanwhile on that other coast: Secrets of the Octopus has climbed to #6 on the Seattle Times bestseller list.
Seattle Times bestseller list

Sy visits Parker, a sea lion, before her talk at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California
Sy visits Parker, a sea lion, before her talk at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California

Sy is honored to share a Riverby Award with Matt Patterson, and sign copies at Books of Wonder in New York City. The Riverby Award is given by the John Burroughs Association, which was founded in 1921 to commemorate the life and works of the naturalist John Burroughs.

 

Sy and Matt Patterson, and sign copies at Books of Wonder in New York City   Sy at Books of Wonder in New York City

 

 

Octomania at Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Octomania at Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Secrets of the Octopus is a bestseller. It’s number seven on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association bestseller list.

Bookbub has chosen Of Time and Turtles as one of the great, uplifting nature books of spring. See their list here.

Amazon Bestsellers in Marine Life

If you click on the top “marine life” books on Amazon, Sy’s books occupy 7 of the top 10 slots. How amazing is that?

Sy and Matt talk about their love of turtles, octopus and freshwater fish at the creativeprocess.info:

Sy: “I think that animals certainly don’t have all these widgets demanding their attention like we do. Their spirits are just not as atomized as ours are. We have so many little things flickering at the edge of our consciousness. When we pay attention to anything, we’re not paying that deep attention, but animals are. And they have senses that we do not. I mean, they’re aware of chemical cues that we completely miss. They can hear sounds we don’t hear. They see colors and kinds of light we can’t perceive, etc. But we all share a common ancestor. We share 90 percent of our genetic material with all placental mammals. So we really are all family…. It makes a human feel less lonely. So many humans I know, they’re just suffering terribly from loneliness even though they’re in a sea of other humans. Well, I never feel lonely. And I can be alone, so-called, in a landscape with no other human anywhere, and I feel nested and safe and at home. And I know you do, too, because there are all these other lives around us.”

Matt: “When you listen to your instincts, it’s the voices of your ancestors guiding you. The narration of your ancestors and not just your human ancestors going all the way back to when everybody was just one cell. And being connected to your origin in that way is very different from the Western world in which you’re off like an arrow, and you’ve left all that behind.”

Read more here.

The Peeple’s Choice Awards

The Good, Good, Peep
Each spring, the Hancock Town Library is filled with Literary Peep Dioramas – scenes from books made of everyone’s favorite marshmallow Easter treat. This year two fine artists in town, Kim and Scott Cunningham, made this tribute to Sy’s The Good, Good Pig. If you’re in town, come vote for The Peeple’s Choice Awards.

Sy took the listeners of the Techstination podcast on a deep dive to explore The Secrets of the Octopus. Listen here.

Win to Register a copy of Secrets of the Octopus by Sy MontgomeryWin a new book. OctoNation is thrilled to offer OctoFans a chance to win a copy of the newest National Geographic book, Secrets of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery and the founder of OctoNation, Warren K. Carlyle IV. Enter your name and email address to register.

Sy talks with Psychology Today about her new book, Secrets of the Octopus:

    Psychology Today logo

  • Based on the latest scientific research and wonderful stories, ‘Secrets of the Octopus’ is a must-read.
  • One of the most astonishing fields of inquiry centers on octopuses’ social lives; they’re not loners.
  • Almost everything we once thought we knew about octopuses is wrong.
  • And Sy says: “With everything I write, I aim to help readers join me in falling in love anew with this life and with the creatures in it. For once we do, we deepen our commitment to treat all our neighbors—human and non, vertebrate and invertebrate—with renewed respect and compassion. Who better than octopuses to show us the way?”
  • Read her interview here.

Henry the FerretVote for Sy & Matt. The Book of Turtles has been nominated for an award from professional humane educators — and you, the hardshell faithful, can vote for it here, about halfway down the ballot. While there, cast your vote for the Most Accomplished Animal Ambassador. We confess that Henry the Ferret caught our eye. Henry looks like a worthy weasel.

Secrets of the Octopus is headed to Japanese readers.
Secrets of the Octopus is headed to Japanese readers.

The Book of Turtles is on the Long List for the Green Earth Award. Check out all the terrific titles on the list here.

Zoo Logic podcastTelling Secrets. Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club founder Warren Carlyle and Sy talk about Sy’s new book, Secrets of The Octopus – which has octo-profiles by Warren. They also discuss its companion, three-part National Geographic TV film. Listen to the fabulous Zoo Logic podcast.

Sy was awarded honorary membership in the Boston Malacological Club
A meeting of the shells. After Sy and Matt brought their turtle show to the Boston Malacological Club, Sy was awarded honorary memberships.

John Burroughs (1837-1921) with his dog, I Know. Burroughs was one of the most popular authors of his day.
John Burroughs (1837-1921) with his dog, I Know.
Turtles rule. Matt Patterson and Sy are thrilled to share the news that The Book of Turtles will be honored by a Riverby Award – named after famed naturalist and essayist John Burroughs’ Hudson River estate. The award honors “exceptional non-fiction books for young readers.” Several of Sy’s books have won this award before, including The Magnificent Migration, Amazon Adventure, Great White Shark Scientist, and The Snake Scientist.

The award will be presented at the Yale Club in New York on April 1.

In praise of the unhurried life. Nature Conservancy Magazine likes Of Time and Turtles: “Although the book is a skillful mix of science, philosophy and turtle lore, it’s about more than the hundreds of reptiles saved by two dedicated women and the team they built. By the book’s end, the motto of Turtle Rescue League founders Natashia and Alexxia – “Never give up on a turtle” – takes on a broader meaning that feels a lot like a testimony to the power of human compassion and the difference it can make in the lives of animals, no matter how unhurried.”

Sy and Warren Carlyle is founder of OctoNation, the world’s largest octopus fan club, recruited more Octo fans on Chicago’s WGN-TV’s Morning News show. Watch here.

Turtles all the way down … south

Sy and Matt at the Savannah Book FestivalTurtles all the way down … south. The Hardshell Faithful turn out at the Savannah Book Festival to hear Sy and Matt talk about the their turtle books.Sy and Matt at the Savannah Book Festival

Get Out Alive logoGet Out Alive — always a worthy goal, and a great name for the podcast on which Sy shared her turtle (and shark and tiger and octopus) adventures. Listen to the episode here.

All Creatures Good Good. The devoted fans of the PBS hit show, All Creatures Great and Small have picked their favorite books. And no surprise, there are three books by Sy: The Good Good Pig, How to be a Good Creature, and The Soul of an Octopus. Next season could the good vets be called on to treat an octopus on one of those farms in the Yorkshire Dales?

Secrets of The Octopus
Sy is pleased to have seen an advance screening of National Geographic’s Secrets of The Octopus. (Sy wrote the book.) The film will premiere on the National Geographic channel on Sunday, April 21. It will be available the next day – which is Earth Day — on Disney+ and Hulu. Watch the trailer here.

Sy on the yellow carpet with the fabulous creators and talent behind the TV series, Secrets of the Octopus
Forget the red carpet. Yesterday, at the National Geographic shoot, it was the yellow carpet. Here’s Sy with the fabulous creators and talent behind the coming TV series, Secrets of the Octopus, right before their panel discussion with the TV critics in Los Angeles.

WGBH Boston Public Radio  visits Fire Chief
Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and the fine crew from their show — Boston Public Radio on WGBH — visit Fire Chief. Watch here.

A seafood firm wants to farm octopus. Activists say they’re too smart for that,” reports NPR. A seafood company, Nueva Pescanova, plans to build tanks by a dock in the Canary Islands, the Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco. The company announced its plans several years ago. “Despite opposition, its permit requests are currently pending.”

Sy is “appalled,” she told NPR. Octopuses “are sensitive, curious, intelligent creatures with memories and with volition,” she said. They deserve better. Read the rest of the story here.

Marv Hoffman is one of Sy’s dear friends. Marv is an ace teacher who has mentored a legion of teachers. In his blog, he writes about Of Time and Turtles: “Week after week, Sy and Matt return to the Turtle Rescue League (TRL) to do whatever needs to be done for inhabitants of this loving home.

Turtle Rescue League (TRL) carSy creates vivid portraits of many of the residents of TRL who acquire colorful names, usually based on the circumstances in which they’re found – Pizza Man, Fire Chief, etc. As with the octopuses, real relationships develop between their care givers and these strange creatures, who predate even the dinosaurs. I have to admit that I haven’t retained much knowledge about the various sub-species of turtles who pass through, but I do recall the individuals and cheer their recoveries or mourn their losses.

“This much would suffice to make an engaging book. There is a chapter in which Sy and Matt join TRL staff on a rescue mission to a beach where sea turtles are being washed ashore in ways that will lead to their deaths without the help of their human Samaritans. I read it with as much excitement as the sections I read in Kon-Tiki oh so long ago about its encounters with life-threatening storms.

“But there’s more, the part that explains the centerpiece of the title Of Time and Turtles. Because turtles live such long lives – some have been known to live as long as 200 years — the sense of time that surrounds them unfolds at a different rate than it does for us frenetic humans. Even their injuries heal at a different rate. It happens that Sy’s work with the turtles coincides with the Covid years which caused astonishing disruptions in the time sense of many people. As an example, my guesses at how long ago significant events in my life occurred are now way out of line with the reality.

“It’s as if Sy’s time with the turtles and our Covid time put us outside the traditional linear understanding of how things unfold. In the Jewish view of the events in the bible there is the following concept: “Ain mukdam v’ain m’uchar ba’torah.” There is no early and no late in the torah, which suggests a more circular view of time that challenges the idea that events are stacked like dominos forever poised to fall in exactly the same sequence.

“Sy quotes a scientist who speaks about “warm-blooded chauvinism,” the assumption that human views on understanding the natural world are the only possible ones. Once again, Sy has helped me step outside my skin into a universe of much broader and more diverse realities. Our creaturely arrogance is so profound it takes a hell of a book to accomplish that.

The Book of Turtles is a Sibert Honor Book

The Book of Turtles
Award season. The Book of Turtles is a Sibert Honor Book. It joins a very short list of the most distinguished nonfiction books for young readers published in English in 2023. The Sibert Medal, and four Sibert Honor books, are awarded yearly by the Association for Library Service to Children to “the distinguished informational books published in English” for children.”

More good news: The Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has named The Book of Turtles to their CCBC Choices 2024 list.

Bestseller in California Wine Country. Of Time and Turtles is number five on Sonoma’s bestseller list for the week of January 24. (The Sonoma Index-Tribune.)

Never Cry WolfWild Reads. One of Sy’s favorite books growing up was Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat. It is her choice for Wild Reads: Experts Share their Favorite Animal-Inspired Books. The reading list is at the PBS Masterpiece Theatre website.

Sy has this to say about Never Cry Wolf:

“This book is among those that inspired me to embark on a career of studying and chronicling the lives of animals,” says Montgomery. “As a child, I loved his earlier account of life with his dog, Mutt, in The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be. His later and most famous title Never Cry Wolf affected me deeply. The book is a dramatic portrait of a scientist whose findings turn him into an activist on behalf of the animals he studied. Presented as nonfiction, later, some of his accounts were decried as untrue; but Mowat was true to matters of the heart. Like James Herriot, he lived the exhortation of St. Francis of Assisi: ‘Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it.’”

The New York Times Loves Turtles
Big City Newspaper Meets Turtles. Loves Turtles. The New York Times recommends new books this first week in January:

Montgomery, one of our finest chroniclers of the natural world, turns her attention to a turtle sanctuary in which injured and neglected reptiles — many of them far older than the volunteers — are rehabilitated.

“The turtle emerges as an unlikely symbol of resilience and optimism — an example of what is possible when we refuse to give up on the most vulnerable among us.”

Animal Dignity by Melanie ChallengerSy has brought her octo-magic to a new anthology, Animal Dignity. Twenty writers, historians, ethnologists, artists, and philosophers explore how “we understand the dignity and value of non-human animals.” The book has a sterling line-up: Alexandra Horowitz (Dignity in Dogs); Jonathan Safer Foer (33,00 Birds); Martha Nussbaum (on the “capabilities” of animals); and a foreword by Jane Goodall. Have a look at the contents here.

Of Time and Turtles is on the move in California. It is #5 on the Sonoma Index-Tribune Bestseller List for January 3.

Turtle talk on Wisconsin Public Radio. Listen here.

Sy and Matt talk to Francesca Rheannon host of the Writer’s Voice podcast, and they win another convert to the Hardshell ones. Right after the interview, Francesca and her granddaughter signed up as volunteers at their local Turtle Rescue. Francesca told Sy: “You have converted me into a turtle enthusiast!” Listen to the Writer’s Voice here.

Of Time and Turtles is number 7 on the Boston Globe bestseller list

Of Time and Turtles is number 7 on the Boston Globe bestseller list for the week ending Dec. 17.

CultureLab, a podcast from the popular weekly magazine New Scientist, recommends the best ten nonfiction books of 2023, including Of Time and Turtles. Listen here for their other picks.

The teens who produce the podcast This Teenage Life, interview Sy (one of their heroes) and Matt, to learn how “animals can keep them grounded and inspired … in the fast-paced, tech-driven world we live in.” Listen here.

The Book Of Turtles

School Library Journal has announced the 2023 Undies Case Cover Awards. (Translation: The best book cover design hiding under the book jacket.) Winner of the “Zoom in Award” is a certain turtle book. (We would have called this “The Hard-Shell Award.” See the others winners here.

Living on Earth logo
Living on Earth
Sy joined her longtime friend Steve Curwood, host of Living on Earth, to talk about what we can learn from turtles:

“Having explored the philosophical question of consciousness in, The Soul of an Octopus, for my next big book, I wanted to explore the philosophical question of time. Time is a mystery, just like consciousness. We wonder, you know, what is it? Is it real? Does it flow through us? Do we flow through it? What do we do with it? Who has it?

And who better than turtles to help me understand time, these ancient creatures who evolved at the same time as the dinosaurs, who have great long lifespans, who have wisdom and who understand waiting. And little did I know that I would conduct this inquiry into the nature of time during the pandemic, when time stopped.

“It was a great time to know turtles, because turtles know ancient time, sacred time. They know the kind of time that isn’t ruled by the calendar and the clock. In general, they don’t hurry, they don’t feel the sort of Damocles over their heads for deadlines. They get everything done when it needs to be done. And they drew me into a wholly different kind of time, the kind of time the Greeks called, “kairos,” or sacred time. And you just cannot be with a turtle without feeling you’re apprenticed to someone really wise.”

Listen here.

Bravo to the students, staff, and parents at the 48 participating schools of Douglas County, Colorado. Inspired by the animals in Becoming a Good Creature (the choice for their all-district read) they donated personal care products to families in need, wrote poems and essays, and created beautiful bookmarks and stickers about courage and kindness. Here’s a sampling of some of their wonderful art:
Student work from Douglas County, Colorado

Turtle Tree at Townsend, Massachusetts, Public Library
Jeanne Urda, former librarian at the Townsend, Massachusetts, Public Library, and a turtle’s best friend, created this tree to celebrate our hardshell heroes.

The Book of Turtles

— Kirkus Reviews has selected The Book of Turtles as one of the best picture books of the year.
— The Chicago Public Library says The Book of Turtles is one of the year’s Best Informational Books for Younger Readers.
— And it is a Booklist’s Editors’ Choice for 2023.
— As well as a Nerdy Book Club Award winner.

“In the vast ocean of children’s literature, Betsy Bird has carved a niche for herself, meticulously reviewing books for her ‘101 Great Books for Kids Committee’,” says the online news outlet BNN. One of this year’s spotlighted picks is The Book of Turtles. It’s a “standout, lauded for its engaging presentation of turtle facts.”

Art Costa, "Sounds Deep"
Art Costa, “Sounds Deep”

Octo-Curious. “When Vermont sculptor Art Costa first read The Soul of an Octopus, he was fascinated by author Sy Montgomery’s description of her friendship with an eight-legged ‘extraterrestrial,’” reports the Brattleboro Reformer. “Curious about other organisms living far below the surface of the ocean, Costa dove into research that became his most recent body of work, “Sounds Deep,” currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

The museum’s director of exhibitions, Sarah Freeman, describes “Sounds Deep” as “the conjuring of a beautiful world we seldom see, a world of strange, sightless creatures that inhabit the darkest depths of the ocean.” Constructed from reclaimed cardboard, paper mache and other natural materials, Costa’s “deep-sea denizens are richly textured and colored, and their faceless forms are full of personality and humor,” Freeman says.

Art Costa’s exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum runs until March 9, 2024. More information here.

“The Chief,” Star Of Time and Turtles

Turtles live slowly. They heal slowly too.
Writer’s Digest meets “The Chief.” Sy tells them about the star of her turtle book:
A year ago, a friend about my age (I’m 65) moved in up the street. We see each other every few days. Sometimes we walk together. Some days I don’t see him at all, but that’s OK. He doesn’t always feel like coming out of his pond, because he is a 42-pound wild snapping turtle.

Fire Chief, as we call him, used to live in a pond by a fire house in a different state. All the firefighters knew him…. Read the rest here. The Chief would like that.

Of Time and Turtles is making the year-end lists:
— Amazon’s Best Books of the Year 2023
— The Washington Post: 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction. “The Year’s Best.”
— Chicago Public Library: Must-Read Books of 2023
— Smithsonian Magazine’s 10 Best Science Books of 2023

“I’ll read anything by Montgomery —
funny, sincere, and curious, she’ll
convince you that there’s much to
learn from turtles.”
— Al Woodworth

Senior Editor at Amazon specializing in Nonfiction and Culture

Matt Patterson, Turtle artist extraordinaire talks to “Inquiry” on WICN.org Listen here.

Matt Patterson and Sy joined their friends at Massachusetts School Library Association for a talk on how we learn from turtles. Listen to the podcast here.

Matt, Sy and Fire Chief
Matt, Sy and Fire Chief
“There is no limit to compassion.” At the Creation Care Summit, Sy was interviewed on stage for the podcast Language of God. The summit is a day-long event with speakers discussing “how to better care for the world we have been given.”

Here’s a brief sample of Sy’s talk with host Jim Stump:Q: For all your life, you’ve been doing this, but what is it about connecting with another species that’s so meaningful and special that’s different than connecting with another human?

Sy: Well, I think it widens your circle, your capacity for compassion. It broadens your world in a really important way. These are animals who are perceiving the real world, God’s world in a real way, but sometimes their perceptions are outside of our own perceptions. So even though I may not be able to hear infrasound, for example, or I may not be able to taste with my skin as some animals can do or sing with my knees for that matter, knowing someone who does brings you that much closer to that sensuous saver of this beautiful life and brings us closer to our Creator, and brings us into that realm of awe and wonder.

I’ve always been able to do this and I don’t think there’s anything special about me. I think kids can do this and we take them away from that path. We tell them, “No, no, you should only pay attention to one species.” And I think that’s such a tragedy. It’s like saying you can only eat one kind of food or you can only listen to one kind of music or even one piece of music. So it’s such a joy to be able to commune with the rest of creation in this way. And I think it’s really open to all of us if we just don’t shut it off.

Q: I want to ask a question now and ask it carefully because it might sound a little heartless… Why should we care so much about the turtles? Why spend all that time and energy and money on saving turtles? There’s no shortage of human problems we could address, individual human lives that we could make better. Shouldn’t we focus our limited resources on them instead of turtles? How do we answer that?

Sy: There is no limit to compassion. There is no limit to love. And turtles actually are the foundations for many ecosystems on which we all depend. People do not realize this, but maybe we do because there’s a lot of cultures around the world that have this idea of the world turtle, the turtle that is carrying the world on its back. In China, there is a goddess called Ao. She’s a giant tortoise and her legs are holding up the heavens itself. They feed so many creatures with their eggs. Their babies are eaten by a lot of creatures.

But beyond all this, turtles are a wonder near at hand. Everyone can recognize a turtle. Everyone gets to see a turtle. It’s not like an octopus that you have to go to an aquarium to see one. We’ve all seen them and we can do so much, easily, to help turtles. When we observe them, having them in our world, what they’re filling us with is the thing that we need for our souls more than just about anything else. Everybody from life hack folks to philosophers will tell you what gives us joy in our lives is awe. We need more awe in our lives and I am in awe of these amazing creatures and it is very easy to help them.

Sy always enjoys talking with her wonderful friend, evolutionary biologist Marc Bekoff. He shares their conversation in his Psychology Today column. A few highlights:

“I exist in a state of awe, living among all the stunningly beautiful and talented species around me in this gorgeous, diverse, abundant, and broken world. To call attention to their glories, I write about rare and endangered species; about misunderstood and overlooked species; about animals we already know and love. Turtles fall into all these categories at once. Everyone loves turtles, and everyone has seen a turtle. But few of us recognize their astonishing powers—some climb, some hunt, some can run faster than a child doing the 100-yard dash. Or that, despite that some species are common, turtles as a group are the most critically endangered vertebrates on the planet. I write about the individual turtles I met during the pandemic to let them educate us all, especially about how we can help them.

“My major goal is to generate hope during an era of despair; to explore the nature of time during a moment in history when time seemed to stop; and to ponder with kindness and generosity gender and disability issues—two of our human heroes are transgender, one is blind; and many of our turtles are living their best lives despite disabilities most people would consider terrible.

“We think we know turtles, but we do not…. These animals are gifted with extraordinary powers with senses beyond our own, vocal communication, excellent memories, and powerful emotions, to name just a few.”

Read the rest of the interview here.

La Roo, a tree kangaroo
Nice work if you can get it. While in Providence, Sy and Matt got a backstage tour of the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Sy fed La Roo, a tree kangaroo, La Roo’s favorite treat: Cheerios. She also fed rose petals to this baby two-toed sloth.
Baby two-toed sloth

The Kindred podcast welcomes Sy to talk about turtles and octopuses. “For us,” say hosts Kate and Jenn, “Sy Montgomery embodies Kindred and is an inspiration and lamplighter in a time when this planet needs as many enlightened leaders as possible.” Listen here.

Sy and Matt at LA AirportScenes from the Road. Sy and Matt are on the West Coast preaching the Hardshell Gospel. To the right is a certain turtle book at the Los Angeles airport (LAX as it is better known). And below, the children of the Nesbit School, near San Francisco, welcome their turtle-loving elders.

Nesbit School, near San FranciscoNesbit School, near San Francisco

Portland’s famous Powell’s Books
Bright Lights, Big City. Sy and Matt got to see their name in lights when they read at Portland’s famous Powell’s Books.

"Male Painted Turtle Basking" by Matt Keevil is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“Male Painted Turtle Basking” by Matt Keevil is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
“Best. Turtle. Book. Ever.” The Evanston, Illinois, Public Library has announced it’s annual 101 Great Books for Kids List. And guess what? They love The Book of Turtles: “Think you know turtles? Think again! An up-close-and-personal deep dive into the species with all its weird and wonderful qualities. Best. Turtle. Book. Ever.”

Sy meets a Galapagos tortoise at a turtle sanctuary
Nice work if you can get it – Part II. On their way to their Florida readings, Sy and Matt met these Galapagos tortoises at a turtle sanctuary.Matt meets a Galapagos tortoise at a turtle sanctuary.

Listen to Sy and Matt on WAMC’s Roundtable show. “Hopeful and optimistic, Of Time and Turtles is an antidote to the instability of our frenzied world. Elegantly blending science, memoir, and philosophy, and drawing on cultures from across the globe, this compassionate portrait of injured turtles and their determined rescuers invites us all to slow down and slip into turtle time.”

What turtles can teach us about time. Sy talks with host Caroline Feraday at KCLU in Thousand Oaks, California. Listen here.

The Washington Post raves about Of Time and Turtles

The Washington Post raves about Of Time and Turtles:

Few writers are better than Montgomery at capturing the wonder of animals without taming them. She writes that the eyes of an Indochinese box turtle evoke “the polished stones you find in a clear stream, and carry with them a hint of a stone’s ancient patience.” Many of Montgomery’s best similes are like this, equating one natural thing to another in a way that suggests a filiating network of correspondences and connections that might ordinarily go unnoticed. But she is equally good at capturing the often transformative experience of human contact with animals….

On more than one occasion I had to put the book down because I was sobbing, sometimes simply because turtles are just that special….

Like all of Montgomery’s work, then, “Of Time and Turtles” is a book that will make you want to be not a better human but a better animal. Hers is an oeuvre that encourages us to contemplate our continuity with other creatures, proving that our responsibility for their well-being is not some God-given, Adamic burden but a consequence of our culpability for damaging the world that they share with us, and we with them.

Next Big Idea ClubSy shares 5 key insights from her new book, Of Time and Turtles, with The Next Big Idea Club, including:

“We all think we know turtles. Everyone has seen them basking on a log. Most of us have seen one, or helped one, as it slowly crossed a road in the spring. But much of what we know about turtles is wrong, and much of what we are learning is astonishing.

“Turtles aren’t just these slow, somewhat hapless creatures who fall over on their backs and can’t get up. There are turtles so fast that they can outrun a 10-year-old in a 100-yard dash. There are turtles who hunt. There are turtles who sleep in trees and have grasping tails to help them climb. There are turtles with googly eyes, turtles who breathe through their butts, turtles who pee through their mouths, and turtles whose shells glow in the dark. Recent research shows that turtles even talk: a test of 50 different species found all of them used vocal communication. Some baby turtles start communicating with their nestmates and mothers before they have even hatched out of their eggs. Scientists have found that at least 15 species of turtles bask in moonlight as well as sunlight; that some turtles learn mazes as fast as lab rats; and that turtles have distinctive personalities, long memories, and deep emotions.”

Inside the Best-Seller ListWhat can writers learn from turtles? The New York Times asked Sy for their column, Inside the Bestseller List. Sy answered:

“Turtles embody patience and fortitude,” Montgomery said during a phone interview. These are endangered traits for all humans, since we’re increasingly distracted by what she described as “little buzzing, wiggling, flicking, blinking gadgets…. As a writer, you can’t have that. You have got to be alone with your thoughts and your words.”

Sy added: “When a turtle looks at you, when a turtle bathes you in its laser focus, when it favors you with its attention, you feel singled out and glorified,” Montgomery said.

BookBub loves Of Time and Turtles: “This book will open your eyes to the hidden beauty of our shelled friends.”

Sy and Matt talk turtles with Tess Terrible host of Where We Live on Connecticut Public Radio. Listen here. And with Robin Young, host of Here & Now on WBUR. Listen here. And also: Sy and Matt join Dan Skinner, host of Conversations, on Kansas Public Radio. Listen here.

Turtles All the Way Up!

Turtles All the Way Up! Of Time and Turtles is a bestseller.

#13 on The New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller list for October 8.

#12 on the Indie Bestsellers List for the week ending September 24.

#4 on the New England Indies Booksellers List for the week ending September 24,

#13 on the Mountains and Plains Indie Bestsellers List.

#14 on the Pacific Northwest Indie Bestsellers List.

Fire Chief lounging on a picnic table.
Fire Chief lounging on a picnic table.
Meet the Fire Chief. A 42-pound, wild snapping turtle, Fire Chief was hit by a truck in 2018, his shell cracked and bloodied, his legs and tail paralyzed. But the 60- to 80-year-old turtle had a lot of life in him. At Turtle Rescue League, Sy and Matt were tasked with his physical therapy—which included exercising with his bespoke wheelchair. Read all about him in Of Time and Turtles. And watch the Chief here in this video.

Sy talks with Krys Boyd, host of KERA’s Think about the patience of turtles and the amazing work of the Turtle Rescue League. Listen here.

Otis has his fall reading picked out.
Otis has his fall reading picked out. From Instagram:

Otis and I are so excited to partner with @marinerbooks and @sytheauthor to give YOU the chance to win a hardcover copy of Sy’s brand new book “OF TIME AND TURTLES.” This book is incredible and includes work from my friend and favorite artist @stoneridgeartstudios! Sy is not only an incredibly talented author but she is the biggest sweetheart I think I’ve EVER met. She’s quite the fan of Otis too, ya know. #otistheturtle #oftimeandturtles #animalbooks #turtlebook #turtles #tortoises #turtlesofinstagram #reptilesofinstagram #saveturtles #turtleconservation #turtlenerd #wildlife #foryou #fyp #giveaway #gardenstatetortoise #babyturtle #babytortoise

Of Time and Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell
Sy’s new book, Of Time and Turtles, will be published on September 19. Watch this short video about the book – 1 minute and 30 seconds – and count all the turtles. This video has more turtles per second than anything else you’re likely to see today. Watch here.

Si Wu, a reporter with Sanlian Youth magazine in Bejing
Sy had a wonderful Zoom talk with her new friend, Si Wu, a reporter with Sanlian Youth magazine in Bejing (circulation 150,000), which publishes articles on culture, history, science, and the arts for teenagers in China. She had copies of several of Sy’s books in Chinese and showed Sy the covers.

Sy and Matt in Hancock’s Old Home Day Parade


Hancock’s Old Home Day paradeHancock’s Old Home Day parade
Hancock’s Old Home Day paradeHancock’s Old Home Day parade


Sy and Matt had fun entering their float of a big paper mâché snapping turtle in Hancock’s Old Home Day parade. With one of the turtle ambulances at Turtle Rescue League in the lead, the snapping turtle –created by Matt Patterson–was heralded by Jason D. Adams playing the tuba and pulled by their young assistants, Ellis and Nora. The Big Turtle was honored as the Most Creative Float at Old Home Day. Everyone loves turtles.

The Denver Book Club gives How to Be A Good Creature three out of four stars. In The Denver Post, reader Neva Gronert says, “Highly recommended for all animal lovers. (And now I want to read her other books.)”

September LibraryReads has chosen Of Time and Turtles

LibraryReads is a list of the top ten books published this month that library staff across the country have voted on as their favorites. For September LibraryReads has chosen Of Time and Turtles.

Sy and Matt read from The Book of Turtles at Balin Books in Nashua, NHSy and Matt read from The Book of Turtles at Balin Books in Nashua, NH

Everyone loves turtles! Another Hardshell Crowd turns out to hear Sy and Matt read from The Book of Turtles. This group is at Balin Books in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Booklist gives Of Time and Turtles a starred review:
Lauded nature writer Montgomery has enthralled readers with her avidly chronicled adventures with octopuses, hummingbirds, and hawks. This time turtles take over her life…. An entrancing storyteller who illuminates facts and feelings with sterling precision, Montgomery recounts dramatic and sweet interactions with these “unlikely, surprising animals,” describing a wondrous array of personalities, including that of the astoundingly resilient, attentive, and gigantic snapper called Fire Chief. … Deeply affected by these highly intelligent, sensitive earthlings, Montgomery contemplates how nature marks “turtle time, renewing the covenants that keep the world alive and offering us the stuff of eternity.”

Find out how Sy answered these questions:
* Would you jump at an opportunity to go into space? Why or why not?
* Have you ever been bitten by an animal, wild or domestic?
* Which of your book subjects or characters haunts you the most?
And more. Read the interview here.

Sy and Matt sign books for the Hardshell Crowd
Sy and Matt sign books for the Hardshell Crowd
Sy met “awesome turtles and awesome people” at the 21st annual symposium on The Conservation of Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Charleston, South Carolina. Sy gave the keynote address about her forthcoming book, On Time and Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell.

Sy talks turtles with Donna Sherman on the Sparks in Action Podcast: Uplifting Each Other One Action at a Time.

Sy honored with the Ruth & James Ewing Arts Awards

Sy has been honored with the Ruth & James Ewing Arts Awards for Literary Arts. This is what the presenter said:

Sy Montgomery’s love of animals was frightfully apparent at an early age. She tells the story of breaking free from her parents at the Franklin Zoo, to be discovered later in the hippo pen, seemingly at ease and undaunted by one of the wild’s most dangerous creatures.

“I was fine, and the hippo was fine,” she says. “My parents were not fine!”
Sy is the author of 35 nonfiction books about nature and animals, and a winner of a Ruth and James Ewing Arts Awards for literary arts this year. Through her extensive travels, she says, “I’ve just met the most incredible people and the most incredible turtles. And I’ve met incredible dolphins, and I’ve met incredible tigers and I’ve met incredible snow leopards. The animals always come through. They always show you something astonishing.”
At one point, she had wanted to be a veterinarian, but her father had been reading her newspaper news stories about animals under threat in the wild. Her calling, as it turned out, was to educate readers, particularly children, about the wonders of animal life.

She majored in magazine journalism, French language and literature and psychology at Syracuse University, where she met her husband, Howard Mansfield, also a winner this evening.

After graduating in 1979, took reporting jobs in New York and New Jersey. While in New Jersey, her father gave her a ticket to Australia, but Sy wasn’t going to be a tourist. She joined Earthwatch, which pairs volunteers with scientific and conservation projects around the world. The organization connected her with a wombat preserve in southern Australia.
“The principal investigator for that project … could see that I was on fire to do this, that I just was in my element and I loved it.”

So, she quit her newspaper job and moved to the Outback. Her newsroom experience influenced her writing, honoring a rule that writing must be understandable.
“Children are just as smart as adults … but they haven’t been alive long enough to have the same vocabulary or to be exposed to so many of the concepts that we take for granted. So, you just put yourself in their shoes,” she says.

Sy takes a field journal with her on all trips and writes a nightly essay. After a couple of years of this, she’s ready to merge them into a book. “You don’t want to start until you kind of know where you’re going to end.”

Water Street Books, Exeter, NHSy and Matt were welcomed by the turtle faithful at Water Street Books in Exeter, New Hampshire.


First Church, Belfast, ME


Sy and Matt enjoyed their visit to Left Bank Books in Belfast, Maine. So many readers came they had to move to a bigger space across the street at First Church. They sold out of The Book of Turtles — but Sy and Matt signed a stack of full-color, oversize, turtle-themed bookplates for the next batch of books that are coming.

Of Time and Turtles sample page

Kids Book A Day is a book blog by Janet Dawson. She’s the librarian at the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Janet recently recommended The Book of Turtles:

Pros: Montgomery has a knack for focusing on facts and information that will be of most interest to readers. The acrylic paintings look almost like photos and show incredible details of a wide variety of turtles. Kids who already love turtles will be thrilled, and others may become fans after reading this book.

Cons: I wish this book had been around during my daughter’s decade-long obsession with turtles.”

Sy signs turtle books for a long line of fans at the American Library Association (ALA) convention in Chicago.
Sy signs turtle books for a long line of fans at the American Library Association (ALA) convention in Chicago.

Reviewers love The Book of Turtles:

Publishers Weekly: “Montgomery and Patterson astonish with this fact-driven turtle tribute…. Every page is an authoritative delight in this conservation-minded ode poised to turn anyone into a turtle lover.”

Also in Publishers Weekly, Kenny Brechner, owner of DDG Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, notes the bestselling children’s books of the season, saying: “The presence of Sy Montgomery’s The Book of Turtles on the list was no surprise both because we put it right by the counter and because it is amazing. What a sublime concordance of information and imagery.”

The Horn Book: “Sometime around 240 million years ago—about the time of the first dinosaurs, and 9 million years before the first crocodile—the shell invented the turtle.” With this cheekily thought-provoking opening sentence, acclaimed science writer Montgomery introduces turtles to young readers.”