Look! Adorned with compelling art by the inimitable Matt Patterson, here’s the brand-new cover for Sy’s September nonfiction book, Of Time and Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell (Mariner Books/HarperCollins). You can pre-order online, ask your local indie bookseller, or come meet Sy and Matt at their local bookstore, The Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, New Hampshire.
The Good Good Pig has just had its 23rd paperback printing. There are now 125,000 paperbacks in print.
Sy enjoyed catching up with the amazing Temple Grandin at the Tucson Book Festival. A dozen years ago, Sy first got to know Temple when she was writing Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World.
Last week Sy and her friend the artist Rosemary Conroy visited a few humpback whales out in the ocean down toward the Dominican Republic.
Sy visits NASA’s Goddard Center – Virtually. She’ll be talking about How to be a Good Creature, Wednesday, March 8, 10 to 11 am. You can watch here.
And on Saturday, March 18, Sy will be at:
Sy says: “One of the most exciting (human) encounters of my life was meeting Alan Alda and introducing him to Rudy the Giant Pacific Octopus. He and producer Graham Chedd had me as a guest again on his splendid podcast Clear and Vivid — which can be heard February 21.” Listen to all the great episodes of Alan’s podcast.
Creatures on the move. Coming out in paperback this year: Condor Comeback (May), The Hyena Scientist (August), Becoming a Good Creature (September), and next spring, The Magnificent Migration (April 2024).
You can now listen to Sy reading one of her earliest books, Search for The Golden Moon Bear, which was published in 2002. Listen to a sample.
Wayback Machine. Sy recently came across this old newspaper clipping from The Boston Globe, circa 1996. Back then Sy was writing a nature column for the Globe’s science section. A reader wrote in to find out if she was related to another of the Globe’s writers:
Sy is delighted to see The Hawk’s Way honored by The Christian Science Monitor as one of the Best Books of 2022. Check out all the good books here.
Love Little Lives. Sy enjoyed her visit to the Concord Museum to sign books and meet some of her fans at the annual Family Trees gathering. The Concord Museum, fresh off a sparkling expansion, looked festive with Christmas trees throughout. This one is decorated to celebrate Sy’s book, Becoming a Good Creature. Christopher Hogwood rules the tree from on high. Sy was the honorary chair of this year’s event. “Family Trees is one of the happiest and funnest events I know,” Sy says. “Kids, holidays, and reading–what could be better? What an honor it is to be honorary chair of this wonderful event. I can’t wait to connect with all the families this year and hang out with the kids amid the beautiful, decorated trees–presided over by the surely-smiling spirits of Emerson and Thoreau.”
Everybody out of the pool! Sy’s baby Blanding’s turtles, who she’s head-starting (with a Massachusetts state permit) for release in the spring, enjoy basking together on their platform in the full-spectrum light of the heat lamp. Sy says: “I love them so much!”
An Island Meets an Octopus. The Nantucket Atheneum has announced its choice for its 2023 One Book, One Island community read. This winter Nantucket’s readers have voted to read and discuss, The Soul of an Octopus.
What a treat for Sy to share a panel and book signing with two greats — Tony Hiss (Rescuing the Planet) and Jack Davis (The Bald Eagle). Sy thanks to everyone at the Miami Book Fair.
Sy loves the lyrics and music by the gifted Britt Connors Music in this new song that was inspired by The Hummingbirds’ Gift and Robert Frost. Soon to be on her new album.
The Urda family bedecked this beautiful tree with scenes from Sy’s Becoming a Good Creature. Each December, Friends of the Townsend, Ma., library and senior center invites visitors to enjoy over 50 trees decorated with scenes and characters from favorite books.
Sy met her buddy Fire Chief, a snapping turtle, in rehab at a turtle hospital. She helped the Chief do physical therapy to strengthen his legs. Fire Chief was injured when a truck ran him over. “Fire Chief looks as big as a dinosaur, but he’s gentle as a puppy,” says Sy. A few months ago, Fire Chief left the hospital. He now lives in a pond that Matt Patterson, turtle artist supreme, dug for him. Above: Fire Chief with Matt and his wife Erin, and with Sy and Matt.
Sy’s friend, the incredibly talented author and translator, Heide Sommer, at her recent reading from her translation of Soul of an Octopus at a 17th Century Lutheran chapel in Itzehoe, Germany. She found an enthusiastic audience of octo-lovers.
An excerpt from Tamed and Untamed, which Sy wrote with her best friend Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, was recently published in Revista de Universidad de Mexico — a monthly publication devoted to the dissemination of science and culture. It is affiliated with the prestigious Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and directed by the esteemed writer Guadaloupe Nettel. Read the Spanish translation here.
What genres do you especially enjoy reading and which do you avoid?
I avoid romance novels. The books I really enjoy are either about animals or science fiction. I loved Merle’s Door, by Ted Kerasote. Many dogs today live really restricted lives and they have no normal dog social life. Another favorite is The Soul of the Octopus, by Sy Montgomery. It really made me think about consciousness. Read more about the other books Temple likes, here.
Sy addresses the Nation. What better way to start off Octopus month than to address the ‘Nation—OctoNation, that is. Sy Loved talking with founder Warren Carlyle and the good folks who adore cephs of all kinds, but especially our fav! Happy Octopus month, friends. OctoNation® – The Largest Octopus Fan Club! ·
Warren K Carlyle IV Have you read Soul of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery? Well you’re in for a treat! Watch here: https://fb.watch/fUxevce3XK/
Sy is just back from making some fabulous new friends in New Jersey. She says “it was a blast watching 800 students at the James Caldwell High School file in to meet me in the auditorium.” The whole school read Sy’s How to be a Good Creature over the summer. She even got to meet this lovely bearded dragon in a science class.
Sy is honored to lead off the new Radiolab show by the always amazing Lulu Miller: Terrestrials. The first show is about octopuses. Give it a listen. Lulu has such a lively, smart approach; she could be part octo herself. Oh, and listen with your kids. This is a kid’s show.
And watch this jaunty Octo video by Terrestrials.
Octos (and Hawks and More) Rock Her World. Andrea Barrett, a novelist and short story writer who won the National Book Award for Ship Fever, admires writers of natural history. The New York Times Book Review asked her about what she is reading. Among the questions:
Are there researchers or popular science writers you especially admire?
Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life rocked my world; ditto Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk, Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and Scott Weidensaul’s A World on the Wing. I’ll read anything written by Jonathan Weiner or Richard Panek. Rachel Carson remains a touchstone.
Sy is honored to have her words from The Hummingbird’s Gift provide a home for an immured sonnet, written by nurse Alex Butler to welcome his new baby daughter. Don’t know what an immured sonnet is? Read on!
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.
How to be a Good Creature is now out in Korea.
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.
The Hawk’s Way takes flight. Watch Sy and the hawk Mahood in this fine short video from the Emmy-winning SALT film production team here or here.
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.
Publishers Weekly interview with Sy.
New Hampshire Union Leader interview.
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.
Sy thanks Gibson’s Bookstore for a fabulous, enthusiastic crowd at Tuesday’s reading. Sy also signed a pile of books there for those who couldn’t attend, so come get a copy if you’re in Concord.
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.