May 1, 2019

How to Be a Good Creature

a Memoir in Thirteen Animals
by Sy Montgomery

This little book is deeply personal. I've read quite a bit of Sy Montgomery, and always been impressed. It's very obvious she loves animals and feels a close connection to them; this book explains why. Montgomery tells about the dog she loved as a child, problems in the family she grew up in (although she loves them very much) and how inspired and comforted she felt by the animals around her. She tells of the study on emus in Australia that changed the direction of her life, the huge lovable pig she adopted and cared for during fourteen years, a series of border collies she and her husband lived with- each strikingly different in personality and needs. She tells of assisting with a study on tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea, of encountering and holding a giant tarantula in French Guiana, how delicate and beautiful this arachnid was, that most would fear. Of a dazzling fierce weasel that raided her chicken coop one winter- and how she admired it, in spite of the sorrow the chicken's death brought her. And there is the octopus. At first approach, I thought this book was sweet, a lovely affirmation of the connection people can have with other animals. But it is also very sobering- later in the book she tells how the death of some she was very close to, contributed to her plunge into a deep depression, her thoughts of suicide, and how encounters with other animals helped pull her out of that. I didn't know I was going to read about this. So brave of her to write. So important, the other lives around us that touch us for good or ill- the creatures that share our world are so very different, and so much the same.

The illustrations by Rebecca Green are simple, but very charming and expressive. I borrowed this book from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                 200 pages, 2018


  1. Wow, that sounds deeply personal. I think I might like it.

  2. Oh gosh this sounds terrific. I love this title, too, and I'm glad to know in advance that it gets really sad in parts.


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