How To Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals

illus. by Rebecca Green. 208p. further reading. photos. HMH. Sept. 2018. Tr $20. ISBN 9780544938328.
Gr 7 Up—When asked by a journalist what life lessons animals have taught her, acclaimed writer and naturalist Montgomery hardly skipped a beat in responding, "how to be a good creature." Here the award-winning author elaborates on what she has learned from the animals she has loved and studied. Unable to conform to her parent's idea of how a young daughter should behave, this only child in a military family found her closest ally and a beloved friend in her first dog, a rambunctious Scottish terrier named Molly, and it appears from there on in her destiny was sealed. The author has traveled the world and worked with animals in the remote locations under less-than-ideal, often physically challenging, situations. However, it was the death of two of her beloved pets and a profound depression, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, that nearly brought an end to Montgomery's career. What ultimately saved the writer was a return to work and the "wildness" of nature that she believes keeps us "sane and whole." As Montgomery demonstrates again and again, it's not only the "tools of inquiry and intellect" it's also "heart" that allows us to glimpse into a world that "is aflame with shades of brilliance we cannot fathom."
VERDICT Filled with fascinating stories of encounters and relationships with animals in various locations, this moving memoir will leave readers thinking about life on Earth, the creatures we share the planet with, and that "brilliance" we have yet to fully understand.

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