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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,114 ratings  ·  442 reviews
National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals--her friends--who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and advent
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Joan I'm afraid of spiders and tarantulas would freak me out. I managed the book fine. I think there is one illustration of Clarabelle, the tarantula in…moreI'm afraid of spiders and tarantulas would freak me out. I managed the book fine. I think there is one illustration of Clarabelle, the tarantula in black and white (which, stipulated might be worse than color in this case.) It kind of was ok, the way Charlotte in Charlotte's web is ok. But I got my eye off the illustration fast, and went on to the story. Or, just skip chapter 4, period. (less)

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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,114 ratings  ·  442 reviews

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Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
The cover of this book is what caught my eye, what a beautiful illustration. There are whimsical drawings throughout the book and a wonderful gallery of photographs of Ms. Montgomery with some of her animal friends at the end of the book.

I won’t go through all of the animals that are mentioned in the book but my favorite was Christopher Hogwood the pig and his very large personality. Even when he had grown huge and powerful he was a gentle pig. Sy describes the two preteen neighbor girls giving
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it

Sy Montgomery writes books and documentaries about animals for both children and adults. In this book, Montgomery shares stories about some of her favorite creatures, including her family pets; an octopus in an aquarium; and creatures in their natural environment.

Sy Montgomery

Montgomery travels around the world to research her books, and has visited the cloud forests of Papua New Guinea; Mongolia's Gobi Desert; Amazon rivers; the Australian Outback; and much more. Every animal Montgomery got to
I had seen the cover of this book, had been drawn in by the illustrations on the cover but knew little about the contents until I read my goodreads friend Dorie’s review. Then I knew I wanted to read it and requested it from the library, thinking that it would be months before it would be my turn, so I was surprised when I received a notification that my turn had arrived!

In the introduction, Sy Montgomery speaks of her travels around the world and how a saying that came to her once has become a
debbicat ☮~Traveling Sister
5 BIG HAPPY stars! If you wanna know how to be good creature, you can learn this from animals, like Sy did with 13 written about here. Such a good book! I must buy a copy. I enjoyed hearing about all 13 of her animal loves. My favorites were the dogs, Christopher Hogwood, the good pig, Octavia the Octopus, and the Clarabelle, the tarantula. So much to learn here and enjoy. "Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalis ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Oh I do hope at least one of my libraries gets this promptly!
Or maybe I'll have to buy it. Direct from Sy, because she should get all the proceeds....
Ok, libraries are buying it, so yay. And it deserves to be in any collection that can afford it. But I have to say, Sy's done better. This is just too brief for me, a sampler if you will. If you're new to her work, by all means read this. Or if you like emotional memoir-ish essays, you'll likely love this.

But if you've already read mo
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating look at one woman's journey with the animals she's met and loved throughout her life. The illustrations are captivating. I can't believe I cried over an octopus!
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are so many wonderful adjectives I could use to describe this book : lovely, engaging, entrancing, profound, and full of discovery. Montgomery has dedicated her life to traveling the world to write about animal life around the globe. She also has had a number of animals in her life including dogs, chickens, and a pig, and lives with her husband on a farm in New Hampshire. The animals she writes about include a Scottish Terrier, Border Collies, emus in the Australian Outback, a pet pig, a G ...more
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
"After Chris and, too soon afterward, Tess had died, the one thing that kept me going was the comforting thought that I could kill myself."

This quote perfectly signifies my confusion with this book and what the author is trying to accomplish. This is not so much an exploration of “how to be a good creature” as much as it is a record of the author’s struggles coping with the aging process and subsequent death of the animals she loved.

I read through a lot of the reviews trying to understand why e
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Author Sy Montgomery’s childhood Scottish Terrier taught her to be tough and independent. Twelve more animals she has shared her life with, including an octopus and a tarantula, have each taught her something about life and herself. Sy truly understands and appreciates animals. This illustrated memoir is so charming and reminded me that to slow down and give my own fur babies extra cuddles is good for the soul, theirs and mine.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Carolyn
How to Be a Good Creature is a book unlike any other I've yet read.

If you know me, you know I've been rescuing hedgehogs for a number of years now. I've worked with animals close to death and brought them back to a happy, healthy state. I've worked with animals that hated everyone, but taught them to love me and accept others. I've worked with any number of these little creatures, and the one thing I can say after having done this for over six years now is that every single one that has come in
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a treat. Having only previously listened to a part of The Soul of an Octopus’ audio before my library loan expired, I knew what Montgomery was about: Animals. Unique experiences. Love.

This book made especially for young readers is wonderful. It chronicles the animals that taught Montgomery throughout her interesting life. Although there are a few of man’s best friend (dogs) count also emus, a tarantula, a pig, an octopus, and a weasel among others. With life lessons, gorgeous illustrations
More like 4.5 stars 🙂

I’m an unabashed animal lover/nutcase with three furkids of my own—of the kind that remains relatively unmoved at the sight of adorable babies, but goes absolutely nutters over dogs, cats, elephants, cows, horses, pigs, frogs, spiders, bears, beetles, bees, marsupials, octopuses, whales, mice, and just about any non-human critter living on this planet (except for roaches and mosquitoes 😖). As such, I absolutely love Sy Montgomery’s books, who’s passion for animals is positiv
Maggie Holmes
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved Soul of the Octopus and I was eager to read this book (thank you Edelweiss for the prepub copy.) I cried and laughed throughout; wanted to go on expeditions to see some of the animals; and marveled at Sy's wonderful supportive group of friends. As my cat meows constantly at me because I've shut him up in a room so he won't eat my muffin, I wonder if cats teach us to be a good creature. I'll have to pay more attention. This book -- like all good nonfiction -- makes you want to go learn mo ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really liked the concept of the book, and the illustrations were lovely, but I felt that the execution could have been better. The prose did very little to capture my attention.
Waverly Fitzgerald
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, memoir
This is one of those books that can change your life. And those are rare.
Sy Montgomery whose work as a writer about animals I knew and admired, here tells with honest and lyrical prose, the story of her life through her relationships with different animals, beginning with her appreciation for the qualities of her childhood pet, Molly the Scottie. The next chapter tells how she discovered her true career (writing about animals) in her twenties while observing a trio of emus in the Australian outb
I received this gift for Christmas and was told that the book looked like me and I agreed! I love the cover! I started reading it before I realized that it was a memoir (I had kinda thought it was more James Herriot-like with stories solely about the animals) and throughout the first story I thought, this person is SO WEIRD, I don't know what to think. I finished that first chapter thinking, "Meh." Then, I realized that this is the author of the "Soul of an Octopus" and other bestselling titles, ...more
I think this would appeal to anyone who has loved Montgomery's animals books, kid, teen, or adult. It is surprisingly personal and intense. I had no idea how much she struggled with depression. She may have forgiven her parents but they certainly seem like nasty people. She had the humility to learn from her animal friends and to love them. She also was incredibly open minded. She became friends with a tarantula, shudder....I'm afraid of spiders....and several octopusi (NEAT!) as well as the sli ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thought-provoking, emotional, and soul-baring, this is a unique and special book. The author relates her unique bonds with a wide variety of animals, from the familiar to the impossibly exotic--and she finds personality and intelligence in each one.

Readers will find themselves reflecting upon their own special friendships with companion animals, as well as glimpses of wildlife--and may even reconsider their own feelings about less cuddly and familiar creatures. The chapter describing experience
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5. Delightful. The illustrations added to the charm.
Sarah Shoo
This book was provided by Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

Sy Montgomery's ability to humanize animals is incredible. I was reluctant to go with her as she learned a lesson from a tarantula, as I'm terrified of spiders, but even I was charmed by Clarabelle.
But it was her later chapters on loss and love that really affected me. Her words on love multiplying and staying with us were poetic.
She was even able to make a tentacled octopus, sucking hickeys into her skin humorous and lovable.

Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
More than just a pretty face (but what a pretty face!), this gentle, lovely memoir highlights the importance animals can have in our lives, even teaching us more about our own humanity. For Montgomery, they are family, friends, teachers, and guides. There are some delightful experiences shared here, as well as some truly dark times, and Montgomery may even convince you to feel for octopodes and spiders what you feel for dogs and cats.
Sandie Buto
Jan 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: animals
Since I have read a number of books by this author, some of these stories felt like re-runs. I do however, feel motivated to read others in her collection. It is hard not to love all the animals she meets.

The pictures in the back of the book were too dark to really scrutinize and I am surprised they were included in such poor quality.
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ahh. A life filled with love, in fact, many lives and many loves, human or otherwise. This is a profound book. It brought me a great deal of joy, sadness, love, and life. The first I've read from Sy Montogomery, but she is a wonderful writer, with a unique sensitivity to life that shines across the pages. I plan on reading more works by her and I highly recommend this author to anyone interested in the lives of animals and creatures of all types.
I really kind of loved this! Sy Montgomery writes about a number of animals that changed her life over the years and I absolutely fell in love with all of them (although Christopher Hogwood might be my favorite). I think Montgomery does an excellent job of showing how much we are influenced by and learn from and through the animals in our lives, and the illustrations are beautiful. This book just made me happy and I am now definitely going to bump several of her other books that I've had on my t ...more
Crossroads Library
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a heartwarming and hopeful book! I cried a bit during this read, but I found myself laughing and smiling so much more even though hard topics were discussed. If you need a little bit of hope in your life, this is a quick read that delivers.

Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've read a few of Sy Montgomery's books before and have enjoyed all of them. This one is a feel good book. With stories of 13 different animals that brought joy to her life, the book can be read in several short sittings. I finished the book with a big smile on my face.
Victor The Reader
Montgomery’s memoir of the animals 🐕 🐖 🕷 🐙 in her life is charming and enticing with beautiful art by Green is a must read for animal lovers. I just loved how each animal’s chapter explains how important and impactful they were in Montgomery’s life and how they behave like people (Grade: A).
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
As a fan of Sy Montgomery's books about animals, I was delighted to read her memoir. I have had the privilege to see her talk about her books and life on several occasions. This book gave me a better knowledge of her as the person behind her books. What an interesting life she is leading.
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Couldn’t put it down. A very sweet little read anyone who finds a special place in their heart for animals will appreciate.
Sonciary Honnoll
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
At times, this book made me chuckle, other times it left me with a huge lump in my throat — holding back tears. I saw How to Be as a love story Sy wrote to honor the amazing creatures she came to know so well. I felt a kindred spirit in her and I loved every word of it.
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Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed b ...more
“Knowing someone who belongs to another species can enlarge your soul in surprising ways.” 3 likes
“I am still learning how to be a good creature. Though I try earnestly, I often fail. But I am having a great life trying...” 3 likes
More quotes…