bookslut in training
Fabulous and Monstrous Beasts
Cool Reads: Sy Montgomery has written a lot of wonderful nature books for both children and adults. She has lately become a mainstay of the Scientist in the Field series from Houghton Mifflin Children’s and her animal loving memoir, The Good Good Pig, was a bestseller in 2007. Recently Chelsea Green has reissued some of her earlier nature titles and after reading Journey of the Pink Dolphins: An Amazon Quest and Spell of the Tiger: The Man-eaters of Sundarbans, I am now a committed Montgomery fan. What makes her standout for me is that Montgomery writes not only about the science of the animals she is investigating but also the mythology and folklore surrounding them, the people who live near them and those who study and manage them. She takes a broad view of nature, seeing the creature and its entire environment. I love the Boston Globe quote about her, that she is “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” If you wonder, like I did, how that is possible then you simply must read these two books.
Teens in particular should embrace Dolphins and Tiger as they carry a heavy dose of adventure from the very beginning. Just getting to the Amazon in order to study the pink dolphins is an exercise in endurance and as for the Sundarbans, the swamp and delta that lies between India and Bangladesh where the only actual man-eating tigers in the world live (and hunt), well it’s right out of a 19th century journal of intrepid woman explorers. The two books excel in stories of wildlife encounters both expected and not (rats and bugs are especially prevalent in the Amazon) but it is the many ways in which Montgomery reaches far beyond the traditional confines of nature reporting that will impress her readers. There is a wealth of fascinating information in both of these books that extends into the realm of how people live with these particular animals and further, how they live with the wild in general. Sy Montgomery is clearly someone with an innate sense of curiosity. Combined with an extraordinarily elegant writing skill (echoes of Barry Lopez) she is a nature writer who must not be missed. Mandatory reading for teens looking for their own summer adventures and especially those worried all the great discoveries have been made. Sy Montgomery is a pied piper for those bored with the same old thing; read her and find the world.
Monday, April 6, 2009
* Journey of the Pink Dolphins by Sy Montgomery. What's interesting here is that Montgomery isn't just writing as a naturalist but includes and enormous amount of mythology and folklore on her subject (and those she meets while studying it) and also some interesting insight into the minds of others who are fascinated by it (ala Susan Orlean). Pink Dolphins is proving to be a surprise - one of my cool reads in the May column.