Naturalist Sy Montgomery, shown here with a cheetah in Namibia, is the featured author for the Everett Public Library’s 2019 Everett Reads! program. She will offer two free events, including one for children, scheduled for Feb. 9 and Feb. 10. (Photo by Nic Bishop)

Naturalist Sy Montgomery, shown here with a cheetah in Namibia, is the featured author for the Everett Public Library’s 2019 Everett Reads! program. She will offer two free events, including one for children, scheduled for Feb. 9 and Feb. 10. (Photo by Nic Bishop)

Wildlife comes inside for this year’s Everett Reads! program

Sy Montgomery, author of “The Soul of an Octopus” and “The Good Good Pig,” will speak at two events.

Sy Montgomery’s love of creatures — all kinds, tarantula and tapir to a “Good Good Pig” — was part of her life even as a toddler.

“My desire to be with animals started before I can remember,” said Montgomery, a naturalist and author of more than 20 books. Now 60, she said her parents told her about an early childhood incident: “When I first started to walk, I toddled into a hippo exhibit at the Frankfurt Zoo.”

Montgomery, whose works include 2015 National Book Award nonfiction finalist “The Soul of an Octopus,” is the featured author for the Everett Public Library’s Everett Reads! program. With animals as a theme, kids aren’t left out.

Abby Cooley, director of the library, said planners decided the program should include events for children. “We weren’t sure if it would be one or two authors,” Cooley said. “We happened to find an author of both children’s and adult material.”

Montgomery, whose latest book is “How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals,” will speak at two free events. She’ll give a talk at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, followed by a reception hosted by the Friends of the Everett Public Library. And at 11 a.m. Feb. 10, Montgomery will offer a child-friendly event at the Cope Gillette Theatre.

Other animal-themed Everett Reads! events are scheduled, among them a Feb. 2 talk by ornithologist John Marzluff, a University of Washington professor and author of “Welcome to Subirdia.”

From her New Hampshire home Wednesday, Montgomery talked of globe-trotting adventures. They’ve taken her into New Guinea’s cloud forest to radio-collar tree kangaroos, and underwater at the New England Aquarium in Boston, where she made friends with octopuses — she insists the plural isn’t octopi.

Montgomery’s script-writing credits include National Geographic TV documentaries based on her book “Spell of the Tiger,” and “Mother Bear Man” about Ben Kilham, who raises and releases orphaned bear cubs.

As a girl, Montgomery considered becoming a veterinarian. She later decided she could do more for animals as a writer. At Syracuse University, she majored in journalism, French and psychology.

Her curiosity outweighs any fear. She was bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica. In Manitoba, she worked in a pit with 18,000 snakes. Handling a wild tarantula in French Guiana didn’t bug her. “If you know the species, you know which ones are gentle,” she said.

“Obviously if you walk up to some animal that doesn’t know you, don’t pick it up and pet it,” Montgomery said. “Most of the time animals don’t want to attack you and eat you.”

Among her many books for children is “Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed The World.”

Aimed at all readers, her new “How to Be a Good Creature” has lessons learned from 13 animals. “The first one is a dog — I like to talk about dogs as the gateway drug for loving animals,” she said.

She has traveled the world learning about exotic creatures, yet her best-known book may be “The Good Good Pig.” It’s about her beloved Christopher Hogwood, a critter who came into her life as a sickly piglet.

She chronicled close encounters with octopuses in a 2011 Orion magazine article, “Deep Intellect,” and in “The Soul of an Octopus.”

“We actually became friends. They recognize you,” she said. “The fact that you can be friends with someone that different I think is a thrilling message — at a time when we have trouble making friends with a human from a different politicial party.”

Montgomery is married to Howard Mansfield, a writer whose topics include history and architecture. She is keenly interested in the environment. “This is absolutely the most important issue of our time,” said Montgomery, who’s hopeful about the earth’s future.

“We have a solution,” she said. “It’s right in front of us. Each one of us can affect the solution — by what you buy, how you eat, what you drive, how you vote.

“We owe those animals, to fight with every last bit of our strength for this glorious, green, vulnerable, sweet earth,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Everett Reads! events

Jan. 28: Main Library Book Discussion features “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery, 11:45 a.m.-1 p.m. in Everett Public Library training room, 2702 Hoyt Ave.

Feb. 2: “Subirdia” author John Marzluff, ornithologist and University of Washington professor of wildlife sciences, will talk 2-3:30 p.m. in the Everett Public Library auditorium.

Feb. 7: Fun with Fishes, for ages 3-5, will teach about Northwest fish using skeletons and teeth from the Seattle Aquarium. Fish rubbings, storytelling and other fun, 10:30-11:15 a.m., Everett Public Library auditorium. Space limited, register by calling 425-257-8030.

Feb. 7: Create@the Library, arts and crafts for adults, invites participants to “create a good creature,” a theme inspired by author Sy Montgomery. Bring a photo of an animal. Supplies provided. Open to kids ages 12 and older with an adult. Event is 2-4 p.m., Everett Public Library auditorium. Space limited, sign up by calling 425-257-8000.

Feb. 9: Everett Reads! keynote speaker Sy Montgomery, author of more than 20 books including “The Soul of an Octopus” and “How to Be a Good Creature,” will give a free presentation 7-10 p.m. at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave. Books available for sale and signing. Friends of the Everett Public Library will host an open-to-all reception after her talk.

Feb. 10: Families are invited to a children’s program with author Sy Montgomery, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Everett’s Cope Gillette Theatre, 2730 Wetmore Ave. Her books for kids will be available for sale and signing.

Feb. 16: Insect Safari for ages 4 and older, with entomologist Don Ehlen and more than 2,100 specimens, 2-3 p.m., Everett Public Library auditorium.

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