Monday, March 19, 2012

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World - a review

Most biographies for kids of living subjects, have several things in common.  They are small in size and page number, they have flashy covers, the information they contain can be easily gleaned by combing the Internet, they feature the latest sports, music, TV, or movie stars, their "shelf-life" is limited.  Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World is not most biographies.

Montgomery, Sy. 2012. Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist, a college professor, a motivational speaker, an engineer, an advocate for animal rights, and so much more - but as a child born in the 1940s with autism, her chances of becoming anything at all were slim.  In fact, her father fought to have her sent away to a mental institution, thinking her, not brilliant, but "retarded." With the help of a determined mother, Temple grew up to be a brilliant and respected woman who has changed our world for the better. 

With extensive access to Temple Grandin, her family and friends, and schools, author Sy Montgomery has crafted an inspiring, engaging, and informative biography about this singular woman.

Temple Grandin is thirteen chapters that tell the story of Temple's life and the autism that has shaped her destiny.  Not strictly chronological, Temple's participation in the writing of the book is an added bonus as her present-day thoughts are often used to punctuate difficult experiences from her past

"If I could snap my fingers and be non-autistic," Temple says today, "I wouldn't do it.  It's part of who I am."
Chapters relate her unique education, her friends, her scientific experiments and engineering projects, her autism and its attendant challenges.  Chapters are supplemented by short informational sections (which appear as pages torn from a spiral bound notebook) on such varied topics as "Thinking differently:Changing Views of Brain Differences" and "Factory Farming by the Numbers."  The final chapter, "Temple Today" is followed by Temple's advice, a selected bibliography and resources, and acknowledgements. Photographs, plans and drawings are plentiful throughout the book. Photo credits and an index will be included in the final copy.

It is clear that Ms. Grandin is pleased with Sy Montgomery's rendering of her life.  Temple Grandin, herself, is the author of the inspirational forward to Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World.

One thought that I could not shake after reading this book: What would have become of Temple Grandin had she not been born into a wealthy family with a mother who refused to lose hope?  How many young geniuses were/are never able to find their potential?  It is a credit to Temple Grandin that she is a willing and able spokesperson for those on the autism spectrum, hoping to promote an understanding of our collective neurodiversity.

Who should read this book?

  • librarians
  • teachers of children on the autism spectrum
  • parents of children on the autism spectrum
  • kids and teens on the autism spectrum
  • kids and teens who know someone on the autism spectrum
  • animal lovers
  • readers interested in animal rights
  • readers studying factory farming
  • would-be engineers and scientists
  • students with biography assignments
  • in short, everyone!
Highly recommended. Due on shelves, April 3, 2012.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at EMU's Debuts.


  1. I've heard interviews with Ms. Grandin on NPR. She is a fascinating subject and this books sounds terrific. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks for visiting! I stopped by your site today, but couldn’t think of anything nice to say about spiders! ha! ha!

  3. This sounds like a fab book. The way autism is treated in Japan today is very similar to the way it was treated in North America in decades past, so it is great to have a biography of someone who was successful at overcoming barriers. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi! My academic group (department) here in Singapore is Early Childhood and Special Needs Education - and this sounds like a book that would be a great resource for some of our special-needs teacher-students who deal with autistic children. Will pin this in my Pinterest Board. :)

  5. Medea and Myra, It's always so interesting to hear views from other countries. Thank you. (and I have got to put Pinterest on my "to do" list!)

  6. Neurodiversity - love that! I've been reading stuff about kids with dyslexia and recognizing the differences in how brains work, not necessarily worst or wrong, just differently.
    Thanks for this recommendation.
    Apples with Many Seeds


Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...