Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
By Sy Montgomery
Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Temple Grandin always knew she was different - she was sensitive to noise and texture, and she found it difficult to express herself in words. A diagnosis would come - autism - but Temple would already be on her way to leading an extraordinary life - one that has inspired many and changed even more.

There is just not enough time in one year to read all the wonderful literature that is published for kids - never mind trying to keep up all the good stuff published for people of all ages. This book is an example of one of 2012's publications that fell through the cracks for me. I kept meaning to pick it up, as it was mentioned on a number of blogs with Newbery buzz but alas, too many books and too little time. However, when I saw it named as a contender in this year's Battle of the Books, I knew I couldn't delay any longer. Happily, this is a rather quick read, so I snuck it in over a couple lunch breaks.

As much as I say I enjoy nonfiction, and especially that written for a younger audience, I don't keep up with it as rabidly as I do with fiction. I guess that's probably to do with the fact that my interest in nonfiction is much more limited. I'm willing to read pretty much any kind of fiction, though, of course, I have my favorites. But with nonfiction, I'm much less adventurous. I tend to stick with what I know or only those topics I'm overwhelmingly interested in. Thankfully, though, when a book is well-done, I'll be able to read and enjoy it no matter what the topic. Such is the case with Temple Grandin.

That's not to say I had no interest - obviously, I've heard of Grandin and know a bit about the pioneering work she's done. Additionally, autism spectrum disorders affect increasingly more people, so it never hurts to learn more about this topic as well. Montgomery has presented a well-rounded portrait of Grandin, covering her childhood, her schooling, and her work as an adult. The text flows nicely, including logical breaks to read sidebars. The pictures are chosen well to highlight the text. Overall, it's a very readable book about a truly fascinating individual.

The only thing I question is how exactly Montgomery got all of her information. There is quite a large bibliography, but it's clear from the text that she also talked to many people Grandin has known throughout her life and presumably, Montgomery also interviewed Grandin herself. None of this is made fully clear anywhere in the book. I would have liked some source notes that reference these presumed interviews somewhere.

As I said, however, this is a very well-done book about a person with whom kids should be familiar. I'm anxious to see how this book will fare in the Battle!

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