Monday, October 22, 2012

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
by Sy Montgomery
148 pages

Houghton Mifflin

Publisher's description: 

When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead. Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Her world-changing career revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make. This compelling biography complete with Temple’s personal photos takes us inside her extraordinary mind and opens the door to a broader understanding of autism.

My comments:

I've enjoyed several of Montgomery's books about animals (especially Kakapo Rescue and The Good Good Pig) so I figured she would be a perfect fit to write about Temple Grandin's passion for animal welfare. I was not disappointed. Her writing is always engaging and warm, and I was immediately sucked in to her account of Grandin's life. I was especially struck with her description of how Grandin felt, as an autistic child, to be constantly overwhelmed by sensory data.

Montgomery makes clear to readers that people with austism make up a wide spectrum, from geeky but gifted kids to people who barely talk. The boarding school that Grandin attended in New Hampshire after being expelled from high school is compared to Hogwarts. Before Harry Potter went to Hogwarts, he was confused by his strange abilities and felt out of place. Once he went to a school where he could learn to harness his abilities, he was better able to cope in the larger world.

The book design is very eye-catching, and it's full of color photographs and Grandin's own diagrams. I found the section about the dip vat she designed to be very enlightening.  Montgomery tells the story of how Grandin was hired to design a new dip vat for delousing cows that wouldn't frighten them and result in deaths like the old vats did. Her keen eye for detail and ability to think in pictures, benefits of her autism, allowed her to see exactly what about the dip vat frightened the cows. The accompanying images were very helpful in explaining how the dip vat works

There are several cool extras included,as well,inclduing a page of facts about factory farming and a section of advice for kids with autism from Temple Grandin herself. Grandin also wrote the forward, and seems to have cooperated with Montgomery throughout the book's creation, posing for pictures and allowing photographs to be taken of her home.

A thorough bibliography and index are appended.