Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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

The first time I heard the fireworks go off at the Chinese temple next to school, the deafening noise made me cover my ears and flee to the quiet indoors. It sounded like the start of World War III. When Temple Grandin hears noises they are amplified; a ringing school bell can sound like the Chinese fireworks did to me. She has autism and describes the pain loud sounds cause her. Autism can cause a super sensitivity not only to sound but light, touch and other senses. For Temple the touch of clothes hurts her skin. Temple compares her nervous system to an animals. She explains how this allows her to think and feel like an animal; plus she sees images in her head instead of words which is how animals process the world around them. Her autism is what makes her unique and has led to her inventing world-class facilities designed for livestock being slaughtered that are cruelty-free and humane. Her story explains how she has become one of the most influential people in the treatment of livestock today.

This biography traces Temple's life from a young girl to successful professor with a powerful narrative that allows the reader to see more closely what it is like for an autistic person dealing with hypersensitivity to the world around her, as well as, having difficulties understanding other people's thoughts and expressions. The author addresses misconceptions about autism and explains that the causes of it come from the brain growing too fast at the wrong time which creates problems in the cortex. Temple is also painted as a person who doesn't care what others think, does not give up, and works hard.

Honestly, I didn't think I would like this book so much. But I did. Much of this is due to excellent writing. The narrative of the story shows how Temple made friends and was teased when growing up. The author's voice is not preachy or even apparent, at least to this reader. The emotional punch comes from the story itself and the seamless intertwining of facts with the narration make for a fast and fascinating read.

I've read a quite a few great books recently with covers that have adult-appeal, not kid-appeal. Crow. No Crystal Stair. Now this one. How the heck am I supposed to sell a book with that kind of cover to a 10-year old? Cows? Come on... really? I hate it when I have a great book but know that I'm going to have to book talk and gush about it ad nauseum to get any kid to read it. Too bad they don't use the Internet and survey kids with different covers getting their input on what makes an attractive book. I know that my adult perspective is quite different than theirs and find it fascinating when I solicit them. That might make a fun lesson. Have students say what they like about covers of books and write a persuasive essay to a publisher on what makes a good cover. Ummmm, I'm drifting off topic, aren't I? Anyhoo, read this book. Temple is quite a firecracker. Har. Har.

5 out of 5 Smileys

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