Coinciding with the launch of their first joint book, “The Book of Turtles,” New York Times bestselling writer Sy Montgomery and award-winning illustrator Matt Patterson will be visiting the Olympic Peninsula this week.
Locals have three days of opportunities to attend events with the pair as Peninsula College hosts them this week for the long-established Writer in Residence program.
Montgomery is on campus May 16-18 and will share her wilderness adventures at a Studium Generale presentation set for 12:35 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at the college’s Little Theater, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles. The event is free and open to the public.
Montgomery has visited the area before.
“I had a splendid visit to Sequim, to talk about my book ‘The Soul of the Octopus,’ after it was published in 2015,” Montgomery said. “What a gorgeous part of the world! I am so delighted to be back.”
Patterson, a two-time winner of the Roger Tory Peterson Wild American Art Award (2017, 2018), said that this is his first time to visit the area and he’s excited to visit.
“I did travel through Washington on a road trip many years ago but it’s such a huge and beautiful state, that I’m excited to see more of it.”
Patterson said that he and Montgomery met several years ago at an art festival in which he was participating. (The two live in the same town in New Hampshire.)
At the time, he had just read “Soul of an Octopus” and loved it.
“Once we met, we instantly realized how much we had in common and how much we both were animal and nature people,” Patterson said.
“Sy is an amazing person who has written over thirty books all about animals,” said Patterson. “If you read her bio on her website, she is kind of like the Indiana Jones of authors. She is fascinated by everything in nature and her curiosity and enthusiasm is addictive.”
Montgomery called Patterson a “turtle savant.”
She said, “Matt’s artwork is so realistic that when images of his paintings in process are shown with his hand in them, his hand looks fake and the turtle looks real.”
A turtle page-turner
“The Book of Turtles” is a 40-page picture book marketed for children, but there is plenty of informative text older people can appreciate while waiting for “Of Time and Turtles, Mending the World Shell by Broken Shell,” slated to be released in September.
“This is a narrative nonfiction for adults that is also illustrated by me with pen and ink illustrations, two color illustrations and the cover illustrations. We lived the stories in this book during the pandemic,” Patterson said.
“It’s about amazing people and turtles we met while working at a turtle hospital, learning at a breeding center for the world’s rarest turtles, raising hatchling turtles for release and rescuing cold stunned sea turtles from the beach.”
Many ancient cultures, Patterson said, believed that the world was on the back of a turtle — “which might be true,” he said, “because turtles really do support the world.
“They are crucial to many ecosystems and some turtles are keystone species. One example is the gopher tortoise. Over 360 other species of animals completely rely on the gopher tortoise for survival. Helping turtles gives us the chance to help take our part in upholding the health of our planet.
“We loved working on ‘The Book of Turtles,’ and learned so much about these amazing animals,” he said, detailing some of what the book covers: amazing turtle abilities, how turtles speak, each individual turtle having its own personality, how to help turtles, turtle celebrities and turtle evolution.
“We met many turtles while researching this book and had many turtle adventures. Everyone can recognize a turtle and most everyone loves turtles but turtles are full of surprises.”
A third book, about a turtle named Fire Chief, will be coming out in two years, according to Patterson. “This book is about an amazing 42 pound common snapping turtle that regained use of his paralyzed back legs after being hit by a car at the Turtle Rescue League.”
Montgomery wrote that she perceives a cultural shift over her lifetime on the subject of animal intelligence.
“I was born in 1958 — two years before Jane Goodall set foot in Gombe to study the famous chimpanzees in Tanzania,” Montgomery said. “Her first, groundbreaking article on tool use in animals was rejected because she named her animals like people rather than number them like rocks!
“Today, recognizing that each animal is a unique individual, with thoughts, feelings, and personality, is job one of every scientist studying animal behavior. This marks a sea change in our understanding of the living world.”
Patterson said that one the things that connects him with nature and fills him with “a sense of wonder, joy and appreciation” is that “we humans, although newcomers to this planet are part of it.”
While many people may think people are separated from nature, it’s the opposite, he said.
“We are connected. We are part of it and another species alongside millions,” Patterson said. “When I hold a turtle I think. wow, we are distantly related. We are similar in so many ways.”
To learn more about Montgomery or to view her schedule while in the area, visit symontgomery.com.
To view more of Patterson’s work, visit mpattersonart.com.