Grandin, Temple and Catherine Johnson. Animals in Translation. Harcourt, 2005.

Review published Mar 2007.

Temple Grandin is probably best known for two things: she is autistic and she has studied and worked with animals. Her best-known achievement is improving the treatment of cattle being prepared for slaughter. This book begins with a description of how she studied the animals' responses to movements, reflections, and colors in order to redesign the cattle chutes. In a matter-of-fact voice, she tells us that autistic people think more like animals than normal people do, because autistic people think in pictures rather than in language.

This simple-sounding observation not only describes her approach, but helps readers begin to understand some of the behaviors of autistic people. Using examples from her own life, she shows how even something like a piece of white plastic blowing in a breeze could startle an animal or an autistic child. She quotes work by other animal scientists to provide a fascinating array of animal behaviors. (Her section on superstition in animals is especially entertaining).

She includes much material about dogs -- selecting a pet, the damage done by over-breeding for certain traits, training and socializing a dog.

One striking element of the book is the flat and unemotional tone of her observations, helping us remember her unique outlook on her work and on her world.