Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Curious Critters Volume Two

Award-winning author and photographer David FitzSimmons has a unique approach to animal portraiture, and he loves sharing it with kids. Instead of seeking rare animals in exotic locations, David photographs common animals—many found in your own back yard—against plain, white backgrounds, producing detailed close up images that are simply striking. Volume one of “Curious Critters” won five national book awards.

FitzSimmons’ unconventional approach allows animals’ colors, textures, shapes, and “personalities” to shine through. “Kids focus on the animals. That’s when the learning begins,” David explains, “They focus on and notice clues about animals’ behaviors, diets, life cycles, and habitats.”

Besides the extraordinary photography, each of the twenty Curious Critters gets a chance to tell its story. Take, for example, the proud papa Northern cardinal, who explains how he and his “crested cutie” built their nest:

As I flew in with twigs, then leaves, then grapevine bark, and, finally, grass and pine needles, my singing sweetie put our cup-shaped nest together.

Then, after laying three eggs, my orange-beaked beauty began sitting on our eggs while I brought her seeds to eat. A dozen days later, our hatchlings pecked their way out. They looked so cute!

Curious Critters 2 includes the airline pilot Monarch butterfly:

Air traffic control, this is Monarch Flight 1 preparing for takeoff, flying from Milkweed, Minnesota, to Oyamel Fir Forest, Mexico. The estimated flight time for our two-thousand mile journey is just over two months.

Then there’s the buccaneer bluegill, who’s the pirate the pond:

Ahoy! Call me Cap’n Bluegill. I ply these waters looking for good eatin’. Me tall, flat body and me ruthless rigging—you know, me fearsome fins—allow me to sail smartly and steer sharply. If a snail, a worm, or a dragonfly larva dares to dally in me waters, I chase ’em down, then suck ’em in. Gulp!    

Other characters include the muscle-bound green frog with an East-coast accent, the American Kestrel with his high dive circus act, the sidewinder magician, and the leucistic gray squirrel, who grows weary of people thinking that her white color means she’s an albino.

Of all the characters, however, children may delight in the four Eastern cottontails the most.

As cute as the bunnies are, their childlike conversation about coprophagy—yes, rabbits eat their own poop!—is sure to have young children and parents groaning with delight.

You mean we eat our own . . . feces?!
Feces? What are feces?
You know . . . poop.
Who said that?
I did. That’s what I heard.
Yep. By eating grasses twice, we get more nutrients the second time through. All rabbits do it. What’s wrong with that?
That’s disgusting!

Curious Critters 2 is filled with other fascinating fauna, including a beautiful butterfly, a Spanish-speaking armadillo, a mathematical moth, a bellowing alligator, a back flipping beetle, and other amazing animals.

Curious Critters 2 is not only entertaining but also educational. Before David began composing the short vignettes accompanying each photo, he reviewed national science education standards. Curious Critters addresses all the National Research Council’s life science standards for grades K-4.

For more information visit:


David FitzSimmons is an award-winning freelance photographer and writer as well as a university professor. He  photographs and writes for various magazines, including Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and Shutterbug, newspapers, and online publications, and his over-100 calendar credits include numerous titles by BrownTrout and Barnes & Noble.

A former high school English teacher, David has been in education for twenty years. He is a professor at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio. David holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University, with a specialty in narrative theory—investigating the components of storytelling—something that influences his photography and writing.

One of five Sigma Pro photographers in North America, David presents seminars and workshops to a wide variety of audiences, from public school groups and college classes to nature centers and civic organizations. His works have been exhibited at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the National Center for Nature Photography, and the Telluride Photo Festival, among other venues. David’s environmentally focused, multi-media performance, “350: Images of Fragile Earth,” travels widely. In 2011 David’s children’s book, Curious Critters, received a silver medal in the 2011 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards competition.

David was inspired to photograph and write about nature by his parents, Mick and Judy FitzSimmons, active environmentalists and life-long teachers, and he is assisted in his natural history endeavors by his wife, Olivia, a naturalist, and his two daughters, Sarah and Phoebe.

My Thoughts

Curious Critters Volume 2 by David Fitzsimmons is a book all about the animals and insects in our world. It gives you an up close and personal look at some of the interesting species of our planet, like owls, crocodiles, squirrels, fish, and more . Each animal gets two pages dedicated to them. One is a large, beautiful photo. The other side is a little rhyme that gives you some info on each creature. In the back of the book, you will find more detailed information about the animal's life, diet, and the part of the world where they live.

 My children absolutely loved this book. The oldest daughter is eleven and she read it to her younger siblings. Even though she has moved onto chapter books, she found this picture book entertaining and educational.  My toddler loves the photographs and got more and more excited every time we turned the page.  There are some books I have purchased that my kids have never looked at again. But this one, they just keep going back to. Its quickly become one of their favorite books.

If you would like to check out this amazing book and its stunning photography for yourself, you can visit the Curious Critters website. There you can find free games, information for teachers, and samples pages of the book. You can order Curious Critters on the website for only $19.95.