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Book Review: Curious Critters by David FitzSimmons


By John Kubalak

If your family is anything like ours, you have books strewn all over the house — partly because we have more books than shelf space to store them and partly because we can’t keep up with the kids leaving a trail of books and other random toys, clothes, and debris in their wake. I am, for the most part, a big fan of children’s books, but when our grown-up friends come to visit and wade through the piles of detritus they roll their eyes at Mr. Putter and Tabby or No, David! pushing Jane Austen and Neil Gaiman off the end of the coffee table.

However, those days of eye-rolling may be coming to an end. I’ve just come across a children’s book with photography so attractive and compelling that even our most jaded grown-up friends will be excited to flip through it.

At the heart of David FitzSimmons' Curious Critters is a collection of beautiful photographs of remarkable North American creatures. A professor of English at Ashland University in Ohio, FitzSimmons is a talented photographer who manages to capture the personality of his subjects. I’ve seen photography in this style before — close-ups of the animals against a white backdrop — but as simple as this pictorial  conceit may seem, it’s actually very hard to pull off effectively and Mr. FitzSimmons does a wonderful job of it. It’s also worth noting that he achieved these marvelous photos with animals that were not sedated. He works with zoos, nature centers, and rescue organizations to find and handle the animals safely. Sometimes the subjects come to him, as in the case of the gray treefrog that graces the book's cover — he found it sitting on his daughter’s scooter one day.

My children and I had the good fortune to meet Mr. FitzSimmons at an author event at tThe Children’s Museum, Seattle, where he led several activities and a reading that highlighted the strength of the text for the 4-to-8-year-old target audience. The event was interactive, highly engaging, and ultimately educational — much like all the array of diverse programs and exhibits we've enjoyed as a family at the museum for years.

If you’re looking for something other than Where’s Waldo to grace your coffee table and bring you some quiet aesthetic pleasure in your busy day, Curious Critters is well worth your time.

To learn more about Curious Critters (and see even more of them!),  visit

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