Guest Photographer: David FitzSimmons
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 backyard—against plain, white backgrounds, producing detailed close-up images that motivate children and their families to appreciate and explore nature. The striking images are the visual foundation of his Curious Critters children’s picture book series. Volume one (2011) won five national book awards and sold over 100,000 copies. Curious Critters Volume Two, featuring amazing animals from across North America, will be released in February.
David FitzSimmons is an award-winning freelance photographer and writer. His first book in the Curious Critters series won the coveted IBPA Bill Fisher Award for best first book (children’s/young adult). A Sigma Pro photographer, David has exhibited works at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the National Center for Nature Photography, and the Telluride Photo Festival. He is a life-long educator, teaching students from kindergarten to college. Currently David is an Associate Professor at Ashland University. He has appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC-TV. You can see more of David’s photography at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.
FitzSimmons’ unconventional approach to wildlife photography allows animals’ colors, textures, shapes, and seeming “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.” The first image in Curious Critters Volume Two is a monarch butterfly preparing for its 2,000 mile flight from Milkweed, Minnesota, to Oyamel Fir Forest, Mexico.
In writing the Curious Critters children’s picture books, David imagined that each critter talked to him during its portrait session and that he just wrote down what was said. The audiobooks for Curious Critters Volumes One and Two capture the sometimes calm, other times excited, and occasionally irascible personalities David envisioned. For the audiobook version of the conversation among four recently-born Eastern cottontail rabbits, David cast his two oldest daughters and two nieces for the voiceovers.
Besides the extraordinary photography, each of the twenty animals in Curious Critters Volume Two gets a chance to tell its story. The indigo bunting talks about calls in his “song neighborhood.” The indigo bunting reports that some “songbirds complain because I repeat myself, but I enjoy saying things twice, sometimes in very long songs. Sweet! Sweet! Chew! Chew! Where? Where? Here! Here! Sweeter! Sweeter! Chew! Chew! What! What! Sweet! Sweet!”
Curious Critters Volume Two is not only entertaining but also educational. Before David began composing the short vignettes accompanying the photos, he reviewed national science education standards. Curious Critters Volume Two meets all the life science standards for grades K-4, making the nonfiction picture book appeal to teachers, librarians, and education-minded parents. In the narrative alongside the green frog, the powerful male boasts about his healthy diet, including eating his own shed skin. “Hey! if it’s nutritious, I eat it.”
Adding to children’s enjoyment of the Curious Critters series, David partnered with nature-folksinger Foster Brown, who sings the predaceous diving beetle’s song, “Row, Row, Row Your Legs.” Beginning and ending both audiobooks is Foster’s catchy Curious Critters theme song, rich with the bluegrass sounds of guitar, banjo, mandolin, and upright bass.
David hopes that his Curious Critters picture books—featuring captivating animals like the vivid Northern Cardinal—will inspire children and adults to conserve nature. “To protect our natural world, we first have to care about it. I hope that my animal pictures allow people to see common animals—from frogs and fish to beetles and birds—in a whole new and meaningful way. It’s my goal that the close-up photography and playful prose in Curious Critters will captivate readers’ imaginations and motivate them to get outside and interact with nature.”
Curious Critters Volume Two (Wild Iris Publishing, hardback, 32 pp., ISBN 978-1-936607-70-9, $19.95) is available in bookstores, nature centers, museum stores, and other specialty shops, as well as online retailers Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Copies bought directly from Wild Iris Publishing are signed by and, if desired, dedicated by David FitzSimmons.
Check out other Curious Critters media, as well as games, parent and educator materials, sample flipping book pages, and other fun stuff at www.curious-critters.com. You can like Curious Critters on Facebook. To hear samples from the Curious Critters audiobooks, including tracks from Curious Critters Volume One, or to purchase MP3s or CDs of the audiobooks, visit the Audiobooks page on www.wildirispublishing.com.
What’s up next for David?
David can’t wait to share a variety of sea creatures with children and families. Coming soon is Curious Critters: Marine. Meet fish, birds, crustaceans and other animals from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Hear what the black sea bass, candy stripe shrimp, pencil urchin, crested puffin, California sea slug, horseshoe crab, roseate spoonbill, blue lobster, and other salty Curious Critters have to say! Available Fall 2014.