When we’re granted access to the animal kingdom, the scene is often a jungle of competing impulses. From an array of colors, shapes, and forms meant to camouflage, to a cacophony of sounds and movement that confuses and sometimes overwhelms, nature can be distracting, especially to children whose attention spans are limited in the first place. Distilling all of this to the animals and insects that call the wild home is award-winning photographer and author, David FitzSimmons. His children’s book series, Curious Critters, documents a range of critters with a series of portraits, taken on stark white backdrops so as to eliminate distractions. The portraits offer superb detail of the animal subjects, letting readers observe their subtleties, learning from the visuals as they turn each page. From the bumpy, lumpy skin of an American toad, to the inquisitive look from a Chinese praying mantis, the books give the reader an up-close look at animals and insects that call North America home. Accompanied by text seemingly spoken straight from the animal in question, the books offer a beautiful collection of the animal kingdom, coupled with fun facts about the species, a natural history section at the back book that discusses each critter’s unique traits and niche in the natural world, and games to test the readers’ mental dexterity.
Loggerhead sea turtle photographed at The Turtle Hospital in Marathon for Curious Critters Marine.
“Children are mesmerized as they stare eye-to-eye with a crab, a cormorant, or an angelfish. I try to photograph the animals on eye-level so kids can connect emotionally with the critters,” said FitzSimmons. “The goal is to foster children’s biophilia—to get young readers to fall in love with nature.”
FitzSimmons will be headed to the Palm Beach Zoo on Saturday, January 23, for a special presentation of his latest book, Curious Critters Marine [$17.99; Wild Iris Publishing], the third book of the series. He will be on hand for a reading, complete with puppets to bring the pages to life, as well as take home activities for children and families to continue their nature examination. The zoo will take the reading one step further with live interactions with some of the animals featured in the book.
Spork, the Palm Beach Zoo’s resident roseate spoonbill, featured in David FitzSimmons’ Curious Critters Marine.
Curious Critters Marine, which features an array of aquatic animals, both above and below the surface, is perfect for burgeoning South Florida naturalists. The pages brim with critters found on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including Palm Beach Zoo’s resident roseate spoonbill, Spork, which was photographed at the zoo for the book. The books give kids an insider’s look at the animals in question, acting as a “a snorkel, fins, and mask” for reader, while the bit of levity from the text—written from the animal’s point-of-view—keeps them engaged. FitzSimmons believes these books tap into a child’s psyche, not just fostering a sense of imagination, but future conservationists to boot.
A spread from Curious Critters Marine.
“Up to ninety percent of kids’ dreams are about animals. My books allow children to experience nature, particularly animals, through reading,” said FitzSimmons. “Of course, actually peering at a sea star or listening to a cormorant call are great ways for children to connect with nature, but these experiences should be supplemented with nature reading.”
- FitzSimmons will join the Palm Beach Zoo on January 23 at 11:30 a.m. for a special Story Time at the Zoo. For more information, visit palmbeachzoo.org.
All photos courtest of David FitzSimmons
FitzSimmons, a Sigma Pro, will also be on hand for the Palm Beach Photographic Centre’s twenty-first annual FOTOfusion symposium from January 19-23, leading multiple workshops and lectures throughout. For more information about FOTOfusion, visit workshop.org.
- On Tuesday, January 19, FitzSimmons will lead the workshop “Curious Critters: Producing Your Own Animal Portraits.” Photographers will learn the techniques and purpose of photographing animals against white backgrounds, while participating in a photo shoot with live animals.
- On Wednesday, January 20, FitzSimmons will lead a lecture on “Wild, Wonderful Waterfalls,” taking the audience on photographic journey of North America’s cascades. The lecture will discuss composition, exposure, lighting, filters,
- and post-processing software, as well as how to turn those photographs into published works.
- On Thursday, January 21, join the lecture on “Macro Photography: Little Worlds, Lots of Wonder!” As illustrated in his Curious Critters book series, FitzSimmons is a master at close-up imagery. In this lecture he will discuss macro field techniques and talk about best lenses, accessories, and software for making macro images, alongside a compendium of his work, from wildflowers to wildlife.