In 2011 I released my first children’s picture book, CURIOUS CRITTERS, which featured close-up photographs of twenty-one animals. All the shots were taken with Sigma gear. The book really took off with children and families across North America. Within four months we sold out. To-date, we’ve sold over 100,000 copies.
More amazing animals—from cute cottontails to a babbling bunting—posed for portraits. Good thing photographer and writer David FitzSimmons recorded what each of the Curious Critters had to say! American alligator photographed at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida. Nikon D800E, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM @ 24mm. f/22, 1/250 sec., ISO 100. Lastolite Cubelight light tent. Two Dynalite strobes. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw, Photomatix Pro 4.2, and Photoshop CS5, Nik Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied.
Today CURIOUS CRITTERS Volume Two launches. The second book in the series features twenty animals, ranging from an indigo bunting to a bluegill, from a striped skunk to a sidewinder. Again, all the images are taken with Sigma equipment.
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. Monarch. Sigma SD1. Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro. f/16, 1/160 sec., ISO 100. Lastolite Cubelight light tent. Two Dynalite strobes. Processed in Sigma Photo Pro 5.5, Photomatix Pro 4.2, and Photoshop CS5, Nik Viveza plug-in applied.
Audio Sample of Curious Critters Monarch
When I was a child, my mother, Judy, an elementary school teacher, used to take me to the largest children’s literature conference in North America. It was held at Ohio State University. I would sit in awe of the great figures in children’s literature, but, as I grew older, I puzzled over why so little of the artwork for young readers was photography. As I began work on my first children’s book, I vowed to help correct that.
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!” Indigo Bunting photographed at Back to the Wild Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Castalia, Ohio. Sigma SD1, Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro, f/16, 1/160 sec., ISO 100. 2 Dynalite strobes. Lastolite Cubelite light tent. Processed in Sigma Photo Pro 5.1 and Photoshop CS5.
Audio Sample of Indigo Bunting
In my CURIOUS CRITTERS picture books, I hope to bring artful photographs—not just documentary photographs but strong images with good composition, intriguing subjects, and amazing details—to readers.
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. Eastern Cottontails photographed at Brukner Nature Center, Troy, Ohio. Nikon D2X, Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro. Lastolite Cubelite light tent.
Audio Sample of Eastern Cottontail from Curious Critters
Simultaneous with the release of CURIOUS CRITTERS Volume Two, I will be releasing audiobooks of both the first and second volumes. Alongside each of the close-up photos of the animals are short narratives, in which the animals tell readers about themselves. They are intended to be fun and educational. Working with Audio Recording Studio, the recording studio of the Cleveland Orchestra, I assembled voiceover talent to help create the different voices of the twenty-one critters in the first volume and the twenty in the second volume.
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.” Cardinal photographed at Brukner Nature Center, Troy, Ohio. Nikon D2X, Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro. f/16, 1/250 sec., ISO 100.
Audio Sample of Northern Cardinal in Curious Critters
The voices range from the bi-lingual armadillo to the buccaneer bluegill, from bellowing ‘gators to a long-winded indigo bunting, and from a limerick-spouting striped skunk to a baby bluebird, still inside it’s egg, telling a knock-knock joke. Sample audio tracks, including the new CURIOUS CRITTERS theme song, accompany the animals depicted here.
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.” Nikon D2X, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro. f/22, 1/30 sec., ISO 100. Lastolite Cubelight light tent. Processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop CS5, Nik Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied.
Audio Sample of Green Frog from Curious Critters
I am delighted when parents tell me how much their children enjoy my books. Children are born with an innate love of nature, which is evident in kids as young as two years old. So-called “biophilia” is apparently hard-wired into us, meaning that we are happier and more fulfilled when we are experiencing nature. I hope that CURIOUS CRITTERS may help more children grow to love the natural world more fully…not to mention learn about the great fun of photography!
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.
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. Predaceous Water Beetle. Nikon D2X, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro. f/14, 1/250 sec., ISO 100. Lastolite Cubelight light tent. Processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop CS5, Nik Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied.
Audio Sample of Diving Beetle in Curious Critters
Coming soon! As I honed my skills at high key photography, I started photographing aquatic animals. I visited zoos, aquariums, research centers, and other places specializing in marine animals, and learned about really cool underwater critters. I soon realized that I needed to produce a book dedicated to animals in our oceans and bays. So, coming this fall is CURIOUS CRITTERS Marine. Here’s a sneak peak of the cover. Stay tuned!
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. Giant Pacific Octopus photographed at the Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, Alaska. Nikon D800E, Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS Macro. f/16, 1/250 sec., ISO 200. Two Dynalite Strobes. Two Lastolite 4′x6′ panels. Processed in Adobe Camera RAW, Photomatix Pro 4.2, and Photoshop CS5, Nik Viveza and Sharpener Pro plug-ins applied.