An award-winning author and freelance photographer with roots in Richland County brought his craft to Malabar Intermediate School on Tuesday. David FitzSimmons, nationally acclaimed author of the “Curious Critters” book series, discussed his work in separate sessions with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, then led two afternoon workshops for combined groups of fifth- and sixth-graders.
“Young people from about ages five to 12 are my first audience. Parents and educators are my secondary audience,” FitzSimmons told students in his final session of the day. “This is my job. I’m always working to be sure that my books meet national science standards. Before I write I study what you need to learn. When I do research I am very careful to document my sources,” he said.
A 1987 graduate of Lucas High School, FitzSimmons also has ties to Mansfield City Schools. His father, Mick, was the head of the district’s outdoor education program and his mother, Judy, was an elementary teacher in several buildings, including Ranchwood, Hedges and Woodland.
Fitzimmons’ books feature striking photographs of wildlife with detailed information about each. A review of his work on the Amazon web site says, “Photographer David FitzSimmons turns his camera on a variety of animals common throughout North America. “Curious Critters” presents stunning images of everyday animals, including a red flat bark beetle, an Eastern spiny softshell turtle, a spotted salamander and many other intriguing creatures. Each “Curious Critter” is photographed against a white backdrop, showcasing the animal’s colors, textures and shapes with precision and clarity.”
Fitzsimmons talked with students about the structure of writing, including selecting their topic, identifying their audience and conducting research.
Teacher Wendy Wilging, a literacy coach in training, was instrumental in having FitzSimmons at Malabar for the day. A grant from the Richland County Foundation allowed his visit. “Students need to understand the importance of nonfiction,” Wilging said. “As a teacher, having an author like Mr. FitzSimmons here is like a dream come true.”
FitzSimmons’ initial book was followed by “Curious Critters Volume Two,” “Curious Critters Marine,” featuring animals of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the most recent “Salamander Dance.”
The Amazon critique continues: “Along with each photo is an entertaining and educational vignette, told from the critter’s perspective. A bush katydid explains her bubblegum-pink color, a poetic opossum opines upon her often-shortened name, and a far-from-modest black swallowtail butterfly lets readers in on her secret for avoiding predators. Young boys and girls will delight in these colorful critters and their tales.”
Fitzsimmons hold a Ph.D in English from Ohio State University with a specialty in narrative theory – investigating the components of storytelling. Before turning to writing he taught for more than 20 years, first high school English then as a professor at Cornell University, Ohio State and Ashland University. Winner of nine national book awards, Fitzsimmons’ books have sold more than 100,000 copies. His photography has been featured in several national magazines and calendars. To see more of his work, visit www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com