David FitzSimmons

David Fitzsimmons
David FitzSimmons is a freelance writer and photographer, whose award-winning Curious Critters children’s picture books have sold over 100,000 copies. A former school teacher and university professor, he travels widely, presenting programs on nature, photography, and writing. David, his wife, and their three daughters live in Ohio. You can see more of David’s work at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com and www.curious-critters.com.

Michael DiGiorgio

Michael DiGiorgio
Michael DiGiorgio is a nationally recognized nature artist, whose painting style reflects his keen observations in the field. His work appears in various journals and field guides, including the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, the Field Guide to Night Singing Insects of the Northeast, and Birds of Brazil, as well as on numerous covers of Bird Watcher’s Digest. In 2004, Michael won the first-ever endowment award from the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. You can see more of Michael’s work at www.mdigiorgio.com


SCHOOL LIBARY JOURNAL: With vivid language and illustrations that reward careful looking, this book introduces readers to the life cycle of the spotted salamander, a colorful amphibian that lives in underground forest burrows and vernal pools that fill up in the late winter or early spring. The cycle begins when the spotted salamanders leave their underground homes and migrate to pools, where they “dance in the dark,” lay their eggs, and, in time, return once again to their woodland hideaways. The poetic text makes this an excellent choice for reading aloud and for careful study. Words slide off the tongue (“Through slippery leaves, down muddy slopes, salamanders slide silently into the rising waters of their vernal pool.”), and the repeated “Clack! Clack! Clack!” of the wood frogs will appeal to readers’ sense of sound. Words such as vernal pool and metamorphosis are clearly explained. The illustrations support and extend the writing. A spread of the forest on a late winter evening, depicted with dramatic deep blues and greens, reveals, on close inspection, other animals—an owl and a muskrat—lurking nearby. The visuals also include a variety of perspectives, offering readers a view from the bottom of the vernal pool as well as a look down into the pool from the surrounding land. Some images zoom in to provide close-ups of salamander eggs and developing larvae or underground homes; others zoom out to present a view of the surrounding forest and other forest animals.
VERDICT An excellent addition to science units on animals and the environments they need in order to thrive.
March 2016
Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York
The life cycles of spotted salamanders unfold through the seasons in a lush woodland. FitzSimmons vividly describes the amphibians’ behavior, including their “nighttime ballet” in vernal pools. The salamanders’ (mating) dance results in “jelly-like sacs” of eggs attached to branches in the pool; after hatching, the baby salamanders soon leave their watery home for land, shedding their gills and growing lungs. Newcomer DiGiorgio creates an immersive semiaquatic environment in his vibrant paintings, the salamanders’ bright yellow spots shining like beacons amid the deep blues of the vernal pools. It’s an affectionate tribute to a little noticed species. Endnotes provide further details about the salamanders and their environment. Ages 5–7. (Apr.)
March 21, 2016
“David FitzSimmons does it again, making the natural world come brilliantly alive. We sway and dance along with the salamanders, then settle down in the vernal pools with the larvae to watch them grow. Michael DiGiorgio captures the rhythms, too. His pictures dance.”

Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon and You Nest Here with Me

“When I read this book it made me smile. Then it made me want to dance. Who knew that just below the surface the salamanders were having so much fun?”

Jerry Pallotta, award-winning children’s book author

“This beautifully illustrated book not only focuses on the life cycle of the spotted salamander but also
provides an overview of the ecology and biodiversity of remarkable vernal pools. I can’t think of a better
way to get young readers hooked on nature than by introducing them to one of my absolute favorites—
the spotted salamander.”

James W. Petranka, Professor Emeritus, UNC-Asheville, author of Salamanders of the United States and Canada

“An engaging nonfiction narrative with delightful artwork—what a great introduction to vernal pools!”

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle


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