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Book Review: The Animal Dialogues

by Gordon SullivanCabinet Books & Music
| October 22, 2009 12:00 AM

Occasionally a book comes along substantially raising the bar within the genre in which it appears.

Colorado nature writer Craig Childs in his epic work “The Animal Dialogues” accomplishes just that as he guides his readers on a dramatic and lyrical tour inside the private domain of wild animals.

The eloquent collection of animal essays begins with a face-to-face grizzly encounter on the tundra of Alaska. From the gripping chill of the north to the harsh, unforgiving heat of the American desert, Childs details extraordinary encounters with species ranging from the great bear, elk, coyote and jaguar and onward to wasps, praying mantises, hummingbirds and placid rainbow trout on Arizona’s Oak Creek.

Armed with a descriptive writing style and decades of field experience, Childs introduces a world of scent, gesture, sound and posture employed as the special language of animals in the wild. Through the vivid art of storytelling the author entertains while he teaches allowing each episode, each encounter to invoke a sense of closeness and understanding few nature writers are able to duplicate.

About “The Animal Dialogues,” Frank Bures of Audubon says, “In an era when many of us spend too much time indoors, when kids are suffering from ‘nature deficit disorder’ and fewer and fewer people are venturing into the backcountry, Craig Childs … hits you in the gut with pure, crystalline stories of his encounters with animals.”

Here is a thumbs up read, especially for those with a penchant for wild places and the intriguing fellows with whom we share our planet. With a few hours to read, I picked up the book one evening and found myself midway through its 322 pages before I was able to put it down.

(Gordon Sullivan is co-owner of Cabinet Books & Music in Libby and author of “Saving Homewaters.”)

“The Animal Dialogues”

By Craig Childs

c.2007, Little, Brown & Co.

$14.99 at Cabinet Books & Music

323 pages