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The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild Hardcover – December 12, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In these eloquent essays, naturalist and adventurer Childs (House of Rain) describes some of his extraordinary experiences with creatures—from wasps, red-spotted toads and hummingbirds to grizzly bears, coyotes and jaguars. Seeking entrée into animal societies, he interprets messages left in marks on the ground and in scents on leaves and trees, and communicates with animals directly using their own language of stares, gestures, postures, sounds, scents and gaits. He goes looking for animals alone in hazardous wilderness areas—tracking mountain goats in Colorado's Gore Range or surprising a secret society of ravens in a canyon in Utah. Always longing to be at one with animals, he is not afraid to climb an aspen to see the world from a porcupine's perspective, run with a herd of elk or wonder how it would feel to jump from a plane and fly with a bald eagle. Childs's captivating essays, rich in sensuous imagery (the porcupine looks like a mop, a bundle of ponderosa pine needles, a mobile hairstyle), are hauntingly beautiful and replete with evocative observations of animal life. 42 b&w illus. (Dec. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Craig Childs -- naturalist, adventurer, desert ecologist, and frequent contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition -- lives in Crawford, Colorado. His previous books include House of Rain, The Way Out, The Secret Knowledge of Water and Soul of Nowhere.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 Reprint edition (December 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031606632X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316066327
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reviewed by Al Olsen

Have you ever wondered about the history of the mountain goat in the continental United States? Or why the rancher who is trying to decrease the coyote population on his ranch seems to only get more coyote pups? These two questions and many, many more are explained in this wonderfully written book by author Craig Childs. His usage of the English language is eloquent, to say the least. This is top-quality writing from a sharp observer who describes himself as a naturalist or adventurist.

This book is a collection of thirty-seven essays of varying lengths. They are all personal encounters covering topics from mosquitoes to bears. Most of them are reflections written about these animals in the wild, in varying locations like the Sonora Desert in Mexico, or the Yukon River. He also wrote an interesting piece about birds flying into and out of the twin beams where the World Trade Center once stood.

One of the most distinctive aspects of his style of writing is the way that he plays with words and puts them opposite words that are unusual. Here is an example from his essay on the rainbow trout that clearly shows the fun that he has in describing it. "The motions that followed the length of its body caused great momentum. It moved as if it were solid energy prepared to erupt but satisfied with remaining in one place for a short time. It was as if water had taken a concrete a form and speckled itself with lavenders and reds."

Some of the more interesting pieces of trivia were cleverly disguised in his essay on porcupines. For instance, a porcupine's digestive system is nearly a third of its body weight. Then he goes on to talk about the quills. There is a greasy layer of fatty acid that coats the quill.
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Format: Hardcover
Craig Childs has taken his experiences in the wild and brought them to you, but the best part is you can do what he does on your own. He does not try and convince you that a seasoned pro such as himself is the only person to view and be viewed by the wonders of nature. Come get lost in this book and then go get lost in nature. Nothing would make the author more happy. Child's writing style has a flow and credibility to it that few other authors have. Join Craig while he serenades a coyote, scares (although by accident) a mountain lion and does his very best to help (yes help) a bull shark. Happy Reading!
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Format: Hardcover
The Animal Dialogues
Uncommon Encounters in the Wild
Craig Childs
ISBN: 978-0-316-06632-7
Little, Brown and Company, 2007

Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for ReviewYourBook.com
5 Stars

Even as a child, Craig Childs was intrigued and felt an affinity with wild life. He took notes and recorded sounds as he walked the fields below the east side of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Childs is a naturalist and adventurer. In his recent book, The Animal Dialogues, he shares a few of his adventures with readers. One section of the book is dedicated to his encounters with bears. I find it fascinating that the bears seem to respect Childs and to see him as no threat. The raccoon was not so pleasant. Childs sought to help the starving animal. When deer mice became a problem, the wisest solution seemed to be a cat. The feline predator formed a "Zone of Death." Few creatures were safe, squirrels, chipmunks, birds and rabbits were his prey. Nothing was safe except the mice.

The Animal Dialogues is written with a unique understanding and respect for animals. Craig Childs has a talent for the retelling of his encounters, weaving in fascinating details to form a tapestry that few can experience. Those who care for wildlife will not want to miss The Animal Dialogues.
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Format: Paperback
I would give this book six stars if I could! This is one of the best nature books I have EVER read. Childs covers encounters with everything from mosquitoes to mountain lions. He has spent large blocks of time in true wilderness, sometimes under great hardship. He's a risk-taking crazy man at times, but he has respect for the creatures he meets along the way. He also writes beautifully about the majesty of the great outdoors.

I read this book slowly and savored every paragraph. The author manages to teach the reader much about the history, science and evolution surrounding each creature without being boring. He has distilled the most interesting bits of information so you don't have to read all those boring science books yourself.

Besides all this, the book is just fun and exciting to read. Childs has had some close calls with scary creatures.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good read, well written. Somewhat stylistically inconsistent though.

Childs presents some chapters as profound introspectives while others are substantially mundane. Not inherently problematic, but some chapters of the mundane variety come out looking like filler by comparison.

The more introspective chapters almost exclusively deal with carnivore or omnivore megafauna and those chapters, by format, are almost all front-loaded in the book, so if you read this cover-to-cover the imbalance feels more exaggerated. (To be fair, Childs himself recommends up front that this be read by chapter on a whim at various points in time instead of cover-to-cover in a consolidated period of time).
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