Childs, Craig 1967- (Craig Leland Childs)
Childs, Craig 1967- (Craig Leland Childs)
Born April 21, 1967, in Tempe, AZ; son of James Childs (an insurance agent) and Sharon Carpenter; married Regan Choi (an artist and photographer); children: Jasper and Jaden. Education: University of Colorado, Boulder, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1990; Prescott College, graduate study.
Writer and editor. Contributing commentator to National Public Radio's Morning Edition. River guide, beginning 1986. Worked as editor, writer, photographer, and mechanic for Colorado newspapers, including Ouray County Plaindealer and Ridgeway Sun, 1990-92. Previous jobs included jazz musician, gas station attendant, beer bottler, college field instructor.
Colorado Press Association Award, 1991; winner of a nature writing contest, Sierra magazine, 1993; Maggie Award, best essay, Adventure Journal, 1995; Spirit of the West Award, for body of work; Colorado Book Award.
Stone Desert: A Naturalist's Exploration of Canyon-lands National Park, Westcliffe Publishers (Englewood, CO), 1995.
Crossing Paths: Uncommon Encounters with Animals in the Wild, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 1997.
(With Leo W. Banks) Grand Canyon Stories: Then and Now, Arizona Highways Books (Phoenix, AZ), 1999.
(With Gary Ladd) Grand Canyon: Time below the Rim, Arizona Highways Books (Phoenix, AZ), 1999.
The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 2000.
(With Art Wolfe and Gavriel Jecan) Colorado, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 2000.
The Southwest's Contrary Land: Forever Changing between Four Corners and the Sea of Cortes, Arizona Highways Books (Phoenix, AZ), 2001.
A Land Forever Changing, Win Holden (Phoenix, AZ), 2001.
Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 2002.
The Desert Cries: A Season of Flash Floods in a Dry Land, Arizona Highways Books (Phoenix, AZ), 2002.
The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
(With Art Wolfe) The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 2004.
House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Craig Childs once told CA: "I don't have a choice about writing. I spend maybe nine months of the year in the deeper wilderness, and the stories that I pass through are difficult not to relay. Most of my work comes from journals completed in the back country—mostly from the Southwest. There are elements out there of such immense power and influence that my only job is to reflect them in words as best I can. Because of the rawness of these experiences, writing is not a difficult task, but it is secondary to being there.
"I grew up in Arizona and Colorado and acquired an understanding of a particular landscape. I do not doubt that this is true for anyone, anywhere. But the places here are so striking, so severe, that they burn into my skin. It is now my job to go out there beyond reason and come back with the story.
"Mostly I was a child of a single parent—my mother. My childhood was in motion, moving often between Arizona and Colorado. Both of my parents have (had) a strong connection to the outside, my mother in a physical sense, my father philosophically.
"I have not had a telephone in eight years. I have lived in a tipi, the back of a truck, and anywhere else possible. Mostly I live out in the rocks somewhere. It doesn't look like things are going to be changing soon."
Childs's Crossing Paths: Uncommon Encounters with Animals in the Wild, which was published in 1997, offers readers a unique view of the natural world as seen through the eyes of a man who has purposefully eschewed many of the accepted aspects of civilization in favor of a more natural, simplistic lifestyle himself. Living in the wilderness in a tipi, Childs has had the opportunity to track animals, to sit in stillness and watch them in their native habitat, and to understand the balance of nature and her creatures. The book chronicles his experiences, from mild and mundane to far more fearsome and dangerous, such as the time he faced down a cougar. Each essay takes a different event or observation and makes it come to life, as Childs brings a lifetime of experience as a river guide and a desert ecologist to both his understanding of what he sees and his acknowledgment of his own place in that vast world. Keith McCafferty, writing for Field and Stream, observed of Childs: "What he does with Crossing Paths is take you with him on a walk in the woods. It's an interesting walk, through a woods he knows very well." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "Childs … has constructed insightful and fascinating tales of his encounters with animals in this wild kingdom." Nancy J. Moeckel, reviewing for Live Journal, found the book gave her "more to think about than just another animal encounter."
In The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert, Childs records two years' worth of treks through the deserts of North America. The book is "part memoir, part paean to the infinitely changing landscape and part lessons in geology, geography, and genealogy," according to Rebecca's Reads Web site contributor Rebecca Brown, who called it "a magical read, to be savored for years to come." Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times was similarly effusive, calling the book "pure oxygen."
A contributor to Publishers Weekly compared Childs with some of today's greatest nature writers: "His highly personal odyssey combines John McPhee's gift for compressing scientific knowledge and Barry Lopez's spiritual questing." According to Kim Long in Bloomsbury Review, "Childs has the talent as a writer to teach as well as enchant." "This is a direct book," wrote Suzannah Lessard, reviewing The Secret Knowledge of Water in the Washington Post, "in which the author is on fire with his subject and grabs whatever lies at hand that might help him testify." Lessard went on to write: "The net result is that one comes out of the book feeling that the experiences recounted are one's own. Certainly no reader will ever see the desert in the same way again."
Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land is another travel narrative by the author as he describes the desert landscape that he loves while journeying with three companions who, according to Booklist contributor Bryce Christensen, "mirror Craig's own fierce ardor for stark beauty and fearful silence." A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the book as "superb, meriting shelf space alongside the best of Edward Abbey, Mary Austin, and Frank Waters."
In The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival, Childs relates his adventures in the U.S. southwestern desert in a series of canyons on an Indian reservation. Also along for the trip is the author's friend Dirk Vaughan, another experienced outdoorsman. As the two travel through a rugged terrain that tests their endurance, they also find themselves pondering difficult situations in their own lives and buried feelings of resentment and guilt. "Anyone that has kept themselves from sliding off a cliff by the barest of margins, and appreciated the sense of spiritual clarity it gave them, will find The Way Out an interesting journey," wrote Dennis Higgs on the OnceWritten.com Web site. Raymond Puffer, writing in Kliatt, commented that the author "presents us with an awesome corner of primeval America, a colorful panorama of raw nature still untouched in this urbanized century."
House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest finds Childs journeying throughout the Southwest as he tracks down the mystery of the Anasazi Indians. Ancestors to the modern-day Hopi Indians, the Anasazi lived in what is now known as New Mexico and Utah but disappeared 2,000 years ago despite having built a prosperous civilization. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "relies … on scholarly literature, oral tradition, and … reading between the lines" in his attempt to solve the mystery. The book received favorable reviews. Michelle Mittrach Garcia wrote in Library Journal that the author "vividly weaves his … narrative, imbued with a deep respect for the geography and cultural landscape." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called House of Rain "an original, eloquent account of an intellectual and archaeological odyssey."
In Childs's The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild, he collects another assortment of essays on animal life and what it must be like to run or swim or fly with the freedom that is so inherent for wildlife. Childs makes an effort to get inside the inner life of the creatures about which he writes, dissecting their behavior and attempting to interpret it in human terms. Everything has meaning, from gestures to looks to ways of walking and scents. He strives to understand the creatures and to chronicle his experiences with them in such a way as to allow any reader to share his joy and wonder. Childs takes certain risks as he tracks the animals he is interested in, sometimes even following them until they are alone in order to see how their actions might differ. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly opined that the essays that Childs wrote for this volume are "hauntingly beautiful and replete with evocative observations of animal life." Nancy Bent, in a review for Booklist, wrote that the book provided insights as to "how to get inside the moment and touch the animals with which we share our planet." Hilary Williamson, writing for the BookLoons Web site, remarked that the essays offered "absorbing accounts of windows into the natural world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Childs, Craig, Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land, Sasquatch Books (Seattle, WA), 2002.
Childs, Craig, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2004.
Childs, Craig, House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.
Bloomsbury Review, January, 1998, review of Crossing Paths: Uncommon Encounters with Animals in the Wild, p. 21; July-August, 2001, Kim Long, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert.
Booklist, September 1, 1997, Nancy Bent, review of Crossing Paths, p. 211; February 15, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water, p. 1063; September 1, 2002, Bryce Christensen, review of Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land, p. 49; January 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of House of Rain, p. 44; December 15, 2007, review of The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild, p. 10.
Entertainment Weekly, February 23, 2007, Tina Jordan, review of House of Rain, p. 105.
Field and Stream, October, 1997, Keith McCafferty, review of Crossing Paths, p. 123.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of Soul of Nowhere, p. 928; December 15, 2006, review of House of Rain, p. 1251.
Kliatt, May, 1998, review of Crossing Paths, p. 34; July, 2006, Raymond Puffer, review of The Way Out, p. 36.
Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Janet N. Ross, review of Grand Canyon: Time below the Rim, p. 91; April 1, 2000, Tim J. Markus, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water, p. 124; February 15, 2007, Michelle Mittrach Garcia, review of House of Rain, p. 130.
Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2000, Susan Salter Reynolds, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water, p. E1.
Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1997, review of Crossing Paths, p. 80; February 28, 2000, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water, p. 77; October, 2007, review of The Animal Dialogues, p. 44.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 1998, review of Crossing Paths, p. 178.
Washington Post, April 23, 2000, Suzannah Lessard, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water, p. X-07.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (April 3, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of The Animal Dialogues.
Bylines University of Colorado at Boulder Alumni Newsletter,http://www.colorado.edu/journalism/bylines/ (August 22, 2007), Erin Cox, "Out of the Rut Desert Passions Bloom as Craig Childs Walks His Way Deep into an Award-winning Career."
Craig Childs—House of Rain Home Page,http://www.houseofrain.com (August 22, 2007).
Identity Theory,http://www.identitytheory.com/ (December 8, 2003), Matt Borondy, review of Soul of Nowhere.
OnceWritten.com,http://www.oncewritten.com/ (April 15, 2005), Dennis Higgs, review of The Way Out.
Rebecca's Reads,http://www.rebeccasreads.com/ (May 17, 2002), Rebecca Brown, review of The Secret Knowledge of Water; (August 22, 2007), Rebecca Brown, review of The Way Out.