Caught by the River

Critical Critters

12th September 2017

Critical Critters by Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy
(Bloomsbury Natural History, hardback, 216 pages with 100 remarkable colour paintings. Out now and available here.)

Review by Kurt Jackson

This book is as mad as a box of snakes or a barrel-load of monkeys.

It’s a glorious big colourful splendid bonkers book about that extraordinary diversity of animals that we share this planet with, but with an underlying serious message of conservation. Maybe it’s as much about these “gonzovationists” – the friendship and working methods of these two eccentric blokes – as the various endangered species around the globe, but instead of lingering with the downright darkness of species extinction and climate change, they laugh and muck around (but not too much), having a bloody good time like two naughty school boys at the back of the school art class.

It makes Zoology accessible and attractive, it lures you in (whoever you are, but all of you) makes you laugh and then drags you into the nitty gritty of the subject to finally educate the reader about what is actually going on. I like it.

Occasionally the silliness does veer into tautological and taxonomic confusion, with the invented sitting side-by-side with the real – but with a blink and a shake of the head you climb back out of the box of snakes and into reality.

A lovely publication. Immerse yourself in this extraordinary world – our world, full of diverse and bizarre critters that all deserve a chance to survive, no matter how peculiar they are – the ugly and the beautiful, the tiny and the enormous.


Kurt Jackson is an artist and environmentalist living and working in Cornwall.
A Kurt Jackson Bestiary is published by Lund Humphries with a foreword by John Krebs and introduction by Charlotte Mullins.