These days, picture book lovers get more than just an eye-popping picture book when they purchase; they also get a lovely story about realistic characters and an important lesson about nature, all rolled into one. What book am I talking about? Why, Big Night for Salamanders, of course.
In Big Night for Salamanders, by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, young Evan and his nature-loving parents are about to celebrate an evening they’ve been waiting for all year. They’re about to celebrate Big Night, a curious event that happens every spring when the temperature is just right and the spring rain is just warm enough to coax hybernating critters out of their cozy burrows.
That’s when the spotted salamanders claw out of the thawing earth to make their way to their ancestral pool. But to get there, the tiny salamanders must cross a busy road and risk being squished by the tires of cars that are driving way too fast.
Evan and his parents scramble to see to it that the salamanders cross safely, shining flashlights at the speeding cars, constructing clever road signs, and even carrying the smooth salamanders to safety on the other side.
I enjoyed this book on several levels. First, I was mildly surprised that Evan, the MC, is African American. Although there’s a side view of his face on the cover, I totally didn’t see that coming, and found it very refreshing and sure to be a treat for multicultural readers. Second, I enjoyed learning about spotted salamanders. I’m not sure if this is because the writer is an expert story-teller, or because I’m a former science teacher – and once a science teacher, always a science teacher. I only know that I liked learning about the life cycle, trekking habits and yes, spottiness of this “rubbery” little creature I once lumped with the other lizards and creatures of the woods and forest.
But I even enjoyed this book as an art-lover. Artist Carol Benioff captured the warmth and flavor of mother nature, from the chilly beauty of an early spring rain to the wonder of trekking salamanders, to the sweet humanity of the very young who are bent on preserving nature’s fragile creatures, no matter the cost.
For a lovely read with lovely illustrations and a lovely lesson on the beauty of nature, be sure to add Big Night for Salamanders to your child’s personal library.
Best wishes and happy reading,
PICTURE BOOK DEPOT