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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tree Reviews - Picture Book - the Salamander Room, by Anne Mazer

[Characters are from a middle grade Fantasy Series I am currently working on to make the review unique and interesting for kids.]
“I had another one of those dreams, last night...” Caitlynn starts with excitement.


“You mean one where the trees are doing a book review for you?” Jake laughs. “Cat, you are so weird!”
“I think they're cool!”
“I wish I would have dreams where the trees do my homework and tell me the answers.”


“What do you think they said?” Caitlynn bounces up and down.
“Tell me again, how they know what's in the books? When did the trees learn to read?” Jake asks.
“We figured out on the last dream that I must have been reading out loud. Remember? Anyway, just listen.”

“Toady, the Yew tree near my bedroom, said, 'The girl read another story today. It was called the Salamander Room, written by a human named Anne Mazer, and  illustrated by two humans working together named Steve Johnson and Lou Francher.'”

“Then the Cherry tree, named Flutter-by, said. 'Oh! I love salamanders. They are so cute and slippery.'”  
“Owly, the Spruce tree, moaned all the way from over in your yard, 'Humans always get it wrong. How can they get salamanders right? Salamanders are so complicated and needy.'”

Jake says, “Seriously! You are still dreaming about that evergreen still being bent out of shape and complaining about my bad trim job! Caitlynn, you've got a serious problem. It's a tree!”


Caitlynn says, “I'm just telling you what I dreamed, Jake. Please, just listen.”

Jake laughs, “Okay, okay.”

“Two Deer, the Maple tree, said, 'Maybe we should let Toady tell us about the story and we can decide for ourselves?'”


“'Hear! Hear!' The Bradford Pear tree, Nightingale, chimed in.


“Toady laughed. 'In this story a little boy human named Brian...'

Jake laughs, “Brian? Really? My brother ought to read this.”

Caitlynn shushes him. “Toady said, 'Brian finds a salamander in the woods.'

'That's where salamanders belong!' Owly calls over.

Toady said, 'Brian likes the salamander so much he takes it into his house.'

'I told you humans always get it all wrong. I don't want to hear anymore! Poor little salamander!' Owly cried.”

“Seriously, Cat! I'm beginning to get the feeling that tree doesn't like me!” Jake interrupts.

“Jake, it's just a dream. But even in the dream I really think the tree just likes to complain.” Caitlynn shrugs. “Anyway, Toady the Yew tree said, 'Don't yew worry, Owly, no salamanders were hurt in the making of this story.'

“I do like this Toady character, though. Which tree is that?” Jake asks

Caitlynn points to the Yew tree beside the shed. “That one. It has this great patch of moss under it perfect for sitting on to read a book.”

“Anyway, finish telling me your dream. Toady's funny.”

Caitlynn smiles, “Okay, so then Flutter-by asked, 'Why would Brian take the salamander into his house?'

“'Humans are cozy and happy in their houses, Flutter-by. I'm sure Brian thought the salamander would be, too. You know how young trees can be naive about other trees' feelings. I bet young humans are the same way.' Two Deer explained.”

“'Yes,' said Toady, 'that's why Brian's mother asked him questions to help him see things from the salamander's point of view.'”

“Nightingale asked, 'Does it work?'”

“Which one's Nightingale again?” Jake says. “She took the words right out of my mouth.”

Caitlynn's smile gets bigger as she points to the white flowering tree beside the house. “It's a fun dream huh?”

“Yeah, yeah, you're brilliant. Now get on with the book review.” Jake laughs.

“Where was I? Oh yeah. Then Toady said, 'Brian starts planning to move parts of the woods into his house to make the salamander comfy.'”

“'That won't work! Silly young human!' Owly said.”

“'But the silly pictures of Brian wanting to make his room more and more like the woods are wonderful! And the salamander is so cute on every page. And Brian learns so much about salamanders and the woods they live in that I'm glad he tries to bring his little friend home.'”

“'Oh! I wish I could see the funny pictures!' Flutter-by said.”

“'Tell us if it works. Does Brian make the little salamander comfy?' Nightingale asked.”

“Then Toady sang, 'I'm not going to tell Yew! Yew have to see the story yourselves in my memories.'”


“'I can't wait! I'm going to find it in your memories right now! Aren't you Owly?' Flutter-by said.”

 “Owly laughed. 'I've already started! Now shush!'”

“'Wait for me!' Nightingale cried.”

“Two Deer wiggled her tiny winged seeds, 'Thank you, Toady. It sounds delightful!'”

Jake wrinkles his brow. “Explain again what the trees are doing with these memories?”

Caitlynn shakes her head. “I'm not sure. I think it's like they can look in each other's memories or something. It's weird.”

“That would be so cool! Then I could watch your dream like a TV show! Great dream!”

“When I woke up, I went to sit under the Norfolk Island Pine tree in my living room and read the Salamander Room again. I wonder what the Norfolk Island Pine tree's name is, and I wonder if she liked the story and if she's comfy in my house.”

“Hey, your whatever pine tree in your house is like the salamander!” Jake says. “So what is that tree's name?”

“I don't know. I guess I'll just have to dream about it. But maybe it needs another tree to talk to.”

“Are you going to get a salamander and stuff to keep it company too, and make it feel at home?”

Caitlynn throws a pillow at him.

“Can I borrow the book? It sounds pretty good.”

“Sure, here it is. Just don't get ice cream on it like you did on the last book. My mother freaked out about that.”

Jake laughs. “I can just picture that.”

the Salamander Room. By Anne Mazer. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Francher. (Alfred A. Knopf, New York c 1991 ISBN – 0-394-82945-X

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