The Salamander Room

by Anne Mazer. Illustrated by Steve Johnson. Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 1-3.
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cover art

When Brian finds a salamander in the woods, he takes it home to live with him. By addressing his new pet's needs, Brian gradually creates a forest environment in his bedroom. The vivid illustrations depict the bedroom-turned-forest. The text allows the reader to discover the world of the forest layer by layer and to better understand the interdependence of creatures and their environment.

While the images of Brian in his private spaces are rooted in realism, Johnson uses unusual perspectives to create a child-like reference to size and scale. The full range of color can be seen in the muted tones that serve to unify the pictures.

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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • Reread the book focusing on Brian's responses to each of his mother's comments and questions. Which of Brian's solutions are realistic? Which would not be possible? Are there other ways for Brian to appropriately care for his pet?

  • In the story, Brian addresses each of his salamander's needs by responding to his mother's comments and questions. As you read the story to your class, pause to let them predict each of those needs before you read about Brian's actions.

  • Focusing again on Brian's mother's comments and questions, how would the salamander respond?

  • Discuss wild animals versus pets. Is it possible for people to make pets of wild animals? Can people really provide an appropriate environment for wild animals?


  • Generate a list of questions that a caretaker of another type of forest animal would need to answer.

  • Identify the type of salamander illustrated in the book. Can this same type be found in your area?

  • Investigate salamanders.

  • Choose an animal from a different ecosystem and research what that animal's needs would be.

  • Using field guides, identify the flora and fauna in the bedroom turned forest.

  • Illustrate your bedroom in vivid colors using markers on large drawing paper. Then, change the room into a forest environment by adding layers of colored tissue paper torn into the shape of plants etc.

  • Design a perfect room for the kind of wild animal you would most like to feel at home in your home.

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