Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 8, 2010

What I’m Reading: Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein

Big Night for Salamanders tells two stories. We begin with a swift overview of the lives of spotted salamanders, nestling underground in winter, and waking one warm rainy night in spring. Then with “rain tat-tatting on his hood,” we see Evan race through puddles after being let off by a school bus, wondering if tonight will be Big Night, when salamanders leave the woods for the vernal pools where they were born, and where they will reproduce.

It’s a wonder how much we learn about the life cycle of salamanders while enjoying Evan’s excitement about being able to help. Roads have been cut through woods and across routes salamanders have used for years, endangering their annual journey. Evan and his parents stand by a back road waving flashlights covered with pink plastic, so as not to startle the salamanders, alerting drivers to slow down or detour so the salamanders migrating this night won’t be accidentally hurt or killed on their way to lay eggs. Evan makes a sign that says: Go SLOW Salamander Crossing! We cheer with him for finding ways to make sure these small, gorgeous creatures can safely do what they’ve done for thousands of years.

Carol Benioff’s gouache illustrations are warm and delightful, whether close-ups of the slinky salamanders, stark trees, or the passionate child and his rambunctious dog. I hope Big Night for Salamanders (Boyds Mills Press, 2010) gets to many young animal lovers and their caregivers.

And for more about some of the real life information that inspired Sarah Lamstein, including the history and how-tos of making tunnels so amphibians can avoid traffic, visit this website:

For a roundup of other great nonfiction, please see:



  1. I didn’t realize salamanders returned to specific pools, etc. – interesting!

  2. How interesting. It sounds like my kind of book.
    I hope spring is on its way for you, Jeannine.

  3. It’s great learning from picture books, and this one is packed with information not just in the story, but at the end. I like the circular pattern — laying eggs in the place where you were born. Those spotted salamanders! They have a sense of poetry.

  4. It’s a very nice combination of story and science, and the winter-bare trees are so nicely painted they briefly are renewing my appreciation.Still, a few buds would be nice.
    But, hey, we’ve got sun today!

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