Slippy the Salamander lives a peaceful, protected life in Salamander Village, until a band of dastardly lizards arrives, intent on taking over the town and forcing the salamanders into slavery. True to his name, Slippy manages to slip away, but he’s then left wondering how to take care of himself and how to save his family and his village from the evil lizards. This book contains the first four volumes in a series of 10 encompassing Slippy’s adventures away from home. The series is derived from a basic story that Schmidt outlined when he was just 5 years old, which is reproduced in an appendix. Reflecting its origins as a childhood invention, the narrative has a meandering quality as Slippy encounters various friends and helpers—including Sheldon the terrapin, Mrs. Bristlebottom the hedgehog, Squeeks the mouse, Diggy the Troglodyte and others—from bog and ocean to cave and mountain. Along the way, young readers will learn about various types of creatures and their habitats, but some may have trouble separating fact from fiction since Slippy and his friends also encounter dragonlike “earth-wyrms” and trolls as well as other mysterious, fantastical creatures. The cartoonish illustrations are bright and appealing, and each illustration is accompanied by a large-print caption that summarizes the main activity of that moment in the story; early readers will be able to follow along easily, while older readers will appreciate the fuller narrative and the informational, sometimes funny footnotes featured on many pages. The series does for naturalism what the Magic Tree House series did for world history: gives it an engaging story, a sympathetic protagonist and great illustrations, which should appeal to both boys and girls from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Entertaining and educational; a welcome find for parents and kids looking to get hooked on a new series.