December 12, 2019 | Book Reviews
The Salamander Room
“Brian found a salamander in the woods. It was a little orange salamander that crawled through the dried leaves of the forest floor. The salamander was warm and cozy in the boy’s hand. ‘Come live with me,’ Brian said. He took the salamander home.”
As a child, one of my favorite books was Anne Mazer’s The Salamander Room.
The salamander is at ease in the boy’s hand so Brian takes him home. The first time I re-read this story as an adult, my instinctual reaction was that the book’s opening encounter bore an insidious undertone. I read Brian as selfishly stealing the salamander away from his forest home.
But now I see their meeting connotes a sense of connection and wonder—the kind children are often apt to see before the rest of us. The opening sentences pulse with an unseen trust between boy and salamander.
But after Brian opens his home to the salamander his mother anxiously points out, “Where will [the salamander] sleep?” or “Where will he play?” or “He will miss his friends.”
Brian reassures her by transforming his bedroom into an extension of the forest. He removes the walls and the ceiling. He populates it with trees, rocks, birds, insects, bullfrogs and more salamanders. All that remains of the boy’s old room is his bed. And there the two sleep side-by-side under a canopy of trees and stars.
A successful brand goes beyond mere accessibility and rigid cordiality.
It pursues nothing less than connection, wonder and trust. It does not just open the door—it knocks down the walls and discards the ceiling.
It brings in trees and rocks. It breathes the familiar. It cultivates a sense of home.