I've been a little stumped on my research for our next Blueberry Book. Either Matt Mitter is a very, very discreet person, or he doesn't really exist and the publisher simply concocted a catchy name to throw on the cover. Regardless, author "Matt Mitter" and illustrator Karen Viola were a great team in creating one of the most eye-catching board books we own- Salamander Rock. Amphibian enthusiasts delight in a book so lively and spirited the pages seem to jump out at you! No. They actually do jump out at you! It's Salamander-Rock-your-world-o'clock!
This book illuminates Baby Girl's doe eyes and lifts her chubby cheeks as she smiles when we open it. Every page is splashed with the vivid colors of sleek salamanders, lovely ladybugs, bright blue beetles, creeping caterpillars, silver spiders, floating fireflies, and more. But this book is not just about bugs and salamanders, it's a pop-up book, a counting book, a rhyming book, offers great opportunities to recognize colors and patterns, and it has extra activities hidden at the bottom of every page!
One of the first times I shopped at a used book store for Little Girl when she was just a baby, I was about to lose interest in purchasing anything at all. My neck was aching from tilting to the side as I stared at all the book bindings muttering, "I don't know what books to get her. She can't even read yet," Little Girl had received and immediately rejected every toy that I had jammed in the diaper bag before we left the house (resulting in a puddle of soft toys on the floor that stranger kids were pawing at as Little Girl was emitting a softer, yet still horrifying, version of the most annoying sound in the world from Dumb and Dumber), and soon the parentless child sitting next to me on the floor had quickly been upgraded from, "Aw. That poor sweet boy. I wonder where his useless, selfish parents are?!", to, "If you don't stop trying to touch my child and deliberately expel disease onto both her and me with your every obnoxious sneeze and obtrusive cough, I'm going to grab the mic near the register, bend it to meet my tightly pursed lips, draw in all the oxygen from both the thinnest air of the tallest mountains and the muggiest vapors from the deepest caves, and unleash all of the pent-up frustration from my adolescence into the incapable sound system and through the obsolete speakers as I threaten to call CPS if the parents of said child don't immediately show their faces and retrieve him." Obviously, Little Girl was my first child, I hadn't slept in months, and had just caught the pertussis commercial on tv a few days prior.
Somehow, Salamander Rock caught my eye and, just as it did, Little Girl...to put it lightly...decided it was time to go. I grabbed the book along with a few others, threw a few dollars at the cashier, and rushed home. I didn't even realize how cool the book was until we opened it a few days later. The first page reads:
"One salamander springs away-
he's off to Salamander Rock.
He's got to join the swinging party
starting there at six o'clock!"
Matt Mitter's steady prose, accessible language, practical counting lessons, and cheerful story about all the little creatures trying to find their ways to the big party makes for a wonderful book to share with your little ones. I usually like to share an insightful story or a relevant quote from the author, but as I said earlier, I couldn't find much. All I discovered is Matt was born in Oklahoma City and now lives in New Jersey. Riveting.
Luckily we have Karen Viola's energetic artwork to bring us back to speed. I learned even less about her bio than Mitter, but no matter because her images charmed us. All the critters are smiling from ear to ear, from antenna to antenna, are all encircled with lush foliage and sunny flowers, and are even amplified with exciting, foam pop-up appendages! By some miracle, 90% of the pop-ups are still in tact after surviving constant attention from two aggresive baby girls. (And the one that has a small tear just needs a piece of tape and a few seconds from me.)
Matt is the author of dozens of children's books, including Hungry Monsters and even illustrates. Karen also plays dual roles as author and illustrator. One of her most popular titles as author is Goodnight Sun, Hello Moon. I'll be sure to check these out soon!
Salamander Rock earned 4 out of 5 blueberries! If the pop-ups had been made of something indestructable by babies and toddlers, it would have earned five. But that's quite an impossible feat, isn't it? (And maybe that's why it's stated directly on the book, "For ages over 36 months." Oops.)
You can purchase Salamander Rock by clicking here! Since it's a counting book it could be easily incorporated into any lesson plan by decorating numbered craft sticks to look like caterpillars or salamander tails, or with a homemade swamp sensory bin, or maybe your little one(s) want to paint their own salamander rock! Thanks for stopping by!