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Book Review: Little Red Newt (Harris) Children's Book

Otterwoman

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Little Red Newt, by Louise Dyer Harris and Norman Dyer Harris, illustrated by Henry Bugbee Kane. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958. 57 pages.

This is a charming story with cute illustrations, and is a readable and accurate description of the natural history of a red eft, from its beginning as a "collar button" (spermatophore) to "baby newt" to "little red newt," as he begins life on land.
It begins as a young boy brings an eft to his schoolteacher, who sets it up in a classroom terrarium for the winter.
Experience newt-keeping with Miss Turner's class as they set up an appropriate enclosure, and journey with them later as they visit a pond and see beetles, minnows, adult newts, and other pond denizens.
The illustrations are line drawings, mostly black and white, with a little red and green.

Unfortunately, on the down side, this book promotes some bad herpetocultural practices. The teacher feeds it small bits of raw hamburger meat all winter, and then she and the class re-release it into the wild the following spring.
Perhaps this was standard and accepted practice in 1958; however, from the salmonella-laden, poor nutrition of raw ground beef to the possible environmental devastation that a captivity-acquired pathogen could wreak on the environment from which "Red" comes, it is fraught with cringeworthy examples to the modern, well-read hobbyist.

I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course; you can still read it to your little eft and ask what they would do differently and why. It's a nice, classic read.


Available used on Amazon starting from $1.98.
 

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VoodooJackal

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I've had this book since I was 6, and still have the very same copy. Bad practices aside, this is what got me to switch from catching snails and grasshoppers to chasing turtles and salamanders.
 
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