Too Much Salt and Pepper
post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Too Much Salt and Pepper
Author: Sam Campbell
Series: Living Forest
Major Themes: Animals, Porcupines, Wilderness, Wisconsin
Synopsis: Two funny porcupines set the stage for a summer of laughter and learning.
Back when I was about ten years old, I discovered a book by Sam Campbell, probably at a library sale. I loved the story, and a few years later when I found a boxed set of all his Living Forest books in a catalog I bought them. Some were better than others, but overall I like these stories of animals living in the wilderness around the author’s Sanctuary, an island in the middle of a lake in northern Wisconsin. After we finished reading a different series of stories about animals, I decided to read these books to my boys. We started with Too Much Salt and Pepper, the story of two ornery porcupines. Some of the boys enjoyed the book, although one of them refused to listen to it. I guess not every book can be everyone’s cup of tea!
This book begins with the author and his wife, Giny, returning to their island home after a winter of traveling around to lecture about their animal friends. They were thrilled to find the two young porcupines they had left behind the previous fall still there. Salt and Pepper were thrilled to greet Sam and Giny, as well—but they soon wore out their welcome! You will enjoy reading about the problems that can arise when you have wild porcupines for pets.
After Sam moped about no young people being around, Giny began writing and receiving mysterious letters. After awhile, a young friend, Carol, came to visit and learn. The reader gets to listen in as Sam shares the wisdom he learns from his old porcupine friend, Inky, and Carol learns wisdom herself. Some of the stories that are shared are poignant, others thoughtful, and still others very funny.
I found myself wondering, as I read the philosophical parts of this book, about the author’s worldview. At times, it sounded as though he is a believer in God, but he never comes right out and says so. At one point, Carol had an experience that really made me wonder what was going on. The vagueness was slightly frustrating.
This book is a combination of animal stories and philosophy. To read it to younger children, who would enjoy the stories of the animal’s antics, it would be good to skip some of the long passages relating Sam’s thoughts and lessons, although they are worthwhile reading for older people.