Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon

Hubie’s school has some serious HR problems…

Yesterday, I told my six year old that I hadn’t recommended a book on my blog in a while and I told her that I wanted her to pick the next book I’d write about. She ran over to her bookshelf and, after a few moments of internal debate, she walked back and handed me The Gym Teacher From the Black Lagoon.


It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (or hoping for), but a promise is a promise.

Let me put this out there right upfront – My kid LOVES Mike Thaler’s Black Lagoon series. LOVES it. She’s loved it since she was three. And I know many other kids who feel the same way. My feelings about the series, however, are more complicated.

It’s not that I think Mike Thaler’s Black Lagoon books are bad books. They’re not. I like them. I particularly like Jared Lee’s illustrations, which are entertaining and goofy and always remind me of a fun hybrid of Sandra Boynton and Laura Cornell.

Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon

Hubie lives in a constant repetitive loop like “Groundhog Day” or “Memento”…

They’re lightweight, durable, inexpensive, and, with the exception of early Berenstain Bears titles, they’re normally the highest quality books on those spinning wire racks at bookstores that are normally filled with crappy Barbie titles and uninspired Disney tie-ins. Black Lagoon books are perfect for light reading, car trips, or excursions to a restaurant.

BUT, all that said, my big complaint about the Black Lagoon books is that they are incredibly, incredibly REPETITIVE, a trait that can antagonize parents, while, at the same time, delighting kids, apparently. If you’ve read one Black Lagoon book, you’ve almost literally read them all. [read the rest of the post…]


This isn’t totally library or kid lit-related, but I felt I needed to post it. Both because I feel it’s relevant to today’s events and (mostly) because it makes me laugh. And laughing feels really, really good right now.

My daughter wasn’t at school today (she had a fever), so I haven’t had to explain the Connecticut school shooting to her yet. I’m not looking forward to the discussion. She tends to get panicky about guns and “robbers” whenever she hears about a local crime, but she’s going to hear about it eventually, so, as her parent, it’s my job to make sure she has the necessary context to help her try to process the event.

Context – the search for clues that lead toward deeper meanings – is one of the most important things in the world for a kid, which is one of the reasons why I’m such a big proponent of reading.  Reading gives kids the ability to access context and meaning on their own and that’s an incredibly empowering skill to have. All kids go through a period where they keep asking their parents “WHY?”, so giving them the ability to answer that question themselves is just one of the most important things in the world.

BUT it is good to know that, even without her father clumsily trying to help her find deeper meaning in the world, my daughter still knows that some truths are simply self-evident, even for a six year old.

Case in Point – Around Thanksgiving, two of our best college friends came into town, both with daughters right around my daughter’s own age. The trio of girls became BFFs at an alarming speed (at a scary speed) and then immediately retreated to our basement where they said they were playing “spies.” Hours went by without a peep and, when they were done, they came back upstairs without a word. I went downstairs later to clean up and found, in their handwriting, their self-authored “RULES FOR PLAY.”

These were the rules that the three girls decided were SO important for playing that they felt the need to write them down. And, so, without further ado, here are the TEN COMMANDMENTS OF PLAYING SPY, as written by my daughter and her two newest best friends forever.Rules for Play
If you can’t read their handwriting, I’ll translate: [read the rest of the post…]