Monday, September 7, 2009

You've Been Laminated!

The Librarian From the Black Lagoon
by Mike Thaler
Pictures by Jared Lee
Scholastic Inc., 1997

Being young and curious about the world is a great thing. But sometimes, with that curiosity there is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the possibilities.

In a cautious and kooky picture book, The Librarian From the Black Lagoon, author Mike Thaler introduces young children to a new adventure; going to the library. There are rumors afoot. Horrible, cruel, and disturbing rumors of a monstrous librarian with a beastly personality who glues children to chairs, laminates them if they talk, and entices them with a “petting zoo” of porcupines and piranha fish. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. With such a wicked librarian loose in the stacks, all who enter must wonder, will they ever come back alive?

Exploring fear of the unknown and taking that concept to a silly extreme, Thaler produces a picture book that plays right into a child’s psyche. Children swap stories, funny and horrific alike, and utilizing this tool of the bubble gum set, the author creates a tale that exploits the stereotype of the shushing librarian and the vulnerability of a grade school age child. I think most of people can relate to this depiction. If not with a librarian as the central figure, at least some type of authority figure that was a mysterious and stern creature that gave us the willies before we realized what a helpful and gentle soul they were.

With it being national library card sign-up month and with all the wee ones heading back to school I thought it the perfect time to share a story such as this. It’s a little suspenseful, a little spooky, and overall, a little silly. What a great formula for a shared reading experience.

Personal Note: I used to be terrified of the librarian at my elementary school. She was tight-lipped with a thin penciled frown. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in school, when I was working as a student assistant in the library, that I realized this mean looking lady was just a shy woman who was more comfortable dealing with catalog cards than children. We warmed up to each other quickly and were great friends until she passed away to a terminal illness. I guess what I’m trying to say is, give things a chance, even if they seem scary or uncomfortable. You just never know what lies beneath the surface.

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