Fast Forward Book Review for May 2006
The Librarian from the Black Lagoon
Mike Thaler, illustrated by Jared Lee
New York: Scholastic, 1997
by Colleen R. Cahill
After working in various libraries for many years, I cannot ignore that we librarians have a reputation for being a bit tyrannical. Since I know this stereotype is not true, I enjoy works that make fun of the shushing librarian. It was with great joy I recently discovered Mike Thaler#39;s The Librarian from the Black Lagoon, which explores all the "terrors" that hide in the dark vault of books known as The Library.
An elementary school class is preparing for their first trip to the school library. Rumors abound about this place, which is thought to be located behind the boiler room in the "Media Center of the Earth". The librarian, Mrs. Beamster, is known as "THE LAMINATOR" because anyone who gets out of line, such as talking in the library, is laminated. Not only is talking forbidden, but even breathing is not allowed! Various steps must be passed before one can enter the sacred space of books. From the Decontamination Room to the Gum Detector, a rigorous preparation is required. Once in the library, the protection of the books is paramount, with volumes bolted in place to keep them in order and the shelves electrified just for good measure. There are services available here, such as story time, where Mrs. Beamster reads a card from the card catalog or, if you catch her in a really good mood, she will recite the Dewey Decimal system by heart. And who would not love a librarian who shares the slides of her vacations, which are all to the same place, the Library of Congress?
This is a wonderfully silly book full of all the stereotypes librarians have fought for years. Taken to a gloriously ridiculous level, the book deals with the librarian#39;s nickname to the magazines available: wouldn#39;t you want to read The Morticians Monthly or The Complete Pamphlet of Zip Codes? The illustrations by Jared Lee are perfect, showing a dank dungeon of a library haunted by various strange beasts. The reality, of course, is eventually revealed to the visiting class, who find the library a very friendly and fun place, full of books you can touch and a librarian who will help you find that special book. While that is all true, it is the first part of this book, with its man-eating plants and militant librarian that have made me giggle my way through this work several times.
This is one of a whole set of Black Lagoon books from Thaler and Lee and you might also want to look for other titles, such as The Teacher from the Black Lagoon, The Custodian from the Black Lagoon or The Class Trip from the Black Lagoon. There are even chapter books of this series which gather several of the titles in one handy volume. As you can guess, The Librarian from the Black Lagoon will always be my favorite and I recommend it for any young reader, as a gift for your favorite librarian or as a great addition to your own library.