Monday, February 20, 2012

A Field Trip To The Black Lagoon

This weekend our family did a lot of cross country skiing because it was so warm here, (in the 30's). So, we didn't read as much as usual, but we did read a lot of books from one series that I just have to share with you, and that is: "The Black Lagoon Adventures Series," by Mike Thaler and illustrated by Jared Lee. We think this series is wonderful for kids of ALL AGES. Here are a few reasons why.
  • First of all they are FUNNY in an intelligent way! 
  • Second, they are FULL of wordplay and so they make great tools for teaching puns and word play and developing a healthy sense of humor.
  •  Third, they each have a moral or character lesson to teach hidden amongst all of the humor.
  • Fourth, they are enjoyable for ADULTS! This is VERY important... I laugh just as much, if not more, than my girls do.
  • Fifth, the illustrations are FANTASTIC AND IMAGINATIVE!
  • Sixth, after reading these books we walk away feeling INSPIRED TO BE MORE CREATIVE AND PLAYFUL!
 Our only complaints (which aren't really complaints): The books are addictive and so easy and fun to read that you could read the entire series in one day! (And then you are left longing for more.) The references and wordplay can be somewhat "sophisticated" at times, and without some extra learning (which we think is AWESOME) might not be fully appreciated and enjoyed by the age/reading level that they are recommended for, (most of the books recommend themselves from 1st to 3rd grade reading level). We think that kids at this age would eat these books up, but to really appreciate all of the puns and plays on words readers at this age should be assisted with the difficult ones to develop the background knowledge needed to truly appreciate the jokes. For example:

  • "Penny is excited to lip-sync Beethoven's 9th Symphony!" ( pg. 12 from "The Talent Show from the Black Lagoon" by Mike Thaler, # 2 in The Black Lagoon Adventures Series.)
--- In this quote from the book the readers need to have heard Beethoven's 9th Symphony in order to understand why this is funny. Well, you can quickly YouTube it, listen to it, and then watch as your child goes "Ohhhhhh! You can't LipSync to that! HAHA"

  • "Then there was Abraham Lincoln. He didn't lie, either. Mrs. Beamster says that he walked ten miles just to return an overdue book. He lived in Gettysburg because they said he had a Gettysburg Address!" ( pg. 20 from "The Class Election from the Black Lagoon," by Mike Thaler, # 3 in the Black Lagoon Adventures Series)
--- Here is an example of a play on words and a need for some prior history education on Abraham Lincoln to fully appreciate it. Since these books are peppered with all sorts of fun and informational facts that are true, followed by plays on words or facts that are not true, it is important that the reader can identify which statements are in fact true and which are meant to be humorous. If a young reader didn't have any knowledge of the Gettysburg Address then they might not find the humor in this passage and could even walk away from it thinking that Abraham Lincoln actually did live in Gettysburg! Of course, eventually they would learn otherwise, and so we don't think any harm is ever done from not understanding these passages, but it doesn't hurt to read ahead as a parent and provide your child with the background info on any sections that you think might trip them up before they read the book. What a GREAT motivation to squeeze in some reading for History or Science or for reading a Biography! For example, if you take a moment to scan this book before your child reads it (which takes no time at all and is actually quite enjoyable) and you find this phrase is going to "fly right over their head," then you could have them read "The Gettysburg Address," and a short biography on Abraham Lincoln early in the day and then reward them for their work by handing them "The Class Election from the Black Lagoon," by Mike Thaler. You will find that they will get to this section of the book and alarm bells will go ringing in their head like crazy. Most likely they will come running to you to point out the passage and the strange coincidence of it all and how they really think it's funny since they just read all about Abraham Lincoln etc. I have played this trick on Autumn numerous times and she always comes running to me full of excitement. Why I like to do it: it shows her that the knowledge she learns from reading about history and geography and famous people really is referenced in "real books and real life," and does come in handy when you have a good understanding of it. Yes, it takes a brief amount of forethought and planning, but with the Internet it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to take a trip to the library or have all the materials prepped days in advance to pull this trick off. You could do it anytime

  • One more example of a passage that you could utilize to sneak some history reading in prior to rewarding your child with a fun read in order to get an "AHA!" moment
 "I'm betrayed in the cafeteria. I feel like that ancient Roman Emperor Julius Caesar Salad. Jabbed in the back with a dessert spoon. I feel desserted." ( pg. 47 from "The Class Election from the Black Lagoon," by Mike Thaler, book # 3 from The Black Lagoon Adventure Series.)

----Sneak in a quick read on Julius Caesar before handing over Mike Thaler's book to your child, and all of a sudden they discover that reading about Julius came in handy.

Well, below I have shared a few videos on Mike Thaler and his work if you would also like to take "A Field Trip to The Black Lagoon." Autumn and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this series to you, but we suggest that it shouldn't be looked at as a series just for new readers. We think it should be enjoyed by readers of all ages, and can even be enjoyed by adults! We would love to hear what you think about the books after you have read them.

                                                                  Happy Reading!

                                           Mike Thaler reads from "Tales From The Back Pew"

                                           Studio From The Black Lagoon ( A Sneak Peek into Mike Thaler's Studio)

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