The Gym Teacher from the Black Lagoon


Written by Mike Thaler, Illustrated by Jared Lee

Scholastic Books, 1994

We’re getting a new gym teacher this year.

Eek!  It’s a:  Gym Teacher!

This book begins as our nameless main character is walking to school on the first day of a new school year.  He’s thinking about the new gym teacher and all the terrible things he’s heard about this teacher.  According to the rumors, he’s big, mean and hairy and he makes you run increasingly ridiculous laps.  The stories about the demands Mr. Green makes on his students get more and more outrageous as the book goes on, culminating in the worst thing of all – having to square dance with girls.  As the book ends, the narrator goes to gym class and meets the new gym teacher, who is not only a regular guy, but seems like a pretty good teacher as well.

Man, this teacher is serious about proper posture.

Man, this teacher is serious about proper posture.

This is the third book in the ‘Black Lagoon’ series from the team of Mike Thaler and Jared Lee.  Together, they wrote 19 picture  books and 22 chapter books in this series, which is a strong testament to its popularity.  An animated short movie of this book was also released from Weston Woods.  For those of us who remember The Electric Company, it should be noted that Mike Thaler was the original creator of Letterman (“able to leap capital T in a single bound!”)  I borrowed my review copy from my son, who has kept this book from his childhood.

It’s easy to see how rumors can spiral out of control and they seem to take on a life of their own as they pass from person to person.  This story captures that and even seems to pick up the pace as the story progresses, which does a good job of illustrating the power that misinformation can have on those who hear it.  This would be a great book for any kid who is dreading something just because of the things they’ve heard.  It’s great comic fun.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that it’s best not to listen too closely to the speculation of others before you make up your own mind.


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