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What They’re Saying about Henry and the Gym Monster

Reviews: Testimonials

Kids who enjoy physical education will find much familiar in Henry and the Gym Monster, where young Henry confronts a PE teacher and a monster who have different ideas about the importance of physical education class.

Good reading skills will lend further appreciation to the story, which receives creative and colorful illustrations by Emily Bennett as it surveys Henry's confrontation with Manny the Monster, who cannot be seen by the strict gym teacher who penalizes Henry for shouting, ignoring directions, and bullying...all ideas that this evil Monster has given him.

Regulated to the sidelines, Henry struggles with a monster that grows larger the more Henry blames Manny for his choices. How can Henry vanquish an enemy who has grown too large to handle, created through Henry's own choices to do the wrong things?

Ben Lancour creates a fine story in which the traditional monster does not come from an outside threat, but from within. The monster action takes place not at night, but in broad daylight. And Henry's problem-solving efforts and final solution are unexpected, fun events that are unpredictable and appealing.

The sense of humor and pleasing action assure that picture book readers receive a lesson that is as inviting a leisure read as it is an educational lesson about following one's heart and vanquishing inner monsters by choosing the right thing           (kindness).

Adults seeking to teach kids about the effects of good and bad choices will find Henry and the Gym Monster offers an excellent lesson on perspective and individual choice.

D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Henry’s favorite class is gym class (P.E.). He incorporates P.E. in everything he does: in art he draws P.E. activities, in music he sings P.E. praises, in math he counts P.E. exercises. And then in P.E., he has the most fun of all. Only one problem. There’s a P.E. monster named Manny who’s trying to encourage Henry to play Manny’s way; in other words, to cheat. Every time Henry follows Manny’s advice and cheats, the P.E. teacher notices and gives Henry some time out activities. And, every time Manny gets bigger. That is until Henry starts to catch onto Manny’s tricks and makes a change for the better. After all, it’s much more fun to play by the rules, to be fair and to help others.

Ben Lancour’s picture book story, Henry and the Gym Monster, is a clever way to teach young readers the importance of playing fair. The plot follows Henry through a day at school and how everything he does expresses his passion for P.E. Then, in the gym, Henry meets his nemesis, Manny, and learns the hard way that you can’t be in charge all the time, you can’t win all the time and it doesn’t pay to cheat. He also learned that he had to take responsibility for all that he did, sometimes a hard pill to swallow. The colorful illustrations help carry the story along – I particularly liked the way the illustrator depicted Henry’s expressions each time he learned another lesson, the hard way. As Henry finally learns his lessons in the gym, he then returns to class and finds the math minions ready to wreak their havoc. Has Henry truly learned his lessons? Perhaps there’s another story coming to continue this ongoing drama. Young readers will certainly value the lessons shared in this gem of a story.

Reviewed by Reader's Favorite

“Great story! As a parent and a special education teacher, I love the way this book addresses responsibility in a way that is relatable to children of all types. It’s a fun and effective way to help children with a topic so vital to their growth and development.”

Christina S. – Parent and Special Education teacher

“As a parent and PE teacher, this book is phenomenal at teaching children to take responsibility for their own actions and to make the right choice. Kids love to finish first but don’t always consider the consequences of their choices. Henry and the Gym Monster helps reiterate the importance of following directions, even if it means not finishing first. I will definitely use this book as a teaching point with my students and own children!”

Jacqui J. – Parent and Physical Education teacher

“Henry and the Gym Monster is a great resource for teaching kids the important skill of taking responsibility for their own actions. As a School Counselor, I feel this would be a very good book addition to any SEL library. It could easily be read aloud during a classroom guidance lesson, in a small group or to a child individually.”

Bonnie L. - School Counselor

 “As a school psychologist of young children, I often work with students struggling with self-regulation. Henry and the Gym Monster can help children understand how their impulsive actions impact others and how to effectively repair any damage caused as a result. This would be a great resource to have on hand in any elementary classroom!” 

Lindsey B. - School Psychologist

All Henry wants to do is enjoy PE class with his friends, but unfortunately, a pesky monster called Manny is constantly weighing him down and telling him what to do. With clever use of metaphor and language, The Gym Monster is a fun, action-packed story about learning to control your feelings and respect those of other people. I’d highly recommend this book, especially for reading in classrooms to help children deal with their own often-complicated emotions.

Helen I.- Author and Editor

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