Teeth

Dear Tooth Fairy

Alan Durant (Author) Vanessa Cobban (Illustrator)
Walker Books: 2003 (reprint 2014)
ISBN: 0744588588
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Holly has lost a tooth and likes it too much to give it to the tooth fairy, so she puts a set of vampire teeth under her pillow instead. When the tooth fairy refuses the vampire teeth and leaves a note instead, Holly begins writing letters to the fairy. She demands answers to certain questions (e.g. Why do fairies want teeth? What do fairies do with the teeth? How many tooth fairies are there?). Only when satisfied with the answers to all her questions, will Holly give up her tooth.

Fairies are the main theme in this wonderful story book, but there is also a nod to teeth cleaning in the fairy’s assertion that fairies need strong teeth (which Holly possesses) and the encouragement to keep brushing. These messages are, however, oblique. This book is all about the magic of a curious mind! Holly and the tooth fairy are a hoot; they are both strong-willed, funny, and intelligent. The cover design is very pink but don’t be put off if pink is not your kid’s thing— the artworks are realistic and often depict Holly reading and writing her letters. They draw you into the excitement of something magical happening in the everyday world. The tiny fairy messages that fit into small envelopes within the pages of the book are perfect for small hands to explore and provide wonderful detail that builds on the sassy tone of the responses to Holly’s many questions.   

Ginger McFlea will not clean her teeth

Lee Fox (author) and Mitch Vane (illustrator)
Lothian Children’s Book: 2010
ISBN: 9780734411051
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Ginger McFlea will not clean her teeth! She has given her toothbrush to her pet tortoise and steadily refuses to get brushing, even though she eats lots of lollies. After a check-up with Doctor Felicity Cheek, Ginger discovers her teeth won’t pass the tooth fairy test and she has to rethink her approach to dental hygiene.  

This hilarious rhyming romp of a story is a great cathartic read for all those who can’t stand to clean their teeth. The text dwells on Ginger’s refusal to clean and the illustrations play this up superbly with scenes of screwed up lips and flung away tooth brushes. The pious commentary of Jasper, whose teeth cleaning ‘example is glowing and proper’, together with the horrified expressions of parents and doctor are consistent with the hyperbolic approach. Similar to Dr Seuss’s The Tooth Book, Ginger McFlea will not clean her teeth is a fun story with a ‘true’ statement about the importance of teeth cleaning popped in for good measure.

How to brush your teeth with Snappy Croc

Jane Clarke and Georgie Birkett
Red Fox Book (Penguin) 2015
ISBN: 9781782953951
Age: 0+

Reviewed by Viv Young

It’s time to clean little croc’s teeth and she’s not happy about it. Luckily, there’s a little girl to fetch the toothpaste, take the cap off the ‘yummy, gummy toothpaste’, explain why teeth need cleaning, and how to do it.

This tooth cleaning book for younger children is clever and funny. As the little girl becomes the teacher and the ‘proud’ parent of the crocodile, a role reversal takes place that encourages young readers to engage with the process of teeth cleaning from a different perspective. While it is not a didactic book, it does present the standard routine—putting the toothpaste on the brush, brushing up and down, rinsing, spitting and smiling in the mirror. The little girl is shown cleaning her teeth too. The illustrations are heartwarming; they capture the grumps and the delight of small people doing things for themselves, moreover, the minimal backgrounds and focus on little croc and her teacher bring to the fore the fun that this book is all about.

I don’t want to clean my teeth

David Cornish
Harper Collins: 2018
ISBN : 9781460754276
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Every morning and night Rollo cries, ‘I don’t want to clean my teeth’. Rollo does of course clean his teeth, because he knows about holes, but the process involves some playful meandering about the business: there’s which brush to choose, the ‘squeezy, squirly…paste’ to put on, the very bubbly results and more. Throughout, Rollo periodically says, ‘I don’t want to clean my teeth!’

David Cornish has produced a fantastically fun book for kids about teeth cleaning. It doesn’t preach or teach; it does portray what many parents may see as a workable teeth cleaning situation—a child cleaning his or her teeth in a circuitous manner without loving it! Rollo’s repeated objection to teeth cleaning may strike an empathic chord with those kids who really do find teeth cleaning a difficult experience. If not, the illustrations which portray the cleaning process with a wicked sense of humour — imagine a boy lassoing (flossing) an escaping cooked chicken (morsel of food stuck to one’s teeth)—have great potential to hit the giggle spot.

Maisy, Charley and the wobbly tooth

Lucy Cousins
Walker Books: 2006
ISBN: 9781406305326
Age: 0+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Charley the Crocodile’s wobbly tooth is worrying him, so Maisy suggests he visit the dentist. Soon Charley, Maisy, and their usual friends are in Dr Biteright’s surgery riding on the dentist’s chair and learning how to brush their teeth. Charley discovers that his loose tooth is a baby tooth that will come out soon.

One of the Maisy’s First Experiences stories, this title presents the familiar cast of Maisy characters and is illustrated in Lucy Cousins’s trademark bright and bold colours. The short sweet dialogue reflects her gentle and age-appropriate style. As a tooth book about cleaning this is a great low-key example. It doesn’t try to teach. It does present Maisy and her friends brushing in a matter-of-fact way with no objections and no explanations or lectures. There is direct engagement with the topic of dentist visits too, and this part of the book is especially focused on the novelty of the experience and the approachability of the dentist.

Melvin the Magnificent Molar

Julia Cook and Laura Jana MD (authors), Allison Valentine (illustrator)
National Centre for Youth Issues: 2010
ISBN 9781931636742
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Melvin the Magnificent molar gives a tooth’s view of caring for teeth. He begins by explaining the function of primary ‘baby’ teeth, of molars and front teeth in particular. Then, we’re into Melvin’s morning—singing the tooth song and cleaning the ‘sleeping scummies’ away, which can be difficult when you’re a hard-to-reach-molar. The last part of the book focuses on Melvin’s excitement about his first dentist visit and what happens during it. The dentist is friends with the tooth fairy and meeting the tooth fairy is Melvin’s dream. We leave him imagining a future letter from his child to the tooth fairy when Melvin finally makes way for the permanent molar.

Melvin’s guide to teeth is instructional, but the first-person tooth narrative and intermittent appearances of the tooth fairy in text and illustrations do provide an overarching story for the high non-fiction content. The illustrations, which present bright eyed and smiley teeth in dental product colours (blues, whites, reds), similarly add to its appeal. Moreover, the information is well designed for the preschool/early school market, as it concentrates on the lead up to permanent teeth and the relationship between primary ‘baby’ and permanent teeth. While a lot of the information will be relevant to parents and children from around the world who use tooth brushes, there are probably some differences for non-American families (e.g. flossing of children’s teeth).

Open Wide Tooth School Inside

Laurie Keller (author) and Michael McKean
Scholastic: 2000
ISBN: 9780439849135
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Mr Flossman is teaching his class of permanent teeth. In the morning there are announcements, a report on baby teeth given by one of the permanent teeth, then lunch. When all the teeth are back in class and refuse to brush and floss, Mr Flossman gives a refresher lesson on tooth decay. All teeth brush and floss enthusiastically and the day wraps us with the teeth giving reports on teeth throughout history.

This sly teaching book is filled with facts about primary and permanent teeth, but carefully integrates the high non-fiction content within a quirky scenario imagining teeth going to school. The factual information, complex layout and busy illustrations are most appropriate for older pre-schoolers/early school age kids loosing or about to lose their primary teeth.

The school yard banter of the teeth, which makes great play of common idioms and labels (sweet tooth, wisdom tooth) is witty. The imagined school is clearly American, so there are a few jokes (e.g. regarding school lunches, American presidents, and football) that may be lost on some readers, but this doesn’t diminish the fun kids from other countries can have with the text and illustrations.

The Tooth Book
Dr Seuss and Joe Mathieu
Bright and Early Board Books series 
RandomHouse 2000 (Adapted from 1981 text)
ISBN: 9780375824920
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Big toothy drawings accompany a series of whimsical rhymes on the theme of teeth before culminating in a lecture from Hilda the Hen, which contains a lot of laughs and a few well disguised facts.

This not-so-serious rhyming tooth book is great for when your clever toddler or preschooler has sussed your teeth cleaning agenda. There are some hard tooth facts that keep the serious subject of teeth cleaning whirling around in your little one’s head, such as Hilda’s observation that humans only get two sets of teeth, so you need to look after them! But the use of humour (e.g. ‘Don’t chew down trees like beavers do’) and humorous hyperbole in text (e.g. ‘Don’t gobble junk like billy billings. They say his teeth have fifty fillings’) combined with some very toothy cartoon illustrations make the didactic moments eminently palatable for young people.

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