cover image Open Wide

Open Wide

Laurie Keller. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6192-5

Dr. Flossman welcomes his 32 students--eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars and 12 molars--to class at the start of Keller's (The Scrambled States of America) disappointingly flat lesson on tooth care and trivia. While, in her first book, the states themselves delivered the facts in fun-filled chatty exchanges, here the teacher drills into his anthropomorphic pupils a smattering of tooth truths, including the physical composition of teeth, the function of primary teeth, causes of tooth decay and the importance of dental hygiene. The bulk of the narrative is silly filler (for instance, a funky-looking tooth fairy pays a visit to the school and complains that she sometimes almost suffocates trying to retrieve teeth from under pillows). The book's abundant puns and asides, many delivered by the teeth themselves, may elicit as many groans as giggles from readers. One of the standout spreads, the penultimate, highlights facts about teeth during the times of the Ancient Egyptians through to George Washington. Though the book's cluttered, quirky art is at its best in comical scenarios of ambulatory teeth in the cafeteria and at recess, the visual humor, like that of the narrative, lacks the incisive bite of Keller's earlier book. Ages 5-10. (May)