Having tackled shoelace-tying and new-school jitters, the heroine from Countdown to Kindergarten (and Puddy, her cat) is back to start first grade-with a loose tooth. There's just one problem: a second-grader warns her that the first-grade teacher, Mrs. Watson, is a "three-hundred-year-old alien who steals baby teeth from her students." Once again making comical use of spot illustrations and thought balloons intermingled with the main narrative, Bliss conveys palpable fear on the heroine's face, as she looks for her teacher's telltale purple tongue, and shuns the treat box where the woman purportedly "keeps all those baby teeth." Fans will note McGhee's sly references to the first book ("Counting backwards from ten is my specialty! But wait. Keep... mouth... closed," reads the heroine's thought balloon when the teacher asks if anyone knows how), while Bliss fills the book with enough details for parents and kids to pore over (the Drama Club poster announces a production of Marathon Man, "a chilling tale of suspense and toothaches," a Book Fair poster advertises Harry Plotter and the Huge Cavity by J.K. Salinger"). A reassuring, humorous ending when the heroine's tooth finally does pop out in Mrs. Watson's classroom reminds readers that they must rely on their own experiences-not the say-so of others. Ages 4-7. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Starting first grade has made our young narrator nervous enough. But she becomes even more apprehensive because a second-grader has told her that, "It's a known fact that Mrs. Watson, the first-grade teacher, is a three-hundred-year-old alien who steals baby teeth from her students." As the school bus wends its way to school, more terrifying information is relayed to our young heroine, who feels particularly vulnerable because she has a loose tooth. So through the day's activities her mouth remains firmly closed...until it pops out unexpectedly, and she finds out the happy truth. Smiles abound for readers throughout the text, told mostly in speech balloons and caption for vignettes. Ink and watercolor drawings describe the characters with only the minimum of props: bus, hallway with "toothy" posters, school desks. The children are cartoon-like in their representations, but they help move the comic adventure along with emotional effectiveness as they engage in typical behavior. Someone else's anxiety can be fun to see and may lessen one's own. The final triumphant smile warms the heart. 2004, Harcourt, Ages 4 to 7.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Mrs. Watson, the first-grade teacher, is a 300-year-old alien with a purple tongue who steals baby teeth from her students. How does this new student know? A second grader enlightened her on the bus ride to her first day of school. Now she lives in terror because she has a loose tooth. Can she keep her mouth closed for the rest of the school year? This delightful book by Alison McGhee (Harcourt, 2004) is sure to have students giggling. Rachael Lillis reads the text (and pretty much every written word in the illustrations) with gusto and humor, creating a different voice for each character. Sound effects and background music enhance the text, as readers enjoy the humorous details of Harry Bliss's watercolor-and-ink illustrations. While some might have a little trouble with the concept of giving children candy as a reward for losing a tooth, this book is a sure-fire hit.
Teresa BatemanCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.