A boy with autism visits the dentist while his imaginary counterpart battles monsters that cause tooth decay in a picture book about good dental hygiene.
In the latest entry in the Amazingly Awesome Amani series, Amani stays up eating snacks in bed, and his mother scolds him and says he’ll ruin his teeth. She warns, “Make sure you brush your teeth….You don’t want the molar monsters to get you.” That night, Amani dreams that shadowy molar monsters, led by one wearing a crown, have come to take over his teeth. He wakes up just in time, fiercely brushing his teeth with his mother’s help before his dental appointment. At the dentist, Amani and his sister, Sandy, meet Dr. Kersch, who understands that Amani needs some extra coaching after his mother explains he has autism. Dr. Kersch knows just what to do, showing Amani all her tools and letting him look into his mother’s mouth before it’s his turn. Back at home, Amani imagines himself as the superpowered Awesome Amani; even with his powers, the molar monsters are almost too much, until Super Sandy appears to save the day with mouthwash. The New York–based co-authors do an excellent job of casting Amani as a hero who learns about keeping his teeth clean in order to defeat monsters; although others help him, he handles his fears independently, becoming a hero on his own. Dr. Kersch’s patient approach, focusing on clarity, setting expectations, and navigating Amani’s sensory sensitivities may comfort children afraid of visiting the dentist for the first time. As depicted in cartoonlike illustrations by iNDOS Studio, Amani’s family members all have the same brown skin tone but different shades of hair; Dr. Kersch is pale-skinned with dark blond hair. The writing is clunky, with tenses that shift back and forth from the present to the past, a device that may confuse independent readers. Those shifts weaken an otherwise strong message of what a visit to the dentist is like and the benefits of good tooth care.
Awkward writing takes a toll on a clever and sensitively handled premise.