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George Washington's Teeth Hardcover – February 3, 2003

32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The creators of George Washington's Teeth unhinge the jaws of history to examine the mouth of America's first president, tracking the poor man's dental woes as he gallops to war, crosses the Delaware, and, with only two teeth left, takes his place as leader of the country. Washington was plagued by black, rotting teeth from the time he was 22, losing about one a year until he was nearly "toofless" and had to have his first dentures made from a hippotamus tusk (that's right, not wood!). Poets Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora begin their quirky historical tale at a lively clip: "The Revolutionary War/ George hoped would soon be won,/ But another battle with his teeth/ Had only just begun..." Indeed. Evidently he was losing teeth even as he crossed the Delaware: "George crossed the icy Delaware/ With nine teeth in his mouth./ In that cold and pitchy dark,/ Two more teeth came out!" (Cleverly, illustrator Brock Cole mimics Emanuel Leutze's famous painting "Washington Crossing the Delaware," making Washington seem more uncomfortably tight-lipped than dignified.) The story ends happily ever after with the crafting of a nice new pair of ivory false teeth that allow George to dance around the ballroom through the night. Truth be told, however, he would be deeply troubled by his teeth until the day he died. A four-page, illustrated historic timeline of Washington's life (and mouth) completes this carefully researched, very funny, charmingly illustrated picture book that works to humanize a larger-than-life historical figure and in turn, history itself. Brilliant! (Ages 7 and older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

In a clever approach to history, Chandra and Comora string together spry stanzas describing the dental difficulties that plagued George Washington. Rhyming verse explains how the general's rotten teeth gradually fall out during the Revolutionary War: "George crossed the icy Delaware/ With nine teeth in his mouth./ In that cold and pitchy dark,/ Two more teeth came out!" Cole complements this verse by rendering a sly watercolor twist on Emanuel Leutze's famous painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, in a full-spread treatment: Washington still stands in quiet dignity, but the boatmen are grinning. By the time Washington is elected president, just two teeth remain in his mouth. Kids will love the details, such as the way Washington uses a pair of his molars to fashion a mold from which the dentist makes a set of dentures (these are carved from hippopotamus ivory, and even shown, in a photograph in the afterword). Infusing his bustling watercolor vignettes with comic hyperbole, Cole easily keeps pace with the lighthearted narrative. One especially funny image shows the president sprawled on the floor, legs in the air, after viewing a newly painted portrait ("George stood up to have a look-/ He fell back on his fanny./ `It doesn't look like me!' he roared./ `It looks like Martha's granny!' "). An annotated timeline at the end includes quotes from the leader's letters and diaries chronicling his relentless efforts to hide his dental problems and the extent to which they caused him chronic pain and embarrassment. A highly palatable historical morsel. All ages.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (February 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374325340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374325343
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.4 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,061,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By ardnam VINE VOICE on March 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting new perspective on George Washington. It makes him seem more human to children. Young children are intrigued to have the myth of wooden teeth squelched. Ther book provides a historical timeline in the back. This is a great book for children of ALL ages. Even I, an older child and teacher, learned some things. I had no idea our first president was so obsessed with his teeth and that he had such an active role in the solutions to his dental problems. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Reading Teacher on February 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After reviewing this book for a graduate Children's Literature course, we were surprised to see how much George Washington's teeth played a role in his day to day life. It was a comical rhyming story that would be appropriate for elementary students. As Kindergarten and First Grade teachers we would incorporate its theme into teaching dental health. Young children are often very excited about losing their baby teeth, however, this book would convince them to take very good care of their grown up teeth. The book could also be used in upper elementary classes to discuss myths, like George Washington's wooden teeth!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There are lots of ways of chronicling the change in the national temperament, and one of them is that when I was a kid it was the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree that was what stood out. However, the inquiring minds of the nation's youth today are now going to be more intrigued by the legend the first President had wooden teeth, which is precisely how Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora, aided and abetted by Brock Cole's pictures, manages to teach young readers a nice little lesson in the finer points of historiography.
Told in four line verse, "George Washington's Teeth" relates an imaginative set of encounters between General Washington and his dentist as the number of teeth in the mouth of the Father of Our Country decreases one by one over the years leading to Independence and the Presidency. Well, that is not entirely true since the authors have Washington losing two teeth the night be crossed the Delaware, but that left him with seven at that point in American history, which is a lucky number that fits the victory at Trenton. Eventually Washington is elected President, which is good, but has no teeth left, which is bad (especially when having your portrait painted). Fortunately, he comes up with a solution.
The first part of "George Washington's Teeth" is pretty whimsical, but then the last part of the book contains a time line of important events in George Washington's life from his own letters, diaries, and accounts.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JOE-JOE BOOKS on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We bought this book last year after visiting Mount Vernon. We had told our (four and five year old) children of George Washington and his teeth since they started regular tooth brushing. We used the story of how poor George lost all his teeth to motivate them to brush their teeth regularly. Needless to say, they both have good dental care habits and good teeth to go with them! This book has cute illustrations to go with the rhymes on each page and made the stories all the more real to our children. At the back of the book there is a wonderful timeline that chronicles the story of George Washington's life and how his teeth were a big part of it. The timeline is done in a manner that will make adults appreciate the story of George Washington's life in a new way.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Lover of Books on May 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful addition to any collection of books! It rhymes and makes history fun for kids. The pictures are wonderful and work very well with the text. I have read this to several elementary classes, and all of the students have really enjoyed it. In the back of the book there is a time line of actual historical facts about George Washington's teeth. I would recommend this book to anyone!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Comora and Chandra have made a book to delight wordsmiths and history buffs alike. A verse narrative, each stanza informs by amusing. The great craft of the poem is never visible, but always in evidence -- none of the inane repetition that often informs such efforts is found here.
The whimsical illustrations are more than fine, and laid out to support and complement, rather than compete with the words.
A true delight for President's Day, and many others besides.
Bravi!
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Format: Paperback
This is a splendid way to brush up on the dental dilemmas of President George Washington. Contrary to common belief, the author says none of his false teeth were wooden. This creative, well-researched, rhyming picture book documents the many dental woes of President One. Illustrator Brock Cole adds action and intriguing detail, with lovely, comical watercolor pastels of historic moments.
Complemented by text in rolling rhyme (a subtle poetry) and flowing verse (co-author Madeleine Camora has contributions to several anthologies of poetry for children), this is a book to add to the collection of children from pre-school thru sixth grade.

...and after George had been sitting a bit for his latest portrait to be painted,
"George stood up to have a look,

He fell back on his fanny.

'It doesn't look like me!' he roared!

'It looks like Martha's granny!'"

Famous portraits of George are featured in the concluding four-page Timeline, as well as photographs of his final set of denture, which are "carved from hippopotamus ivory, the plate swaged from a sheet of gold, and springs made of coiled gold wire." This detailed Timeline is based on George's letters, diaries and other historical documents, and provides bibliographic resources for further research.

The final note: "George's account books show that between the years 1772 and 1792, the medical bills for himself, his family and around 200 slaves amounted to $100 per year. By comparison, George's dental bills were $1,000 per year."

Records indicate George's chronic gum disease lead to recurring severe infections, contributing to his demise. Young readers may be concerned about the loss of their own teeth (since this is when "baby teeth" start disappearing).
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