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.