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OPEN WIDE by Laurie Keller Kirkus Star


by Laurie Keller & illustrated by Laurie Keller

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8050-6192-4
Publisher: Henry Holt

Painless dentistry is lightened with a dose of laughing gas. Fans of Keller’s wacky The Scrambled States of America (1999) will find this a fact-filled, sure-fire, kid-centric introduction to a familiar staple of the elementary school curriculum: dental health. Here, Keller’s inspired conceit—a “tooth” school “class” presided over by the single-minded Dr. Flossman—offers almost endless opportunities for kid-pleasing puns and clever classroom asides. The book begins with roll call of the “incoming” students: thirty-two teeth (eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars, twelve molars, and four wisdom). The “school” day then progresses through typical classroom routines: announcements (“GO CHOMPERS”), a lesson featuring a cross-section chart of a tooth, a student report on “Primary Teeth,” an “informative” video on the Tooth Fairy, group process (incisors together please!), lunch (followed by brushing and flossing, of course), a lesson on tooth decay and cavities, and student reports on the history of dentistry. Check out the funny but fact-based multiple choice and True/False tests (Keller thoughtfully provides the answers). Dynamic book design mimics the untutored artwork of a particularly fun-loving and terribly talented ten-year-old. Keller employs a busy mix of stamp-pad art, ruled paper, notebook sheets, acrylics, colored pencil, crayon, marker drawings, and collage. Spiced with ample cartoony little asides (featuring appropriately costumed, fully ambulatory, and pleasingly smart-mouthed talking teeth), Keller’s art delivers the “message” while entertaining, inviting close study and provoking belly laughs. A perfect gift for the dentist who has everything. Every waiting room (and library) needs a copy. (Picture book. 8-10)