#130 – When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly by Mary Lee

A to Z Challenge Day23: W
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3 Stars

When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly:  Katie is not a little girl anymore—she is six years old!  But some mean girls at school still tease her about her chipped baby tooth.  Katie seeks advice from her grandma, who will tell her a hilarious story that encourages her to use humor instead of anger or sadness to solve her problems.

The title of this short 24-page book, When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly, hooked me without ever reading a word of the story.  I had forgotten the old adage never judge a book by its cover.  The story about bullies is narrated by little six-year-old Katie.  Katie speaks mostly in short, stunted sentences.

. . . . . . . . . . My name is Katie.
. . . . . . . . . . I am six years old.
. . . . . . . . . . I am in the first grade.
. . . . . . . . . . Miss Crafty is my teacher.

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In reading this story several times, I have not been able to shake off that Katie is telling the entire story, which is more than okay, . . . until Grandma takes over to tell her little Katie about the time grandma’s false teeth flew out of her mouth.  This is the real story.  Katie is just a conduit for Grandma’s story.  Katie arrives home from school and Grandma asks her what she did in school that day.  Katie tells her a few things that happened,

. . . . . . . . . . Miss Crafty wrote four sentences 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . on the blackboard.  
. . . . . . . . . . I read the longest one.  
. . . . . . . . . . At recess I played hide-and-seek with 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . other girls on the playground.  
. . . . . . . . . . We had fun.

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Then Katie tells grandma two mean girls teased her about her chipped baby tooth.  This sparks grandma’s tale, which is the real story in the book and the reason for the title.  Grandma tells a funny story about the day at church when her false teeth flew out of her mouth, landing in a bowl of pudding, as she yells at her two sons (one is Katie’s dad).  Before anyone could laugh at her, Grandma began to laugh so others would be laughing with her, not at her.  Katie smiles and says,

. . . . . . . . . . Tomorrow when the mean girls 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tease me about my tooth,  
. . . . . . . . . . I will tell them I had a fight 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . with a coffee table.  I lost.

..

Katie, the narrator resumes her story and states:

. . . . . . . . . . Then, I will laugh and laugh and laugh.  

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That’s the end of the story.   No, we do not get to see if Katie laughing at herself first will actually get these mean little girls to stop teasing her. We do not find learn what Katie does if it does not work.  The ending is abrupt and leaves the main conflict of the story—little mean girls/first-grade bullies teasing Katie at school—unresolved by Katie.

Katie saying she will do what grandma did is the beginning of Katie solving her conflict with the mean girls at school, not the end of her story.  Maybe I am a stickler, but I still believe that children’s stories should be about children and children should be the ones to solve the conflict, not adults.

Why is this not a good way to end the story?  Consider this.  If, in The Wizard of Oz for example, the last sentences were Dorothy telling the munchkins that she will do as they suggest and follow the yellow brick road, but we do not get to follow that road with her.  That would not be much of a story. Stories need an ending that shows the protagonist (Dorothy/Katie) solving their conflicts (confronting the Wizard of Oz/confronting the mean girls at school).  Anything less leaves the reader hanging..

That said, grandma’s story is funny.  It includes Katie’s father making it relevant to Katie.  I liked Katie’s attitude about herself.

. . . . . . . . . . I am six years old, Grandma.
. . . . . . . . . . I am not a baby anymore.

 

That perfectly captures the meaning of school for first graders.  As kindergarteners, they were babies, but the girls on that playground are in the first grade now.  Katie feels she should no longer have baby teeth in the first grade because she is no longer a baby.  The girls on the playground must feel the same way, so they tease Katie.

I like that the adult at home asks Katie about her day.  Grandma does not offer to fix the problem by calling the school or talking to the girls’ parents.  She simply tells a story about herself that might help Katie feel better in that moment and give her a way to deal with the bullies later.

The illustrations are good.  Katie has big eyes and her friends at school are diverse.  The look on the young boys face (Katie’s dad and an uncle) when their mother’s false teeth fly out of her mouth is great.  The two boys probably never knew their mother had them and thought her real teeth had wings.  Then we get to see the teeth in the pudding.  Funny stuff.  (There are no sample illustrations to post for this book).

When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly is a good bedtime story.  It is short enough to read in one sitting.  The visual that will immediately enter a child’s mind upon hearing the title will have their little ears perked. This is a cute story, but without a clear ending.  I would love to read an expanded version of the story that included the resolution of Katie’s conflict with the school bullies.  Grandma’s story is funny, the title is great, but the main character is Katie and we need to read more about her.

To comment, pleas scroll to the top of this review, look to the left, and click on “comment.”

When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly

Author: Mary Lee   website
Illustrator: Rebbeca Riffey   website
Publisher: Tate Publishing    website
Release Date:  February 14, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61777-974-9
Number of Pages: 24
Ages: 4 - 8


A to Z Challenge Day23: W
A to Z Challenge Minus 3

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2 thoughts on “#130 – When Grandma’s False Teeth Fly by Mary Lee

  1. Pingback: Armchair BEA 2013: Final Day | Kid Lit Reviews

  2. I think grade one kids will get a hoot out of this book. I work in a dental office and see all the teeth issue 6 and 7 years old kids have. And it’s a big deal to them. This is why you rarely see a school picture of a grade one kid smiling with teeth showing. It’s their puckered, pursed lips year.

    Good job on the A-Z Challenge, Ms. Morris.

    Diane M. Robinson
    http://www.dianemaerobinson.tateauthor.com

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