April and Esme: Tooth Fairies - Bob Graham

Sometimes I feel silly writing a lot about a picture book because I could probably quote the entire story here for you in fewer words—but that doesn’t give you a sense of the pictures and the little details and nuances. First, a brief outline of the story:

April Underhill is seven (“and three quarters”) and Esme is six, and they’ve never done a tooth visit yet. But they get a call from a grandma whose grandson just lost his first tooth, and she really wants April and Esme, not their parents. There’s some initial reluctance from the parents, who insist they’re too young, that the world is much more dangerous these days, but they eventually give in and send the girls on their way. They find the young boy, collect the tooth, deliver the coin and return home.

That’s the gist of the story, but there are lots of little details both in the text and the illustrations that I really love. As with most picture books, I read it to my daughters several times and I actually noticed more things each time I read it. The Underhills live in a miniature house next to an old tree stump—and while the illustrations are lovely pen-and-watercolor drawings Graham makes sure to show that the tooth fairies don’t live in a wonderland. Even on the cover you can see a popsicle stick and soda can pull-tab in the grass. April has a cell phone, which is how the grandma reaches her at the beginning of the story. Big trucks rush past on the highway, just a few yards away from the Underhills’ home.

I loved the fact that the mom looks more like a traditional fairy—long blonde hair, white gown, ring of flowers on her head—except that she’s got a little bird tattoo on her arm. The dad has his wavy hair pulled back into a ponytail and is wearing jeans and a T-shirt and has a five-o’-clock shadow, but he still has those big translucent fairy wings. And the two little fairies just look like regular girls with wings—Esme has short curly brown hair and even big glasses. On later readings, I caught some more details, like the fact that when you first see the dad he’s hanging up laundry. I like that the fairy family has postage stamps hanging on their walls as posters, and the girls have a chess knight that’s been turned into a horse riding toy. It’s cute that April has a cell phone and texts her mom for help when the boy wakes up and sees them.

What really got to me—I’ll admit my eyes got a little moist—was when the girls returned home. There’s a scene of the girls on the front step, parents wearing their PJs and kneeling to hug them “until their wings crackled.” Even though nothing really scary happens on the tooth visit, Graham really captures the emotions of the parents as they send their little kids out into the world: the uncertainty about the task, the flood of relief when they return, the pride at their success. Ok, so I’m not going to send my kids across a highway at night and I’m not going to buy my daughter a cell phone while she’s seven. But I found myself admiring the way the mom and dad handled the situation and the way they obviously love their daughters.

It’s a very sweet story, gorgeously illustrated, and I highly recommend it.

Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad as part of my Stories About Girls series.

Fed to jonathan's brain | January 28, 2011 | Comments (0)


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