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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Tale of the Tooth Fairy

Author: Helen East
Illustrator: Katinka Kew
Publisher: Macdonald Children's Books, 1989

Well it came to pass tonight, finally, that 5 year old Bert lost his front tooth. Off I skedaddled to the bookshelf to find this mainstay of our household tooth loosing experience - a fiction book about the origins of the tooth fairy. 
Yes indeed, the cover illustrations look a bit menacing, and the idea of a 'tooth gang master' called Justice Fang, who recruits trolls and ogres, goblins, witches and hard-up highwaymen to collect teeth in all manner of ways, is a tad on the fearsome side for bedtime, but giving substance to the tooth fairies actions and motivations is so worth it. 

The book tells the story of an average fairy with no remarkable attributes, so her fairy visitors name her 'Nothing'. However, Nothing amounts to so very much as she discovers her first pearly white tooth to take to Justice Fang, and gifts the sleeping child before her, with a bright new shiny coin. Nothing then revisits the child to find a note requesting she returns for the next tooth, and could she please visit and leave coins for the child's gappy-mouthed friends? Meanwhile the story-in-the-story tells of sceptical Jack, a boy who, like my son Bert, awaits the tooth fairy with many questions, such as, 'how can one fairy visit all the children in one night?' 
This is a magical read helping to 'inform' and so fuel the excitement of a tooth-loss evening. It's an old book, and possibly out of issue (I found it in a charity shop a few years ago) so it might be difficult to acquire. I would also suggest it is suitable for the over fives and not preschoolers, as the illustrations are just a bit too creepy to share with children any younger. The head-shot pictures in particular, show shallow, sunken faces, and they're very ghoulish and haunting. The 'baddies' in the book are depicted as plentiful, thriving and sinister. The story captures a sense of foreboding for poor doomed fairy Nothing, but there's an underdog-victor outcome, a message of hope. Children who like books about legends and myths will enjoy this; it's very macabre and in all, one of those books that lodges in the memory well, balancing on that fear/pleasure binary.  

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