CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 14. . . .December 7, 2012
Sophie is a small mouse with big aspirations. When the current Tooth Mouse announces her retirement, Sophie decides to apply for the esteemed position. Addressing a crowd of want-to-be successors, the Tooth Mouse issues three challenges: “bring me the whisker of a cat”; “bring me a silver coin” and present a plan for all the baby teeth collected nightly. Sophie triumphs in the first trial by bravely snipping a whisker from a disgruntled feline unable to fit through a mouse hole. She also succeeds with aplomb in the second task by staging a dance performance and is rewarded with a beret full of coins from an appreciative audience. Sophie is initially stymied by the last challenge and fears she will fail. A dove offers sage advice: “Sometimes the wisest answer is the simplest one.” After a fitful night’s sleep dreaming of surreal wide mouths, molars with moustaches and “Chewing, chattering, gnawing, guffawing teeth”, she comes up with an answer. On judgment day, Sophie presents her idea and is declared the “NEW Tooth Mouse”.
Nadeau’s ink and watercolour illustrations have delicate, fine lines and pale pink and green background hues. The detailed scenes extend the text and show the failed attempts and disqualifications of other contestants, such as a bow-tied and bowler-hatted rodent breaking open a piggy bank. Sophie’s winning idea – give the baby teeth to babies - is illustrated on the final page with a montage of wee tots sporting brand new front teeth.
The page layout and design has many points of interest. Readers can follow the Tooth Mouse and her entourage down winding staircases that criss-cross the pages. The endpapers are patterned with big and small teeth. Tooth traditions around the world are also listed on the back cover. Australia customarily has a Tooth Fairy while Sri Lanka has a Squirrel, Brazil has a Bird and El Salvador has a Rabbit.
With superb pacing and elegant writing, this story has a fairy-tale quality. French phrases (“C’est moi!” thought Sophie; “Felicitations!” she said with a hint of a smile; “Did they all succeed? Mais non!”) are sprinkled in the text and add to the read-aloud appeal.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.