CM . . . .
Volume V Number 12 . . . . February 12, 1999
Natasha's dad walked out into the water. "Fish," he called, "this is the police. Come back to shore with your teeth out." And:While Uncle Farley is indulging in his usual three-hour nap, D'Arcy can't resist snatching his teeth to show her friends. She accidentally drops them into the ocean, however, and a resourceful fish appropriates them, refusing to relinquish them. It is a race against time as D'Arcy and her friends try to retrieve the teeth before Uncle Farley awakens. This unlikely premise is further exaggerated by the absurd reactions of the grown-ups who attempt to help. Kevin's fisherman dad baits his hook with gum, but the fish just blows bubbles; Emma's dentist mom has her hand bitten by Uncle Farley's teeth; and Willie's major dad makes promises galore - but all to no avail. Each attempt results in the four line refrain (above) and the statement "Uncle Farley's were STILL in his mouth." Finally, in desperation, D'Arcy pleads with the fish to return Uncle Farley's teeth at which time the fish realizes that these teeth were previously in someone else's mouth and renounces them with an appropriate expression of disgust.
This story is obviously meant to be read aloud. The repetition of the four-line refrain and statement, the numerous exclamations of "awesome!", "cool!", and the emphatic upper case for certain words like "STILL" and "UGGGGGGGH!" indicate emphasis for the storyteller. While a repeated chant assists in children's enjoyment of read-aloud stories, this one unfortunately neither rhymes (fin/again/him) nor has the sing-song rhythm found in Jillian Jiggs or Bonnie McSmithers books. Still, children will respond to the humour of this tall fish-tale and to the zany pictures by Michael Martchenko who is one of our best comic illustrators. His fish has just the right amount of glee at thwarting the adults, and the traits of self-righteousness and pomposity in his adults match the story perfectly. The ending is a wonderful example of collaboration between author and illustrator. D'Arcy managed to retrieve the teeth safely, and readers are told only that "she raced home before Uncle Farley woke up." With this understated conclusion, readers see a toothless and clearly puzzled Uncle Farley staring at his false teeth which are dripping with seaweed. Parents and children who enjoy the hyperbole in Robert Munsch books will cheer D'Arcy on as she narrowly avoids a dental disaster.
Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
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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.