________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 12 . . . . February 12, 1999

cover Uncle Farley's False Teeth.

Alice Walsh. Illustrated by Michael Martchenko.
Willowdale, ON: Annick Press, 1998.
32 pp., $15.95 (cloth), $5.95 (paper).
ISBN 1-55037-543-1 (cloth), ISBN 1-55037-542-3 (paper).

Subject Headings:
Teeth-Juvenile fiction.
Fishes-Juvenile fiction.
Uncles-Juvenile fiction.

Kindergarten - grade 2 / Ages 5 - 7.
Review by Alison Mews.

** /4


Natasha's dad walked out into the water. "Fish," he called, "this is the police. Come back to shore with your teeth out." And:
The fabulous fish with the freckled fin
Swam back into the harbour again
He wore Uncle Farley's teeth as if
They belonged to him.
The fish blew another large purple bubble.
"Cool," said Natasha. But then the bubble broke, and gum went all over her dad. There was gum on his badge, gum all over his uniform, and even gum on his face.
"OOPS!" said Natasha.
"Ewee!" said her dad, and went to find a donut shop.
The fish swam far our into the ocean again. Uncle Farley's teeth were STILL in his mouth.
image 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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364