Walliams drills into a primal fear with this tale of a new dentist with a decidedly evil agenda.
In a blatant grab at Roald Dahl fans, the author pulls out a cast of cheeky children, thoroughly rotten villains, and clueless but well-meaning grown-ups for a Brit-flavored romp that combines moments of intense terror and bracing courage with biting satire—oh, and gruesome bits. Ross offers a plethora of loosely sketched ink-and-wash vignettes generally indistinguishable from Quentin Blake’s. All over town, children have been putting lost teeth beneath their pillows and, instead of money, getting cat poo, oozing scabs, and like rewards. Worse yet, following shocked comments about the state of 12-year-old Alfie’s “teet,” canny Winnie, a flamboyant new West Indian social worker, tricks the lad into visiting the newly arrived (with her cat, Fang) dentist, Miss Root. Alfie regains consciousness with nary a tooth in his mouth—it seems that Miss Root is the Tooth Witch herself. She’s not to be stopped, either, without help from new, dreadlocked friend (not girlfriend) Gabz, a vat of acid with revolting ingredients (carefully listed), and lots of dynamite. Walliams spritzes the narrative with made-up but not particularly inventive words and large-type screaming. Winnie, dark-skinned Gabz (short for Gabriella), and newsagent Raj are the only notable nonwhite characters; Winnie’s accent is an unfortunate running joke.
A quick pull on a reliable, if not exactly minty-fresh, formula. (pictorial cast list) (Horror. 9-11)