GEORGE WASHINGTON’S TEETH

Now It Can Be Told: that severe, square-jawed look that the Father of Our Country flashes in his portraits reveals not only strength of character, but also his struggle to hide the fact that he was nearly (entirely, later in life) toothless by keeping a succession of spring-loaded false teeth in place. Drawing information from Washington’s own writings, the authors deliver a double account of his dental tribulations: first in sprightly rhyme—Martha “fed him mush and pickled tripe, / But when guests came to dine, / He sneaked one of his favorite nuts. / Then he had only nine”—followed by a detailed, annotated timeline. Cole’s (Larky Mavis, 2001, etc.) freely drawn, rumpled-looking watercolors document the countdown as well, with scenes of the unhappy statesman at war and at home, surrounded by family, attendants (including dark-skinned ones), and would-be dentists, all in authentic 18th-century dress. Contrary to popular belief, Washington’s false teeth were made not of wood, but of real teeth and hippo ivory; a photo of his last set closes this breezy, sympathetic, carefully-researched vignette on a note that will have readers feeling the great man’s pain—and never looking at his painted visage the same way again. (source notes) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-32534-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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BEATRIX

VARIOUS EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF BEATRIX POTTER

Winter follows up Emily Dickinson’s Letters to the World (p. 111) with a similarly evocative character portrait, pairing small, formal, closely-framed portraits of Beatrix Potter—at various ages, and usually in the company of small animals, as she so often was—with a first person narrative into which she folds Potter’s own words (set off in italics). The general tone is grave, often melancholy: “No one has time for me. I talk to the birds, who have the time.” Reflecting the loneliness of her childhood, Potter’s face is the only human one to be seen (with a single, late exception), and an occasional slight smile is the only outward sign of her inner pleasure at drawing, photographing, or just being with her many animal friends. Winter traces Potter’s burgeoning interest in observing and recording the natural world, covers the genesis of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and closes with a “happily-ever-after” image of rabbits and fairies dancing in the dooryard of the farm where Potter spent her last decades. “I live so much out of the world,” she ruefully averred, but, just as her works have helped to connect generations of children to the natural one, so will this diminutive keepsake bring her private one into focus. (Picture book/biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-374-30655-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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