A young girl nervously faces her first dentist appointment in this wonderfully illustrated first-experience book by debut author Sturrup.
Natalie Jean, a precocious preschooler, is unsure what will happen on her first dental visit. She sees another girl crying and begins to imagine scary things behind the dentist’s door. When the other girl returns with a balloon, Natalie Jean is still nervous, but the dentist soon puts her at ease, counting her teeth and telling her that he will have to take care of a “sugar bug”—a cavity—with a “star filling.” Although the sugar bug concerns Natalie Jean, the word “star” makes her feel special because she gets stars for good behavior at preschool. The visit is a success, and Natalie Jean decides that visiting the dentist is fun. The text of the story is straightforward, presenting a first dental visit in a way that should help prepare young readers. Preschoolers who have already had their first visits will understand the emotions Natalie Jean faces, and the story may bring home lessons about brushing, flossing and cooperating while at the dentist’s office. But while the simple text and straightforward approach are strong, it’s the images that make this a standout picture book. The cast is diverse: Natalie Jean, her mother and the dentist are African-American; the dental hygienist is Asian-American, and white characters fill nonspeaking roles. Butler, a veteran who has worked for Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, creates child-friendly illustrations that will remind young readers of their favorite cartoons. Natalie Jean’s transition from scared child to model patient and her declaration that the dentist is fun—particularly when she’s had to have a filling rather than just having her teeth cleaned—may be pushing believability, and the prose is occasionally stilted, but as a tool for comforting nervous youngsters, the story hits the mark.
An approachable tale of a first dental visit with pictures and a tone that will provide a reassuring beginning lesson to preschool-aged readers.