March 01, 2016
The UK's #1 bestselling children's author, David Walliams, hailed as "the heir to Roald Dahl" by the Spectator, bursts onto the American market with Demon Dentist—and this is one dentist appointment you don't want to miss. Something strange is happening in Alfie's town. Instead of shiny coins from the tooth fairy, kids are waking up to dead slugs, live spiders, and other icky, terrible things under their pillows. Who would do something so horrific? Alfie is sure that Miss Root, the new dentist in town, is behind it all. There's nothing Alfie hates more than going to the dentist, but to solve this mystery, he may have to book a dreaded appointment. . . .
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Like Stine's US Goosebumps books or Roald Dahl's typically British "horror" stories, there's not anything truly frightening in Demon Dentist, but Walliams does a good job at taking a fear children do have and presenting it in an amusing way. Everything about this story is over the top-- Alfie's dental habits are abysmal, Winnie is flamboyant in her manner of dress and even more flamboyant when she loses all of her clothes crawling under a fence, and the demon dentist is pure evil in the manner of Cruella deVil, to whom she bears a passing resemblance.
There are some serious issues as well-- Alfie's father is suffering from the effects of black lung and dies after exerting himself to save Alfie. Luckily, Alfie has supportive adults in his life, from Winnie the social worker who begins to care for him to Raj, the newsagent who gives Alfie food when the boy is hungry and even his late wife's dentures!
Tony Ross's frenetic line illustrations add another dimension of comedy to the book, and we see Winnie on her moped going around inside of Alfie's school, the disastrous results of toxic toothpaste being dumped into the canal, and even the demon dentist's den lined with children's teeth!
British children's books are very distinctive in their portrayal of the life of children, and while their books occasionally make me worry about the welfare of children in the UK, the books are amusing. Fans of Colfer's Legend of Spud Murphy, Fleischman's The Dunderheads or even Jacqueline Wilson's more realistic fiction will find Alfie's adventures to be hysterically funny but also heart warming.
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