Wednesday, June 6, 2007

George Washington's Teeth

There's a new Border's bookstore close to my house that was having it's Grand Opening this past weekend. As part of their promo, I acquired a 20% off one item coupon, so I decided to check it out, with a trip to the children's section in mind (since I am woefully behind on my "other" reading, and I'm getting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for my birthday next month). While I decided I still prefer the local Barnes & Noble to the new Border's, I found a title I hadn't seen before. I was looking at the biography section with the children's books, and I found a picture book about George Washington titled George Washington's Teeth, written by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora and illustrated by Brock Cole.

Although the book cannot be considered a definitive biography of our first President, it is written in a way that will hopefully spark a young reader (or listener) to want to learn more about him. George Washington's Teeth chronicles George's life in relation of the state of his teeth. Written as a poem, it begins:

The Revolutionary War
George hoped would soon be won,
But another battle with his teeth
Had only just begun...

Like most people, I was familiar with the legend of George Washington's wooden teeth (which he never had), but I never really gave much thought to how his bad teeth would have caused him quite a bit of discomfort, and during some very turbulent times in our nation's history. The night of the crossing of the Delaware, George went from having nine teeth left to having only seven... He lost his last tooth because of a set of dentures. Because of the way George was forced to move his jaw when wearing dentures, he suffered from deafness. He disliked speaking in public because of the way he looked as a result of his tooth loss, and the way the dentures made him sound when he spoke. The story ends with George finally getting a set of dentures that fit comfortably, made of hippopotamus tusk and gold.

In the back of the book, there is a timeline of events in George Washington's life, many of which are taken from his letters and diaries and other accounts. This is where some of the details of his dental problems and the effect those problems had on his life can be found, and helps to explain the images we see today of our first President, with lips tightly closed.

This book is recommended for children ages 5 to 8 years old. I liked the book, for the rhyming poetry, the colorful illustrations, and the unique insight into the life of an important person from American history. I hope this book will help my future students to take an interest in learning about American history and the people who helped to shape our nation.

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