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                George Washington’s Teeth

George Washington's Teeth

Image Source Page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/152499.George_Washington_s_Teeth


Chandra, D. and Comora, M. (2003). George Washington’s teeth. New York, NY: Farrar Straus and Giroux.


This rhyming book recounts major events of George Washington’s life beginning with the Revolutionary War. Alongside these facts, a count down begins as George Washington slowly loses his teeth. caricature style watercolor artwork add humor and emotion as the teeth come out. At the time that George Washington is elected president, he only has two teeth left. Soon after, he has only one tooth remaining and attempts to wear false teeth for the first time. The first set on false teeth knock out his last tooth. Later, George Washington actually helps the dentist create his pairs of false teeth by using some of his old teeth to make the molds.

Following the story, a factual timeline of historical events and George Washington’s dental history is provided. Through this timeline it is learned that he was in pain a great deal of his adult life due to his dental problems. He also was very involved in developing more advanced sets of false teeth and spent a large amount of money on dental expenditures. It is suspected that untreated dental infections contributed to his death.

My Impression

This picture book offers information about George Washington that may be new to most adults and children. The rhyming words and humorous illustrations make the book fun while it is teaching factual information. The timeline in back of the book details just how serious George Washington’s dental problems really were. Yet, I expect that the story itself would engage young readers and work well in a storytime also.


Second only to kids’ curiosity about George Washington and the cherry tree may be their interest in his teeth. Did the prez wear wooden dentures? Chandra and Comora set the record straight with wit, verve, and a generous amount of sympathy for poor Washington and his dental woes. Unfurling smoothly against a backdrop of Washington’s career as soldier and president, the tale goes forward in sprightly, read-aloud rhyme that never falters: “Poor George has two teeth in his mouth / The day the votes came in. / The people had a President /But one afraid to grin.” And illustrator Cole is at his absolute best here, totally at ease with human gesture and expression. Each spread is a tableaulike scene (or scenes) filled with costumed characters busily engaged in humorously visualizing the actual history. The color palette and energy of the art harks back to Cole’s Buttons (1999), but there’s much more detail and movement in these pictures, which work well as amusing preparation for the more sedately illustrated, annotated time line of George’s dental decay that precedes a full roundup of historical sources the authors used in telling the tale. This is history for youngsters that will stick; it’s wild and fun and factual, without a trace of mockery. Category: Books for Middle Readers–Nonfiction. 2003, Farrar, $16. K-Gr. 3. Starred Review

Zvirin, S. (2003, Jan 1). [Review of the book George Washington’s teeth, by D. Chandra and M. Comora]. Booklist Online. 99(9).  Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

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) 2003, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Category: Picture book/nonfiction. Ages 7 to 9. Starred Review. © 2002 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2002, December 15). [Review of the book George Washington’s teeth, by D, Chandra and M. Comora].  Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from  http://www.kirkusreviews.com/.

Uses in the Library

This biographical book is short enough to be read aloud. The humorous illustrations and short simple sentences make it a great choice for most school age children. George Washington is described as a regular person who we can all relate to. This book could enforce that books teach us history, but also often teach us lesser known facts about historical figures. This makes us better understand and relate to historical figures and the choices they made.


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