Angry artist gets his just desserts
Big nose. Scary spots. Lanky neck. Muddy face. Insults lead to injury as Adrienne Geoghegan tells the tale of a young boy who gets his just desserts in All Your Own Teeth. As Stewart, a young painter from the city, sets out to paint the perfect picture, he decides he needs a "handsome wild animal with all of his teeth and a big, nice smile" to be his model. He has never seen a real wild animal before, so he takes a trip to the jungle to find his subjects. But for all the effort of his model search, it is quite clear that what Stewart really wants is something that looks like him or at least something he has seen before. When the cheetah approaches, Stewart misses the charm of its spots. As the giraffe pauses to pose for the painting, the young boy cannot appreciate its grace. And when the hippopotamus stops by, Stewart is blind to its handsomeness. As he meets each of the would-be models, Stewart sends them away with insults and ridicule. But when the crocodile comes to visit, Stewart's harsh words come back to haunt him. The crocodile, who has a big nice smile and all of his teeth just as Stewart wanted is a friend of the charming cheetah, the handsome hippopotamus and the graceful giraffe. And he eats Stewart in one big gulp. Geoghegan brings to light a controversial topic in All Your Own Teeth, that of bigotry. Young Stewart's closed-mindedness brings him to a very unhappy ending. His insults and insensitivity not only prevent him from painting the perfect picture, they hurt the animals that were kind to him. Original and whimsical, Cathy Gale's artwork is a delight. Kids will love her dynamic, colorful collage and mixed-media illustrations. Geoghagan's message in this unusual book is both cautionary and hopeful. This young boy's inability to see the good in things (and people) different from himself reminds us that we need to open our children's minds to the beauty in everyone, regardless of culture, race or skin color. And by using words to compliment rather than insult, we may have the chance to paint a perfect picture after all. Heidi Henneman writes from New York City.