Donald Harris: San Diego Jewish World

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Donald Harris: San Diego Jewish World

December 2010

SAN DIEGO — This book is for parents and grandparents to read to preschoolers.  Written by dental hygienist Linda Valderrama, who is a member of our local Jewish community, and illustrated imaginatively by Sudi Memarzadeh, the book contains the repetition that little children enjoy, along with a bonus page of stickers to help them feel rewarded each time they follow the book’s advice to brush their teeth.

Eight children eat different types of foods, and each brushes his or her teeth immediately afterwards.  However, Barry, forgets to brush his teeth after eating blueberries.   His teeth turn blue.  But after a good brushing, that problem is corrected, and his smile turns sensational.

While the main message is how important it is to brush one’s teeth, there are subtexts as well.   For example, the children who precede Barry in the book, like the author and illustrator team,  are a multi-ethnic lot, named Penelope, Ben, Lila, Calvin, Golda, Jeremiah, Miguel, and Doreen.  The foods they eat are vegetarian and also start with the same letters as their names: “Penelope eats pasta and a pear…Then she brushes her teeth.”    For Ben, it’s broccoli; Lila lasagna; Calvin, corn on the cob; Golda green olives (okay that’s a stretch);  Jeremiah, jam sandwich; Miguel, mango; Doreen, dark chocolate (that one too), and, of course, Barry has his blueberries.

Animals grace most of the illustrations: pre-schoolers will be able to point to cats, dogs, birds, and squirrels as the story is read to them, providing another level of learning.  Some of the animals are delightfully anthropomorphized – as Calvin bites the corn off the cob, two squirrels on the porch railing behind him are sharing another cob.  While Golda plays with her green olives—sticking her fingers into the holes—the squirrels surreptitiously shlep the olive jar away from her picnic.

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