This read-aloud book is a delight both to the eye and the ear. The narrative is simple but the simplicity incorporates much impish humour and a few heart-stopping moments as well. A little girl is on her way home from school when she comes across a dragon howling with the pain of a toothache. No enterprising little girl can ignore an adventure of the helping kind. So our heroine with considerable lateral thinking uses the Dahl-like objects in her schoolbag to rid the dragon of its toothache. No adventure can be allowed to run smoothly though, but the twist here is in the middle of the plot line. The ending is of course heart filling, where the little girl, happily unnamed, finds herself rescuing others who have tried to help the howling dragon. This includes a benign-looking dentist in a professional white gown.
The full-page colour-warmed illustrations add great zest to the text and it would be unjust to debate on which scores over the other. The text is not shy of using words that may not yet be part of a child’s active vocabulary but would certainly be used in homes and schools where English is the predominant language. The pictures make one turn the book around and upside down which is just what should be done if books are to be friends.
If there is a little puzzlement, it is that the schoolbag, when it is full, looks too flat to contain all the splendid things that the little girl is carrying. The other is that the text does not make it clear that the little girl enters the dragon’s mouth with the bag and all its contents. A wise parent or teacher will of course be able to answer any such smart (smarting) questions with the same brilliant logic employed in the book itself. There may be some sadness that it is a dragon who has the toothache and not a crocodile or a monster from an Indian fable. Perhaps one should not dwell on this since the heroine is clearly Indian, wearing a long skirt and chappals.
The Dragon’s Toothache will be loved by everyone, including that dark something that sometimes lurks under a child’s bed at night. And yes, even dragons get toothaches!
By Poile Sengupta
Author: Annie Besant
Illustrator: Rayika Sen
Karadi Tales, 2016
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book