Children’s Book Review: The Famous Smile

Kulkoochi…yup, say that again…Kulkoochi.

That’s the Bangla word for ‘rinsing one’s mouth’ with a gurgle of water. It is a ritual in the house now, considering it’s only been three months since V has learnt to kulkoochi after every meal; even after he picks onions from Daddy’s meals.

One cannot but emphasise enough the importance of oral hygiene. Like everything else in life, good habits begin early. We have a strict aversion to chocolates and we only resort to small tid-bits like Gems and Fox’s during public meltdowns. Research shows that tooth decay in milk tooth is devastating for children. If it remains untreated, pediatric dental disease can lead to malnourishment, bacterial infections, required emergency surgery and even death!

Scared? You should be…whatever the state of dental hygiene it is never too late to begin.

What better way to talk about the importance of good shining teeth than with a book?

And thanks to our friendly neighbourhood children’s library Buzzing Books, I have one!

Agar Magar

The Famous Smile is a Katha Classic, written by its founder Geeta Dharmarajan and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. Before I move to the text and story, I must begin by talking about the wonderful imagery in the book.  Because in truth, that is truly the biggest pull of this book! Rashin Kheriyeh is a young Iranian illustrator, painter and animator with a global footprint of her work and art.

Agar Magar 1

One look at the toothy grin of Agar Magar, the crocodile and you know that The Famous Smile is a book with an unusual tale.

The book blurb reads, “After several failed attempts, Agar Magar finally makes it big. Come, take a tour of the mighty river, the deep forest and the big town, as Agar Magar goes places, flaunting his sparkling shiny teeth and his Famous Smile.”

At the outset it is the story of Agar Magar the flamboyant crocodile who has the ‘most sparkling teeth in the whole jungle’. Every day he would brush them with neem twigs and lie on the riverbank hoping someone would notice his smile and exclaim, “Oh Agar Magar! What beautiful teeth you have!”

The imagery of Geeta Dharmarajan’s words is perfect for the young mind. And here is a sample, “Every once in a while, Agar Magar would move his head just a wee bit. How the sun shone on his teeth! How they sparkled! How they twinkled! As if someone had stuck millions of big and little stars on them!”

(If you are struggling for ways to motivate your child to brush his teeth, this is the perfect line for you!)

Agar Magar sets off to show off his starry teeth. He meets little fishes, but they dart away at the first instant. And why not? “Who wants to be eaten by a huge crocodile with teeth like sharp knives?” The book is a visual treat not just because of Rashin’s illustrations, but also the way the text has been imprinted. The above line is written in a circle, making the reader turn the book and one’s head to read through the text.

Agar Magar meets more jungle animals…Zebra, Monkeys, Cobra and the yellow-toothed Tiger. But no one is interested in Agar Magar’s teeth.

In search of a true admirer, Agar Magar reaches the town full of wise people. ‘He smiled his widest, most magnificent smile’ when FLASH! Someone clicks a picture of his smile. “You have the most beautiful teeth in the whole world! I have been hunting all day for this smile!” says a voice.

Click, Click, Click…Agar Magar finds instant recognition. He becomes the face of a toothpaste advertisement. He becomes famous!

“The newspapers buzzed with Agar Magar. Now everyone wanted him in their advertisements, in films, picture books. Even on Cartoon Network!”

Imagine that!

Why The Famous Smile

  1. If oral hygiene is on your mind, this is the perfect book for your child
  2. An animal story is always a personal favourite, because children connect with it instantly
  3. Unusual illustration and text – The book is a visual treat
  4. The book offers instant gratification with a simple formula => Smiling teeth = Fame

For Ages

A book like this is open to a large age group. I read this to my 28 month old, because we are driving in the importance of brushing and clean teeth. This is also a great book for the independent reader. The text and graphics in the book will require the reader to twist and turn the book around. Fun!

In simple words => Suits 2-6 years

Mommy’s Story Telling Technique

This book is a story teller’s delight! Full of characters, with loads of action and dramatics, we had a lot of fun ‘telling’ the story. I chose actions, tones and we even brushed while telling the story.

Concepts Shared

  1. It’s good to brush and have the brightest teeth
  2. Some people may not appreciate your skills (like the other animals didn’t)
  3. But you will find people who will appreciate your talents (like the photographer)
  4. Your skills will find you fame and renown. And which kid doesn’t want to be on Cartoon Network?

About the Publisher

Katha, a non-profit organisation working with and in story and storytelling since 1988, is one of India’s top publishing houses. Katha also introduces an array of writings from the many oral and written traditions of India to children, ages 0-17. Classy productions, child-friendly layouts and superb illustrations go in tandem with excellent writing.

I find Katha books extremely imaginative. A lot of their books are recommended by CBSE and I am particularly inspired by their determination to make stories an intrinsic part of children’s lives, especially that those of the underprivileged. We have an array of titles in our own baby library and so has Buzzing Books.  Buzzing Books is also an authorised seller of Katha titles. So you know where to go to buy some awesome books.

About On-board the Mommyship & Buzzing Books

I am delighted to collaborate with Dr Neha Gupta at Buzzing Books. With our common love for Children’s Literature, reading, storytelling and pro-parenting we have decided to come together.

We are happy to announce the first of our BUZZING BEES Workshop for Mothers & Babies on 7th an 8th Feb. Head over to our events page on Facebook for more information. Or write to me at rituparnaghosh (at) outlook (dot) com.

Don’t forget to check my story telling page – GOLPO for updates on upcoming events.

logoBuzzing Books a.k.a BB is an online book rental service, especially designed for children from toddlers to teens to enrich their reading experience. To cut it short, it is a CHILDREN’S LIBRARY, first of its kind in NOIDA! BB services all of Noida and several parts of Delhi. Got questions? This will help you.

on-board the mommyship WP