Alan is an alligator with impeccable personal grooming skills and an a gift for scaring his neighbors. After all, he comes from a "long line of very scary alligators" and is "known throughout the jungle for his scaring." But, Alan has a secret.
Alan's Big Scary Teeth is the second picture book from British author and illustrator Jarvis and I love it! I love looking at the richly layered, humorous illustrations, I love reading it out loud and all the voices it allows me to do and I love the way that Alan recasts himself after a dramatic event.
I read Jarvis's debut picture book, Lazy Dave, and, while I was drawn to the the illustrations and the idea of a sleepwalking dog, in the end, Dave's somnambulist ways reminded me too much of the Curious George formula - unsupervised character gets up to no good but saves the day in the end and wins the appreciation of his human. With Alan's Big Scary Teeth, I think that Jarvis has taken another somewhat familiar formula and made it his own.
One day in the jungle, Barry the beaver, dodging a potentially frightening encounter with Alan, finds himself face to face with an enormous set of false teeth. Barry steals the teeth, leaving Alan to do his scaring with a wobbly, empty, gaping maw. Met with laughter, Alan dissolves in tears. Lots of tears. In fact, he "howled and yowled more than all the jungle babies put together." Faced with an existential crisis - "scaring was all he had ever known. What would Alan do now?" - he overcomes, with the help of his neighbors. Drawing on his personal grooming skills, Alan becomes a gardener, hairdresser and dentist! But, his favorite new occupation is that of, "BIG, SCARY STORY TELLER - thrilling the jungles with his terrifying tales."
I love Alan's Big Scary Teeth because, when his singular sense of self is stripped away, Alan finds more things about himself to love, embrace and share. But, I think what I love most about Jarvis's second picture book is that Alan finds his greatest joy from sharing stories, something I can definitely relate to!
Source: Review Copy