This is apparently a “classic” series of tales that follow a boy and his bucket-full of dinosaurs as they navigate through the learning experiences of childhood. I have in a previous post shared my views of one major, underlying annoyance that I have with this series, so I won’t even mention it here. Instead, I’d like to focus on this particular story itself.
Harry and his bucket of dinosaurs are a bit scared at the prospects of going to the dentist and quite possibly facing his drill, so after finally being persuaded to come out from their hiding places and go, Harry asks his Tyrannosaurus to grow large and go first into the dentist’s chair. His dinosaur does so, and all is well when the dentist ultimately announces that, since they’ve all been good brushers, no one will have to face his drill. “Just a look and a rinse” he promises—and I wish all cleanings were that easy!
It seems that every established children’s series needs to tackle those most harrowing experiences of childhood: the dentist’s office, the hospital, that first day of school. But Harry’s experience at the dentist doesn’t really seem to help young readers gain confidence about their first visit to the dentist. Of course, I might simply be writing from a pre-formed opinion about these books, and I’m most certainly overthinking it, but I feel like they’re making threats more than sharing sound advice. First, Harry magically sends his fake dinosaur to outsize the dentist and to sit in the chair first, as if to say, “If your magic toys don’t scare the dentist first, then he’ll definitely scare you.” Then, Harry is told that he has no problems with his teeth since he’s been such a good brusher, so the dentist won’t use the drill after all, as if to say, “Brush your teeth, kids, or else the dentist is going to drill right into your mouth!”
The parents of my students have very poor backgrounds in hygiene, so many of my students’ teeth are black or just altogether missing. I tried reading this book to them but felt like I was building a world of lies, like, “Sure the dentist will treat you the same as he did Harry, even though your teeth are rotting right out of your head.” That’s a tough conversation to have anyways, so showing them Harry’s happy world of “what could have been” makes it all the worse for me.
Now I don’t know what the alternative could have been for Whybrow and Reynolds. Perhaps their dentist could have found a minor cavity in Stegosaurus’s molar and then shown Harry how simple and relatively pain-free it is to fill in. Or perhaps Harry could have lost a tooth just before his dentist visit and could have feared the professional’s response at such a loss, only to find out that it’s normal for kids his age. Whatever the alternative, I think they should have taken a slightly different route than the one they chose. They should have kept more kids in mind than the few who are already faithful at brushing.