Denise Barry’s Tooth Fairy, You Have Some Explaining to Do! (2019)

Tooth Fairy, You Have Some Explaining to Do! (2019), written by Denise Barry and illustrated by Alejandro Echavez, is a recent Mascot Books publication about a child who loses a tooth and does not get the visit from the tooth fairy  they were expecting. The blond, blue-eyed child with rosy pink skin wonders if they did something wrong.

Echavez’s images are silly and sweet. He does a wonderful job breaking with gender stereotypes beyond the character themself. For instance, the protagonist’s messy bedroom has drums and soccer balls as well as pink notebooks and purple stuffed toys.

When they realize the tooth fairy hasn’t made an appearance, the upset child rushes to their mother’s room and shares the news with her. She calms them down and suggests that there is surely an explanation. With a whimsical twist, a bird appears at the child’s window with a note from the tooth fairy. It turns out the tooth fairy is quite sorry and has a good excuse for her absence! Even tooth fairies must deal with the unexpected.

Barry’s investment in producing a character free from gender stereotypes that can be interpreted by the reader works very well. Both author and illustrator sustain this investment in image and text throughout the picture book.

It is also worth noting that Barry represents a single-family household with a loving and supportive mother. She does a great job representing a family form many children can identify with!

Discussion questions, some that address gender, others that explore different themes like forgiveness, are available at the end of the book.

I’d have loved to see more questions that address how children felt about not being able to clearly identify the protagonist’s gender, perhaps some that connected this feeling to the child’s immediate search for an answer as to why the tooth fairy didn’t come. But, I only want this because Barry did such a nice job creating a book that encourages critical questioning!

For more information about Barry’s choice to portray her protagonist ambiguously check out her post! You can also read her article on Motherwell.

This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!

3 replies

    • Thank you! It’s a great book. A lot of parents ask for recommendations that feature gender creative kids without making gender creativity a theme/issue. Yours works well!


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