Written and Illustrated by Jarvis
Candlewick Press, 2016
Alan came from a long line of very scary alligators.
The plot in a nutshell: An alligator learns how to do something else besides scare.
Alan is well known for his scaring and he starts every day by brushing his scary teeth to prepare for the day’s scaring. He goes into the jungle and snaps his teeth, causing all the animals to scream and panic. He loves it. Then he goes back home and removes his false teeth, which no one knows about. One day, Barry the beaver finds the false teeth and when Alan wakes up, they’re gone. He tries to be scary without them, but the animals just laugh at him, which makes him very upset. The next morning, all the animals show up at his home to return his teeth if he will promise not to scare them. From that point on, he spends his time on tending overgrown jungle plants, giving his friends new haircuts and even doing dental work on them. At night, he tells them scary stories and sometimes, he lets Barry borrow his teeth.
Author/illustrator Jarvis packs a lot of character development into this wonderfully amusing story. From the start, he makes Alan very likeable, even though he goes around scaring all the other animals. Then, when we find out that he is hanging all of his scaring ability on false teeth, it makes him seem more vulnerable. This makes the ending, in which they’ve found a balance that works for everyone, even more satisfying.
The artwork is done in pencil, chalk and paint with digital color and they are bright and playful. Keep your eyes open for little bonus critters like snails, spiders and bugs that show up in lots of the drawings. I love the coloring of the jungle at night when Alan is crying. The darker tones echo his mood and makes it even more meaningful on the next page when the animals offer him their proposal and the colors are bright and orange-tinted again. It’s a nice message, too, about finding things you can do to make the best of a bad situation.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there are always constructive ways to use your skills for something good.