Posted by Karen O'Hanlon
Title: Tooth-Gasher Super Flash
Author and Illustrator: Daniel Pinkwater
Have you ever had to buy a new car? Maybe puzzle over all the best features? Even after you think of everything, the best new car you can buy will never measure up to Mr. Popsnorkel’s brand new car, the Tooth-Gnasher Superflash! When the Popsnorkels go for a test drive, it’s anything but an ordinary trip down car-sales lane. If you like books that take an unexpected turn, spur children’s imaginations, and create a delightful enthusiasm for reading, then Tooth-Gnasher Superflash is a book for you!
“We love this car!" shouted the five little Popsnorkels. "Buy it Daddy, buy it!”
Mr. and Mrs. Popsnorkel, and their five little Popsnorkels, are in the market for a new car. Their old car, a green Thunderclap Eight is just plain worn out, so the reader gets to follow the Popsnorkels to the local car dealership, where the family shops for a Thunderclap replacement. The five little Popsnorkels are immediately drawn to the Tooth-Gnasher Superflash! It looks like your typical, shiny new car with a glass bubble top, pointed nose and aerodynamic shape. Mrs. Popsnorkel is completely taken by it’s powder blue paint color. Being the most practical of the bunch, Mr. Popsnorkel curbs his enthusiasm and insists on a test drive.
At first, the salesman demonstrates the Tooth-Gnasher’s seemingly normal abilities, but then Mr. Popsnorkel takes the wheel. To the salesman’s amazement, Mr. Popsnorkel gets the car to perform in a way “it’s not supposed to behave”. Mr. Popsnorkel investigates the dashboard and finds one new button after another. As he pushes them, the Tooth-Gnasher Superflash transforms into a big blue dinosaur, a galloping blue elephant, and a gigantic blue turtle before finally taking a turn as a fat flying chicken. ‘Yay!” cry the five little Popsnorkels repeatedly and in unison, more and more enthralled each time the car takes on a different persona. Mrs. Popsnorkel still can’t get over the lovely blue color.
Tooth-Gnasher Super Flash is rendered in cartoon-like line drawings. It’s colors are pale, with a hand-shaded appearance. Pinkwater’s illustration style complements the imaginative theme of the story. In their excitement, the little Popsnorkel children are transformed, from silly little characters crammed into the Tooth-Gnasher’s backseat, into twirling half circles of energy with heads! The drawings mimic the energy of characters' excitement, especially the children. The language is playful and succinct, repetitive without becoming boring. It all adds up to a genuinely humorous depiction of the Popsnorkels’ search for the perfect car.
“Um, would it be alright if I drove the car for a while?” Mr. Popsnorkel asked Mr. Sandy. Mr. Sandy pulled over to the side of the road and got out and opened the door for Mrs. Popsnorkel, who got in the front seat with Mr. Popsnorkel, who had moved over behind the steering wheel. Mr. Sandy got in the backseat with the five little Popsnorkels. "Yay!" shouted the five little Popsnorkels. "Daddy’s gonna drive the Tooth-Gnasher Superflash!’ "
I used to incorporate this story into a much more practical and grounded unit on transportation. The kids loved re-reading this story and revisiting these quirky characters and their car. Tooth-Gnasher Superflash stood in whimsical contrast to other books which focused on the utility of buses, planes and trains.
And the ending is the perfect jumping off place for lots of discussion. Eventually Mr. Popsnorkel is duly impressed, satisfied that the Tooth-Gnasher will be an adequate replacement for his old Thunderclap Eight. But as he drives away from the dealership, he remarks, “It’s a nice car alright, but, you know, it can’t do even half the things our good old Thunderclap Eight could do.” So we are left wondering, what exactly on Earth could the other car do???