Katie Woo’s Neighborhood: Open Wide, Katie! by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Laura Zarrin

Katie Woo’s Neighborhood: Open Wide, Katie! by Fran Manushkin illustrated by Laura Zarrin


Oh how I love when a popular series includes diverse characters, and more specifically Muslims, I’m biased that way.  In this Katie Woo early reader for KG-2nd grade, a trip to the zoo and wondering how animals clean their teeth ties in to Katie’s trip to have her teeth cleaned by Ms. Malek, a hijab wearing dental hygienist, and having her teeth checked by dentist, Dr. Ali.  Spread over three chapters, the 5×9, 32 page book familiarizes kids with what happens in a dental check-up and shares some silly facts about animals too.

katie 1


On a trip to the zoo, Katie’s dad jokes that the alligator must need a big toothbrush.  This reminds Katie’s mom that Katie has an appointment with the hygienist the following day to have her teeth cleaned.  The next day on the way to see Ms. Malek, Katie sees her friend Haley, who along with her brothers also goes to the same dentist.  Everyone seems to love Ms. Malek.  In the waiting room theres lots of toys and when she gets called back, she gets to sit in the big blue chair that tips back.  Ms. Malek uses a little mirror to  check every tooth, before she brushes them.  She then tells Katie that hippos let fish clean their teeth.  This visit Katie doesn’t need X-rays taken but next time Dr. Ali says she will.  After picking a new toothbrush and toy, she is all set to go home.

On the way home, Katie sees some more friends and tells them about hippos using fish to clean their teeth. Pedro tells Katie that the dentist at the Zoo has to clean the tiger’s teeth.  Thinking that he must be really brave, Pedro explains that the dentist first puts the tiger to sleep.  Later that night, Katie brushes and flosses her teeth and then tells her dad that maybe when she grows up she can work at the zoo and clean the elephant’s tusks.


I love the diversity of Katie and her friends, and the people in her neighborhood.  Normalizing diversity in literature is a great way to open kid’s eyes to the world around them.  I also like that there is a glossary of words in the back, many dental in nature.  There is a page of Katie’s questions to get readers thinking.  And there is even an interview between Katie and Ms. Malek the dental hygienist.


None.  There is nothing religious in the book, other than the names of the dentist and hygienist and the scarf on Ms. Malek.


I think this book would be great at story time, and in classrooms.  It isn’t meant for a book club, but I think even in a group setting, kids will be reassured about a trip to the dentist and find the animal information funny and informative.   Kids might even have some more fun animal teeth facts to add to the discussion.

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