About the Book

Title: What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy
Published: 2007

Cover Story: Setting the Scene
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Whimsical Dickens On a Discovery
Bonus Factors: Fairy Tale, Storytelling, The Good Kind of Dickens
Relationship Status :I’ll Ride Out the Storm With You

Cover Story: Setting the Scene

This book takes place over a dark and stormy night. And the cover is of a dark and stormy night! And, yeah, it doesn’t scream THIS IS FINE LITERATURE or anything, but that big GREGORY MAGUIRE across the cover should still buy you some train cred.

Plus, I love how moody and intimate the cover art seems – like I could walk up and knock on the door of that house and be greeted warmly by its inhabitants.

The Deal:

The Ormsby siblings – Dinah, Zeke and Rebecca Ruth – are stuck in their house on the hill with their cousin Gage. A huge storm’s a-brewin’, the power’s off, the town has been evacuated, and their parents have gone off in search of medical help. Completely cut off from the world (which isn’t too unfamiliar a feeling, since the kids are homeschooled by their religious parents), they stay up as Gage weaves a tale of an orphaned skibberee – a tooth fairy – named What-the-Dickens and his friend and mentor Pepper.

Will the kids ride out the storm? Will What-the-Dickens find a place to belong? Will Pepper become an Agent of Change? Will McCavity the cat eat everyone? Let’s find out!

BFF Charm: Yay!

BFF charm holding an umbrella

I’d give my bff charm to pretty much all of the main characters in this book. Dinah is whip-smart and sarcastic, a believer in science and miracles in equal measure. Gage is charming and a bit useless, but in an adorable way. I want to give What-the-Dickens a cuddle and discover the world with him. And Pepper is just awesomely mean, yet heroic and ambitious.

And, okay, I doubt that the skibbereen would want to be my friend, on account of how they think humans lie and smell kind of funny, but maybe I could bribe them with some of my teeth.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This is a very-young young adult book, and besides, it’s a story about tooth fairies. I don’t want to read some book where faeries get it on; that’s Jenny’s territory. (JK, Jenny!) (Not really, though!)

Talky Talk: Whimsical Dickens On a Discovery

Maguire certainly pays homage to What-the-Dickens’ namesake – downtrodden folks Of Humble Upbringing, long descriptions of the setting, everyday heroism, etc. But unlike ol’ Chuck, this What-the-Dickens views the world with unabashed whimsy and delightful joy. Maguire puts his magically humorous touch all through this book, and it shows in the prose:

What-the-Dickens tried to think things through. To add things up. (Skibbereen have a hard time at this; the best that the smartest of them can do with adding two plus two is guessing: three plus one. Correct, sort of, but not always useful.)


A bright coin shot out like a metal Frisbee and caught What-the-Dickens in the ankle.

The skibberee examined it. On one side it was imprinted with a human head that seemed to have been severed from its body, for it ended at the neck. Liberty, read the coin. “Liberty for whom?” asked What-the-Dickens. “Not for her: she’s been decapitated.”

Bonus Factor: Fairy Tale

Artistic drawing of colorful fairy tale characters all piled together

Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? The good ol’ kind, with elements of magic and sage lessons, told to children at night to aid their dreams into a vibrant, colorful fantasy. And this fairy tale has actual faeries, but the bonus of being faeries I used to believe in.

Bonus Tale: Storytelling

Gage may be useless at fixing a generator, but the guy spins a good yarn. I felt just like one of the kids in the story – as Gage settled in to tell more of What-the-Dickens’ tale, I’d find myself settling in, pulling the blanket up farther on my shoulders, and wondering what would unfold.

Bonus Factor: The Good Kind of Dickens

So, I kind of hate Charles Dickens. I know. I know. I don’t intellectually hate him -I mean, I get it, I do. I get why he’s popular. But he just WON’T SHUT UP. And yeah, I know he got paid by the page, but does that mean we all have to suffer through thirteen fucking pages’ worth of a description of a graveyard? It’s a GRAVEYARD, Chuck. WE KNOW WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE. And every time I think about how his work used to be serialized, I feel so bad for the poor Victorian readers who’d open the newspaper, expecting some sort of plot advancement, only to be met with a 2 column long diatribe about fish. No wonder reading novels was frowned upon back then.

But, even though I hate reading Dickens, I love his stories and characters. Seriously, any time they adapt a Dickens novel for the screen, you’ll find me front row center. Bleak House? Amazing. Little Dorrit? Awesome. Oliver? Yes, please. The Christmas Carol? I’ll take it in every single one of its forms (though Scrooged is obvs the best). I mean, the guy knew what he was on about with the story-weaving. I just wish he’d found someone else to do his writing for him. Someone with a limited vocabulary. Spencer Pratt, maybe.

So, all this to say, that this book is like reading Dickens without having to actually, you know. Read Dickens.

Relationship Status: I’ll Ride Out the Storm With You

This book didn’t change my life, or anything. We’re not going to get married and have little tooth fairy babies. But it was the perfect companion for riding out a storm. We lit some candles, hung out in the bathtub (not like that), and it managed to keep me engaged and entertained all through the night. In the morning, I put it back on the shelf with fond regards and a sleepy, satisfied grin.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). What-the-Dickens is available now.

Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink.