Today I have the pleasure of joining in with Allie Rogers’s Tale Of A Tooth blog tour! 🙂
Four-year-old Danny lives with his mother, Natalie, in a small Sussex town. Life is a struggle and when they are threatened with a benefits sanction, salvation appears in the form of a Job Centre employee called Karen. But Karen’s impact is to reach far beyond this one generous gesture, as she and Natalie embark on an intense relationship. Told in the voice of an intelligent, passionate and unusual child, Tale of a Tooth is an immersive and compelling look at the impact of domestic abuse on a vulnerable family unit.
A literary/YA crossover dealing with themes of LGBTQIA+, alcoholism and domestic abuse – Told from the unique perspective of a child raised by a single mother
Published by Legend Press on 19 APRIL 2018
Jane in the library is the goodest person of the world except me and Meemaw. Jane is wet big eyes dark silvery hair crinkled face. Her voice is rumply-soft quiet like Meemaw’s velvety coat. When Jane talks her eyes go by the floor not staring and we talk of dinosaurs taking turns. But today no Jane. No Jane in the library and a hurt in my tummy of crying coming and four times of swallowing to keep it down inside. I did pulling but no words. Meemaw knowed it was wanting Jane. Just stay calm, poppet. If she doesn’t come, I’ll ask. Meemaw was still the grey of yesterday. On this morning she had smoked two rollies out the window. No milk in the fridge so her tea a dark dark potion. No milk for krispies. Just crust for toast and crust is too fat. I squeezed my toothpaste. Too much, Danny! Come on, share with me. Meemaw swooped in and stealed some on her brush. No Meemaw! I throwed my brush down then gone under the sink. Fluffy of grot on it. Meemaw shouted. We never did teeth. Get your shoes on then! Christ! Then no Jane in the library. I sitted on the spinny chair by the computer did kicking the underneath. Meemaw taked my hand pulled me off. Stop it! Come and look at the books! No! Then Jane. Jane sudden. Smelling right of Jane.
Danny! I hoped you’d be in, I’ve got a surprise for you. Two hands Jane holded up a big book. This came by in a box of old stock being weeded out of the stacks and I thought I knew someone who might like to have it. In two hands right out to me because she meaned me the someone. Walking with Dinosaurs. A book but like on YouTube. The actual thing. I taked it to the table heavy as treasure and thumped it open. What do you say, Danny? Chapter one new blood. Danny, what do you need to say to Jane? Chapter one new blood. Thank you so much, Jane. Thank you so much Jane. You’re very welcome. I turned to the back because of index that Meemaw showed. Up and down the letters my finger runned the good good words. Coelophysis Ornitholestes Troodon. I turned the pages fast fast. But remembering of careful. Careful careful of the pages Danny. Jane her hand near not touching. That’s right, Danny. You’re a careful boy with the books. I finded Troodon showed it and words underneath. See Jane! Fast and intelligent a deadly combination a deadly combination. I see. I finded Spinosaurus showed Spiney. Spinosaurus! See! I putted Spiney’s face on the actual word. Danny, love, time to go now. Take the book to the machine. No, no, you don’t understand! He can keep that one. It’s being chucked out anyway. It’s too tatty for stock. We’d only chuck it out. I looked up. Are you sure? Do you hear that, Danny? You can keep it forever! Quiet. I was wanting the book mine forever. I was wanting the book to live in the library. Library is borrowing and the books on the shelf. Orange label of dinosaur and prehistoric.
Jane crouched down not too near. Speaked by the side of me quiet. Would you like to keep the book, Danny? I didn’t like it then the keep or not. You can keep the book, Danny. Or you can leave it here. You can choose that. He might have a bit of trouble deciding, Jane. Decisions can be tricky. Shall we take the book home, Dan? Library books live in the library. I can bring it back sometimes. Sometimes to go on the shelf. Dinosaurs and prehistoric. But it’s coming home with us now, yes? I didn’t say more words. I think that’s a yes. Thanks again, Jane. Come on, Danny love, we need to go now. Meemaw going too fast. Bring it back sometimes. Jane speaked slow. Yes, you could do that, Danny. Bring it back sometimes for a visit. But always take it home again, won’t you? Because it’s your book now. Let’s write your name in it, shall we, to save confusion? Save confusion. Jane getted a pen. Can you do your own name, Danny? I taked it to do my Danny name she putted White. Then she writed personal copy withdrawn from stock. I readed each word she writed of the pen. Meemaw maked a sigh. I looked. Browning to brown. I don’t mean to be rude, and thanks so much, Jane. But we have to get going now. My coat twisted arms inside out hood gone upside down. I was busy with sort it out. Then I heared words of quieter. They don’t want you to hear of it. He’s got astonishing reading skills for four, hasn’t he? Meemaw too fast again grabbed my hand. No snatching! It’s not a big deal. It just comes naturally for him. Thanks again! Goodbye! Say goodbye, Danny. Goodbye.
I thinked why rushy rushy. Book was too heavy so Meemaw taked it for the bag. We’ve got to get to the Job Centre again, love, remember? No… Come on. You can look at your book when we get there. *** Outside the job centre we stopped. Better than going in. Right, I’ll text her. Wait just here, Dan. I did balancing two feet careful on the little wall of the flowers. Putted Spiney’s face inside the trumpetty daffodils. Spiney telled me whole world gone golden Danny. He whispered it very quiet in my mind. I taked him one to the next of five daffodils. Walked slow away of Meemaw. Danny love, come here! The Karen lady had come. Karen lady wearing a blue shirt of tangled flowers on it. Her hair spiked up. Perfume strong as knifes. I holded my nose. She touched Meemaw again right away touched her shoulder. Then she kissed Meemaw’s face. Only I do. Only I kiss Meemaw. Hi Karen! Karen pushed her spikes of hair they pinged up spring. Pink sticky again her face. Hi Natalie! Did you get my text? I just saw it now. Thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much it means. Thank you! Oh, it’s nothing. There’s discretion. She owed me a favour anyway. Well, thank you. Really, honestly, it makes such a difference. Well, I could tell you were decent. It’s not like you were taking the piss. Not like some of them. Meemaw didn’t take her turn then of talking. We take turns Danny. Meemaw looked over by the roundabout Karen smiled at me I looked. Still holded my nose. Meemaw saw then. She pulled my hand down. Well, look, I’ve only got fifteen minutes, really. Shall we get some drinks?
Meemaw holded my hand hurry hurry to the Costa. We don’t ever go too expensive a bloody joke those prices Danny. We sitted on silvery chairs a round table of one silver leg. What would you like? Coffee? Tea, please. And what about you, little one? I didn’t say. Oh, he’s fine, Karen. He doesn’t need anything. Right, back in a tick then. She went inside. No holding your nose around people, Danny, remember? It can hurt feelings. And Karen’s really helped us out. She’s really done us a favour. Karen came back with drinks. Three big cups. I got him a milkshake. Didn’t seem right not getting him anything. Oh… thanks… Meemaw taked the cups. All papery cups and lids. My one a straw stucked up out of its middle. I looked at it not touching. Meemaw maked a rolly. Messy one of tobacco squiggles escaping. Karen didn’t smoke she watched Meemaw. She watched Meemaw close like trying to learn of it. She watched Meemaw’s hands Meemaw’s mouth. I watched her eyes go zip zip about. Meemaw speaked not looking at me still looking at her rolly. Try your milkshake, Dan, eh? I did just in case of nice. But it was yuck. A painty thick and strongness. No more. I counted seven cars green or nearly. Green is rare. So, what you got planned for the rest of the day then? Oh, nothing much. He’s just got a new book, haven’t you, Dan? They were chucking it out at the library. Show Karen. I climbed down went in the bag and getted my book. I holded it on my tummy. Karen not to see. Come on. Don’t be mean, show Karen your book. Karen laughed a slidey laugh. Oh, don’t worry. I’m enjoying what I’m looking at right now. She putted her hand close Meemaw’s by the ashtray. Littlest fingers touched lied next to each other close. Meemaw did a laugh too. A laugh that was new and of a surprise. Then I needed a wee. Very urgent. I pulled Meemaw. I whispered. Wee Meemaw! Ah, we need the toilet I’m afraid, Karen. No worries. I have to get back now anyway. She pushed back again the spiky hair. Maked a big perfumey smell. A attack of smell. I coughed. Meemaw picked up the bag. Thanks so much for the drinks and for everything. You’ve been really kind. Meemaw pushed me gently on my back. My coat stucked on the silvery chair I pulled. Then it was free and we were going but Karen’s voice came sudden. Too loud. I was wondering if you fancied meeting up again, maybe? Meemaw stopped pushing me. Meemaw looked at Karen. Swoosh! Very fast very fast all the grey washed over. There was a waterfall on Meemaw of ruby red colour. Ruby red slippers. Very. I never saw Meemaw be it before that colour. The world was roary then of cars and I was needing a wee. Meemaw and Karen just standed still no talking. I pulled Meemaw. She taked no notice no. Didn’t look. Looked just at Karen. Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s just me and him you know so… Karen’s words came fast tripping over. Sure! Yes, sure, how about the park? Maybe over the weekend? Meemaw’s words chased Karen’s words. Sure, yes. You’ve got my number, yeah? Great, yeah. The wee the wee! I was full and bursting. Meemaw! Okay! ‘Bye Karen. We went through the big glass door into Costa. Inside Costa clank bang of the coffee maker man. Music. Bright white. Too much. I holded my ears. Meemaw opened the door toilet. Inside was quiet. Long wee splashy in the toilet and Meemaw waiting not talking. The soap was appley foamy fluff I liked. I washed on a long time. More more the appley soap. Meemaw looked in the mirror. Meemaw looked looked. Still no words. Water getted too hot. I taked my hands out. Okay, sunshine, here’s the dryer, look. Pop your hands in for a whoosh of air. I looked. No! It says blade. Blade is of a knife. Air blade, Meemaw. I showed the words. Meemaw laughed. Do you dare me, Danny? Do you? No! Meemaw pushed her hands in. It roared! Such loudness. But not a blade of cutting. Meemaw’s hands in out. She laughed. Meemaw laughed lots. I holded my hands on my ears tight and waited for it to stop.
*** At home Meemaw gived me have three pieces of drawing paper and that is a lot. I started a comic of stegosaurs. They go over a cliff. Why don’t you use some other colours, Dan? Or your black pen will run out. I like black. Black is best for all except red sometimes of blood. Meemaw had a rolly in the big window. All was sunshine and Meemaw ruby ruby red. New colour. I watched sometimes sometimes I went in my picture. After one rolly and tea gone halfway Meemaw climbed on a chair taked down her precious box. Precious box lives on the wardrobe. I don’t look because of ashamed. Because of a day long ago I was three. Such a bad day. Meemaw put the box up high after. It was biggest big scissors and crinkly paper. I cutted it the precious letter of Meemaw’s mummy. The letter of Meemaw’s mummy when she was alive in America. Meemaw did dripping tears. Drip drip on it and sticky tape for mending. But the letter gone wonky and some of the words lost. I went under the cover a long time that day. Meemaw said ashamed. I don’t like it now to think. I don’t like it the box. But today was a day of shiny photographs. Meemaw tipped them all slidey out. Meemaw did lifting them up each one and looking. Little laughs. I did my best stegosaur and a bubble for words. I maked him say oh no! in his bubble. Meemaw leaned over showed me one of the pictures. Who do you think that is, Danny? There were witchy people of wild hair. Don’t know. Meemaw holded her finger by one face. Not even that one? It was a person of black bits round their eyes. The person had a open mouth like a roar. That’s me, Danny. That was me way back when and those were my friends. We were having a bloody ball. A ball is a dance of Cinderella. But Cinderella is a puffy dress and white mice. A pumpkin. Not blood. I looked at the Meemaw of black bits on the eyes. Those were my friends, Dan. Those were my friends. She stroked it the shiny photograph. Her thumb all round its edge and looking like loving. Her eyes blink blink. Strokes like a kitten on its teeny head or me me on my eyebrows sometimes in bed and night night my lovely boy. I pushed under Meemaw’s arms. I lied on her lap put my face in her tummy. Smelled the smell of her. My Meemaw. I wriggled in until she putted the photographs back in the packet cuddled me instead. Right. Bath time, Danny! Noooo! Come on. It’s getting late. Meemaw getted my clean pjs from the laundrette bag. Shaked them hard for crumples. Meemaw getted her baggy laggy joggers old holey t-shirt. Shaked them too. I snuffed sniffed in them the smell of laundrette blue. Thinked of turny machines frothy inside. Come on then, love, into the bathroom! Meemaw turned the taps squooged shower gel. Blue in a puddle and turning into white. Good good smells. Nothing wrong at bedtime. Bubbles maked a mountain in the bath tall. White mountain filled up of light. Always baths now. Shower’s gone so broken and too much tiles falled off. We can’t use it, Danny. See, the water squirts out all over. Even in your eye. Nozzle gone drippy. A drippy wozzle nozzle. Useless of a shower. We getted in the bath. Right! Time for an episode of Terence the Turtle! Ow! Sorry Meemaw. That was for a joke. No pinching boobies, Danny. Pinching boobies isn’t a joke. Listen now and hear what happens next. Meemaw tells it out of her head. She telled how he went to a island all empty just a tall coconut tree. Terence maked a pulley which is a contraption. He sended Caroline Crab up high to get their tea of a coconut. Caroline Crab and pinchy pinchers! Stop it, now. I told you, Danny White. Meemaw washed my hair careful as careful. No bubbles in my eyes. Eyes shut and my mouth closed up tight. No water getted in me. Meemaw wrapped me in a towel. I sitted on the bath mat pulled the frayey edge. Maked a long long string. Meemaw standed up a handful of blue of shower gel. Rubby froth all over and in the hairy fanny triangle the smelly under arms. After tooth cleans and last wees Meemaw getted the bed to flat. Up out it folds. Skeleton of the sofa comes out. Then it’s our bed. Stand back, sunshine, I’m always worried this thing might bonk you on the head. Are you reading Meemaw in the chair this night? No, I’m shattered tonight, Danny. Let’s just snuggle down. Meemaw drawed the curtains getted in beside me. I holded Spiney under the pillow he likes it best very soft. In my mind I heared him telling all his night night wishes. I listened. Said I love you Spiney in mind words. Feeled him warmer there. I putted my other hand on Meemaw’s squashy tummy. Inside is bubbles and pops. Meemaw still the red ruby coloured. Like the slippers of sharkle one day on YouTube. Meemaw singed me the song. Somewhere over the rainbow. Meemaw reached up clicked the light to off. Then she was just the dark shape the smell of clean Meemaw. I closed my eyes.
For your chance to win a paperback copy of Tale Of A Tooth, courtesy of Legend Press, then all you have to do is comment ‘Yes please’ on this post and I will choose a winner at random (UK ONLY PLEASE)
Thanks in advance for joining in!
‘Allie Rogers strikes gold again … A book about issues that isn’t issue-led, and a book about childhood that isn’t mawkish and emotional – Allie Rogers has, in Tale of a Tooth, created a tale that’s original, powerful and long lasting. Danny’s voice is readable, memorable, and may just have changed my mind about child narrators’ The Book Bag
‘Exploring a narrative which is too often kept private, but nevertheless, desperately needs to be told, Allie Rogers is unflinching in her descriptions of bullying and brutality which can be found within relationships. For this, she deserves to be congratulated’ Jess Richards
‘An extraordinary story of the bond between a mother and her son. Four-year-old Danny’s voice is utterly convincing, heartbreaking and ultimately full of love and hope’ Catherine Hall
About the author…..
Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton, where she works as a university librarian.
Little Gold, Allie’s first novel, was published by Legend Press in May 2017. Drawing on her memories of Brighton in the early 1980s, the book is a story of survival and the transformative power of friendship.
The book received warm reviews, including this, from Umi Sinha, author of ‘Belonging’,
‘Reminiscent of Scout Finch, Little Gold is a great addition to literature’s endearing child characters. Vulnerable but fiercely individual, she navigates danger on many fronts – her broken family, her bullying schoolmates, and the dangers of predatory adults – until she finds an unexpected ally in an elderly neighbour. Vivid, touching, sad and frightening, this book exposes the dark underbelly of 1980s Brighton and left me haunted long after I put it down.’
‘Tale of a Tooth’ (Legend, April 2018) is a powerful narrative, told in the voice of four-year-old Danny. Jess Richards, author of ‘Snake Ropes’, ‘Cooking with Bones’ and ‘City of Circles’ has said,
‘Explores a narrative which is too often kept private, but nevertheless, desperately needs to be told.’
Check out the rest of the blog tour for reviews, and more, with these awesome book bloggers…..