Ingrid Bencosme wanted to teach her daughter about losing her first tooth but couldn’t find a book that met her needs, so the ex-elementary school teacher from Manhasset put pen to paper.
Emma, then 5 years old, loved the story and the fairy doll that her mother used to make it interactive—so much so that she told her classmates, whose parents asked Bencosme where she got it. Two years later, Teeth Fairies: A Baby Teeth Tradition, will debut in stores as a book and doll set on Feb. 20. The concept is similar to The Elf on the Shelf, but instead of an elf bribing kids with toys for good behavior, a fairy teaches young readers the importance of brushing their teeth.
“My daughter had so many questions,” Bencosme told the Press while recalling how she prepared for her first-born child’s visit from the Tooth Fairy. “I just sat down and wrote something up… It just sort of snowballed from there.”
The story and its plush fairy companion is the latest addition to the growing book-and-doll-set trend, which includes the imaginative Ladybug Girl, Hide-and-Hug Olaf of Disney’s Frozen fame and countless others.
Although the Teeth Fairies story is different, the fairy’s rules are similar to that of the famed elf—chiefly, both can listen but they can’t talk. A fairy-in-training visits children when they have a loose tooth, flies back to the Fairy Boss to report on whether the child is taking care of his or her teeth, and shows up each morning in a different spot of the child’s home. Once the tooth falls out, the fairy, named by the child, leaves and gets promoted.
“For the fairy it’s the final test in tooth fairy school,” the story goes. “Your fallen tooth in her crown is like a precious jewel.”
Per tradition, the fairy leaves a surprise for the child in exchange for the tooth. But, instead of leaving it under the child’s pillow, the fairy leaves it in the place where she last sat. Children then track their fairy visits on the last page of the book in a ledger with columns to list each date and gift.
The book, illustrated by Laura Watson, is the first that Bencosme has published. A portion of the proceeds from each book goes to Communities in Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the drop-out epidemic. Bencosme said she was “stunned” that a book like hers wasn’t already on bookstore shelves.
“I thought that I would be able to find something in a store,” she said. “There’s such a mystery around the Tooth Fairy…It really helped me to motivate my kids to not just play a game, but to care for their dental health.”
Now the mother of three with a fourth due in April is waiting for the day her second child gets a loose tooth and a visit from the fairy. In the meantime, she is planning a more diverse cast of fairy dolls to go with the book. She is even toying around with the idea of a sequel involving Ratón Pérez, a Spanish variation of the Tooth Fairy played by a mouse.
When asked if kids would have the same fear of a fairy watching them as some have shown toward the elf, Bencosme said that the only issue she encountered was consoling her daughter when her tooth fell out and the fairy returned to fairyland.
“She didn’t want her to go,” Bencosme recalled. “To sort of alleviate that, the teacher in me thought of a way to encourage her to write… She just writes a note, and the fairy comes back and she spends a few days and then she’s OK.”
Teeth Fairies: A Baby Teeth Tradition ($49.99) author Ingrid Bencosme will be discussing and signing copies of her book at The Dolphin Bookshop & Café, 299 Main St. in Port Washington, at 11 a.m. Feb. 28. The box set can be purchased at select bookstores and on Amazon.