Kurt Weber fought tooth and nail to finish his children’s book.
While it took nearly a decade to complete and get published, the 63-year-old longtime Lutz resident and dentist knew he wanted to finish writing it before neck surgery in 2016. Even if he did end up rewriting in 2018.
He meticulously drew every illustration on every page.
“I really just wanted to make Charlie Brown, but as a tooth,” Weber said. “I wanted him to tell a story, I wanted him to have adventures and an interesting life that children will want to read about, and if he teaches us a few lessons along the way, all the better.
“You want a simple message for children and sometimes that’s incredibly difficult to do, but I also feel very strongly that you don’t talk down to children,” he added. “They’re not going to listen to a lecture, but if it’s a cute story, and they see the pictures of him brushing or flossing, that will stick.”
That is how Weber invented his Charlie Brown.
In his book, “Tooth Buddy and the Golden Toothbrush,” Tooth Buddy and his new friend, Dentina Decay, teach lessons not only of the importance of brushing and flossing, but of respect toward others.
“I feel it is a very unique children’s book,” said Weber, who has dental practices in St. Petersburg and Seffner. “I really like the indirect message, but you have to distill down those lessons for oral care and for life to the bare minimum because if you say too much, eyes will glaze over — kids won’t pay attention.
“They’re not going to absorb dentistry if it’s too complicated.”
After years of writing and drawing and discussions with his wife of 39 years, Karen, an administrative medicine physician at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Weber’s book was published on Dec. 6, 2022.
Weber, who was an award-winning editorial cartoonist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has always been “a doodler” since he was a kid, said both writing and illustrating were quite the task.
When it came to writing, Weber knew he couldn’t be too complicated with story and lessons, even if the book introduces many of the top 250 vocabulary words children need in the book’s 3 to 8-year-old age range.
“There are people in their 80s and terrified of the dentist or adults who are not educated on how to care for their teeth,” he said, “so the importance of teaching these (dental) skills early was my goal.”
As for drawing the illustrations, Weber said each picture, or page — such as the one of Tooth Buddy flossing with the caption, “Tooth Buddy flossed every day to keep cavities away, his breath fresh, and his smile healthy,” — took about 20 hours.
“Children’s books are incredibly complicated to look simple,” Weber added.
Which is remarkable since Weber, while a father to his kids, Kurt II and Katarina, isn’t a pediatric dentist. He does see a few kids, but his practice isn’t solely for child patients.
“If you teach a child to break up that colony bacteria that’s on their teeth at least every 48 hours, you’re not going to have issues getting older,” Weber said. “Just trying to teach them to get that brush or floss in there about once a day, that will work.”
Weber knew this message would need to be straight to the point, especially since the rule of thumb is children’s books should not be more than 500 words.
Tooth Buddy and the Golden Toothbrush is 498 words.
And so, with good reviews and online sales, including in Australia, Canada, Asia and Europe, a sequel is already in the works: “Tooth Buddy and the Magical Lost Tooth Adventure.”
“I’m happy with the response to it,” Weber said. “Kids don’t buy these books though, grandparents do. They see them in the lobby, and one lady bought five and then sent them all over the place, so that’s great, especially when you hear that one of my friends, her grandson is carrying the book around the house or another who said her son named her toothbrush ‘Tooth Buddy.’
“That’s really cool! I like that — a lot! (laughs).”
Tooth Buddy and the Golden Toothbrush by Kurt Weber, DDS
Synopsis: A fun adventure involving Tooth Buddy, his soon-to-be friend, Dentina Decay and, of course, the Golden Toothbrush. They teach four important lessons for children, ages 3 to 8. These include the importance of brushing and flossing, as well as the unstated larger-than-life lessons of nonviolent conflict resolution and respect for others and their property. Eventually, there will be a companion website to the book, which will include an interactive section for kids.
Cost: $18.59 for hardback on Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Noble
Published February 01, 2023