With National Dentist’s Day due to arrive on March 6, this evening we followed up “The Tooth Mouse” with another story involving mice and teeth: “Doctor De Soto”, a Newbery Honor book by William Steig.
“Doctor De Soto” tells the story of a mouse dentist of the same name who manages a very successful practice along side his wife, who works as his assistant. He serves animals of all shapes and sizes, and is especially popular with larger animals, who find his methods extremely gentle. However, he staunchly refuses to care for animals he considers dangerous to mice. In fact, the sign outside his office reads: “CATS & OTHER DANGEROUS ANIMALS NOT ACCEPTED FOR TREATMENT.” It is a policy that has served Doctor and Mrs. De Soto well, but it is about to be put to the test.
One day, the De Sotos look out the window to find at their doorstep a fox in a great deal of pain from a rotten bicuspid. They initially refuse him service, but they relent when they see how pitiful he looks. “Let’s risk it” says Mrs. De Soto – and the game is afoot. The De Sotos treat the fox – who has “unusually bad breath” – and invite him back the next day to have the extracted tooth replaced. When the fox returns, he is no longer in pain and is prepared to make a meal of the good doctor and his wife after his treatment is complete. However, the De Sotos are prepared as well, and in the end they manage to do the right thing while still outfoxing the fox.
Already an accomplished illustrator by the time he began writing children’s books at the age of 61, Mr. Steig not only won a Newbery Honor for “Doctor De Soto” (a remarkable feat for a picture book), but he also won a Caldecott Medal for his third book,”Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,” and his 1990 book “Shrek” became the inspiration for the movie franchise of the same name. We found “Doctor De Soto” to be an entertaining read, and enjoyed Steig’s loosely-drawn but colorful and expressive illustrations. An excellent choice for “National Dentist’s Day” or any other day.