Doctor De Soto by William Steig is
one of the shortest books to ever win the coveted Newbury Award for excellence in children’s writing. Steig, the author of Shrek! and the Caldecott Award-winner for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, has created anothe
r fantastic book that celebrates bravery, empathy, kindness, and friendship.
This author is well known for writing sensitive and meaningful
stories for children that also impart basic human values. Steig often teaches these values using animal characters that are near and dear
to a child’s heart. It also relates a story of different species willing to help each other, even under questionable circumstances.
Doctor De Soto is a simple story about a mouse dentist and his assistant wife who try to help a fox with his toothache without being gobbled alive. The De Sotos are a kind mouse family. They treat patients large and small using only the methods that will cause them the least amount of discomfort. When one day a fox appears with a gigantic toothache, the De Sotos decide to treat him—even though he may eat them.
The fox unwittingly reveals under anesthesia that he intends to make a meal of the dentist and his wife. The De Sotos face a dilemma in that they have promised to help the fox, but still need to protect themselves. When the fox returns the following day to have his false tooth inserted, the De Sotos must act quickly before the fox has his way with them.
This is one of the best picture books for teaching children life lessons. Its delightful illustrations and playful words make reading it a joy for those who remember it from their own childhood as well as those who are seeing it for the first time. The illustrations help bring the story to life for children, and adults enjoy the scenes as well. Steig has a knack for combining funny, witty stories with situations that can be meaningful. This method of writing is enjoyable for all who read the words. And the author also throws in some big vocabulary words every now and then to help increase a child’s knowledge base.