Doctor De Soto, first published in 1982, by Newbery Honor recipient William Steig tells the saga of dentist to the animals, Dr. De Soto and his assistant wife. The De Sotos are mice, but they treat all animals big and small. All animals except cats and other mouse addicted creatures. Of course there can be no drama without conflict and one day a fox with a bad toothache asks for help. Against their better judgment and to honor the Hippocratic oath, the De Sotos pull the fox’s tooth and agree to make him a new one to be put in the next day. We hear the fox’s thoughts and he is totally going to eat the two mouse members of the dental practice after they fix his tooth. The thing is, the De Sotos totally know it too, but feel obligated to finish the job. While Dr. De Sotos solution to the problem isn’t really sweet revenge, but it comes close.
The book reminds us of the important Godfather lesson, keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Steig also has fun with the old fable of the Frog and the Scorpion. He deals with the nature of animal instincts and turns it on its head to show us a better way then the cold embrace of death. Finally, an important lesson about the importance of mercy is delivered reflected in the way the De Sotos chose to resolve the hidden motive of the fox. We all knew that mice made great dentists, but I didn’t expect them to be so clever as well.