Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Doctor De Soto tells the story of a mouse dentist who takes pity on a fox with a toothache. Told in third-person narration, the lively story presents several moral dilemmas. It is Dr. De Soto’s established rule, posted by sign, that he does not treat animals that are potentially dangerous to him. Out of compassion for a fox who is in great pain, however, he sets aside this rule and provides treatment. Under anesthesia, the fox reveals his fondness for mice as food, and the dentist must decide whether to continue treatment the following day. The fox, on the other hand, wonders only briefly if it would be “shabby” to devour his benefactors; by the next day, he has overcome his thin moral resolve with plans to eat Dr. and Mrs. De Soto as soon as his new tooth is in place.

The compassion of the mice is matched by their courage and cleverness. After a night of debating whether to continue treating the fox, Dr. De Soto decides to follow his father’s principle of always finishing what he starts. When the fox arrives the next morning, the De Sotos have a plan in place. After the new tooth is installed, the dentist offers to coat the fox’s teeth with a substance that will prevent any further tooth decay, and the fox eagerly consents. After all, if he eats the dentist, he will have eliminated the very person who might treat him for future dental distress. The mixture seals the fox’s teeth together temporarily, and the outwitted fox must leave...

(The entire section is 498 words.)