by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
Going to the dentist when I was a child was not any fun.
First, I had to take the streetcar (now called “the T”) down to Coolidge Corner to Dreaded Doctor B.’s* office on Beacon Street. It was across the street from the S.S. Pierce Building, which was my landmark.
In Dreaded Doctor B.’s office, I would sit in the waiting room, reading old issues of Highlights magazine for at least an hour before I was called in for my cleaning and checkup.
My appointments were usually scheduled for after school, which must have been prime time. In Dr. B.’s world, patients were seen in some kind of everyone-else-knew-it-but-me order: doctors first, businessmen second, and kids there for after-school checkups dead last. This was enraging even then, but I was powerless.
(These memories are probably negatively exaggerated and not fair to the hardworking dental care providers in the office, but that’s what it felt like to me. Torture!)
The office was run under the medieval-style control of a fierce loyalist in white scrubs named Polly, who barked orders at everyone. Eventually, Polly would call me in to have a seat in the massive plastic-covered chair, and I would undergo a procedure that involved little pieces of hard cardboard for X-rays, sharp tools, aggressive cleaning, and lots of lectures.
When this first-half routine was finally over, I would wait in the chair—pink bib still clipped around my neck and gums bleeding—for another hour or so before Dr. B. came in with his very large fingers to pry my mouth open and do his checkup.
The whole experience—cavities, metal fillings, Novocain needles, and especially the infinite waiting—scarred me. I avoided the dentist for many years (not a good strategy), and to this day, I always need to get the first doctor or dentist appointment of the morning to avoid long waiting-room waits.
(For some reason, my eye-doctor appointments still require budgeting three hours—and the same holds true for my friend’s ophthalmologist appointments. It must have to do with pupil dilation or people who can’t read the eye charts slowing things down? I don’t know. That’s an investigation for another post.)
Dr. B. was the dentist of choice for my extended family, so we all suffered together. But when I was old enough to make my own decisions about dental care, I found a wonderful dentist in my town named Dr. Lou Theodorou.
Dr. Theodorou to me—but Lou to everyone else (a holdover from the old days when “doctor” was a revered honorific in my family)—is kind and compassionate. I am seen at my scheduled appointment time, and the office staff is so nice and welcoming. He is always researching new trends in dentistry and uses the latest technology in his office. I usually avoid looking at the screens during appointments, but it is so cool to see digital renderings of my teeth.
Dr. Theodorou’s professionalism and commitment to his patients’ happiness reminds me of another one of my favorite dentists: Doctor De Soto, the star of the Newbery Honor– and National Book Award–winning picture book by William Steig, which is the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week.
“This is one of those picture books that are so good I’d just like to quote the whole thing.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer
In the charming classroom-favorite picture book, Doctor De Soto and his wife, Mrs. De Soto, are two hardworking and dedicated mice who provide excellent, creative, and compassionate dental care to their large roster of patients. Their professionalism extends to a policy of treating all animals…except those who are dangerous to mice.
But then one day, a fox comes in with a debilitating toothache, and the De Sotos have to decide if they will take the risk and abandon their “no cats and other dangerous animals” policy or turn away the patient in agony.
I love pretty much everything William Steig has created. (You can read a fascinating biography of him in our Behind the Scenes post this week.) But Doctor De Soto is super special. There are several things I particularly love about this book:
• Doctor De Soto takes his dentistry very seriously and is kind and compassionate to all his patients.
• Doctor De Soto and his wife, Mrs. De Soto, work so well as a team.
• Doctor De Soto is clever and knows how to work around his potential nemesis in a way that works out well for everyone.
In addition to being a wonderful story, Doctor De Soto is a perfect springboard for all kinds of classroom discussions about character, problem solving, and compassion—as you will see in all our posts this week. And for David Vozar, it got him thinking about what other kinds of things animals could do for him:
To help you and your students get the most out of Doctor De Soto, we put together some free activities and resources for you to use in your classroom:
• SPECIAL! The Book Boys filmed a silent-movie reenactment of Doctor De Soto.
• FREE! Download a printable problem-solving classroom activity in Cooked Up from a Book.
• BIO! Learn about the life of beloved author and illustrator William Steig in Behind the Scenes.
• DISCOVER! Watch a teacher review to see how you can use Doctor De Soto as a character-study lesson in Book Talks.
Doctor De Soto is among my all-time favorite picture books. Please let me know if you agree!
*Some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the privacy of those depicted.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs