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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Doctor De Soto by William Steig

DoctorDeSoto1And we’re back to the classics. So far on this podcast, Kate and I have tackled only one William Steig (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble). I was thinking maybe we should do Shrek next, but then I thought better of it. It seems to me that there’s a lot more fodder for discussion in this title. And, as per usual, Kate notices things. She notices that the initials of Doctor De Soto are DDS, which is a dental detail I’d never thought of before. She notices a rather lovely umbrella stand bedecked with dragons. She notices mouse dentures (and how creepy mouse dentures would be in real life). For my part, I get to imitate the sound of a rotten tooth being removed from a fox’s mouth (there’s a distinct pop at the end) and we debate whether or not the old No Cavities Forever solution is legit or not.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or your preferred method of podcast selection.


Show Notes:

– Nope. No reason for the open flame on the cover. Is it even a flame? Alternate theories welcome. Failing that, maybe in 1982 this was a common sight. I don’t remember. I was four at the time.


– Dragon umbrella stand. Considering its size in proportion to the De Sotos, we assume they had it brought in by movers.


– I’m a sucker for arm garters. Even if they’re on donkeys.


– This definitely was published after Sylvester, by the way. Sylvester came out way back in 1969.

– In Kate’s words, this hangin tooth is “just a lawsuit waiting to happen”.


– Why did people wrap their heads up with handkerchiefs when they had toothaches?


– So Kate was seriously freaked out by these teeth. To what animal would they belong, oh budding biologists?


– The first instance we’ve seen dripping blood in a picture book, that we can recall.


– Can you think of a classic fox book where the fox is heroic rather than sneaky and sly?

– Look, maw! One-handed dentistry!


– This book came in at #57 on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll.

– Here’s the sequel. We suspect you can definitely miss this one.


– The animated short of Doctor De Soto that was nominated for an Academy Award does not appear to be online. Unless, of course, it’s this Weston Woods video with its simply marvelous narrator.

– This has been positively confirmed as a cameo appearance of editor Rotem Moscovich in Ryan T. Higgins’ We Don’t Eat Our Classmates.


– Here’s the cookbook I mentioned. The recipe for The World’s Luckiest Biscuits also happens to be the recipe for the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted.


About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Well, technically the fox in “Fox in Socks” doesn’t want to EAT anyone, he’s just a little annoying… so not heroic, but not EVIL either.

  2. Gunilla Finnberg says

    The flame comes from a small container with spirits and a wick. Ubiqitous (spelling?) in all dentists and doctor´s´offices for warming the small mirrors you use to look at different things in patients mouth. Otherwise their breath will cloud the mirror. You tested it by laying the back side of the mirror against your own skin, so that it wouldn´t get too hot.

  3. For what it’s worth, my daughter’s favorite fox book is Jim Aylesworth’s The Tale of Tricky Fox.

  4. There are books where foxes are shown as hunting, but that’s viewed as sympathetic. Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, for example, shows him killing the goose and ducks to feed his family. This is even more explicit in Fantastic Mr. Fox, if you’re willing to go beyond picture books.

  5. Beautiful characters are in The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, No Matter What by Debi Gliori, heroic, caring and kind in Pandora by Victoria Turnbull.

  6. OK, I’ve been kinda obsessed with this foxes in literature thing all day. I think we’re talking about a tradition in Western culture that was probably already ancient at the time of Aesop. Foxes often play the role of punishing foolishness or pride rather than the straight-up villainy that wolves often play (I’d argue that the fox is the true hero of the Gingerbread Man, for example, for being the one to shut up that annoying twerp), but it still centers on their role as clever predators. The only fox that I can think of to break the mold entirely in “classic” literature is the one in The Little Prince, which isn’t a picture book and arguably isn’t even a children’s book. Richard Scarry has a bunch of foxes in his books, though rarely as major characters, and they’re always just regular animal-people, neither heroes nor villains. But I wouldn’t really count those either. (For heroic foxes I think you have to go to Disney movies). The only animal that I think gets worse treatment is the weasel- also a small mammal that goes after poultry.

    Which led me to thinking about the animals that are never villains. Are there any villainous elephants, for example?

    • That reminds me of the old Eddie Izzard routine about whether or not there were evil animals wiped out by Noah’s flood. Were there a bunch of evil giraffes all lolling about? “I’m going to eat all the leaves on this tree. Some of the other giraffes may starve!”

  7. kati nolfi says

    The strange and slim Fox 8 by George Saunders addresses some of this. Fox 8 argues that foxes are not sly and cruel. That chickens know that they are food.
    ‘We are very open and honest with Chikens!’
    — From “Fox 8: A Story” (Random House, 2018, Page 6), by George Saunders.
    He objects to the way that children’s books portray animals. Like why are bears cuddly in books? They should be terrifying!

  8. I always assumed (see also: Felix of The Odd Couple) that people (or animals) who wrap their jaws when in dental pain is to hold ice on the aching tooth. But, Marley’s ghost had his jaw bound in the fashion of Victorian cadavers, whose jaws were held closed before rigor mortis set in and the jaw would be open for all eternity. You asked, just sayin’.