Chris Van Allsburg, award-winning author of Ants and The Polar Express, the recipient of two Caldecott Medals and a Caldecott Honor, has written a disturbing tale about a dentist named Monsieur Bibot, his little white dog Marcel, and two magical figs given as payment for a pulled tooth.
We are first introduced to Monsieur Bibot in The Sweetest Fig with an illustration of him sneaking up behind his unsuspecting dog, Marcel, with a rolled up newspaper. In the next illustration we witness Bibot’s cruel treatment of an elderly patient in the dentist’s chair. Her mouth is opened uncomfortably wide as the dentist leans over her, his knee jamming into her legs, his right hand poised menacingly above her with the pliers, his left hand covering her eyes and holding her head down in a frighteningly abusive manner. But it’s the look of pleasure drawn on Bibot’s face that shows the readers just how callous a man Bibot truly is.
When the old woman offers Bibot two figs as payment for her pulled tooth, the look on Bibot’s face is incredulous and his anger is revealed in both of his hands that are balled into fists. That night, however, the dentist finds out just how valuable those figs are after he eats one before going to bed. The figs are magical and make your dreams come true! After discovering this, Bibot uses hypnosis so that he only dreams of riches and wealth. He also dreams Marcel out of existence and replaces the little white dog with two Great Danes, possibly as a symbol for his new-found wealth and status.
The story is written simply and in a matter of fact tone. The illustrations have a sterile feel that reflect the lack of imagination and happiness of Monsieur Bibot even after he is given a magical gift. The narrator passes no judgments on Bibot’s behavior even going so far as to only call him a “fussy” dentist. Van Allsburg obviously has a taste for poetic justice as the end of the story shows Bibot getting his comeuppance in spades. The Sweetest Fig is best suited for older listeners who would be able to appreciate the idea that what goes around eventually comes around. The Sweetest Fig offers one very important question, “What would you wish for if you had two magical figs?” – Aubrey Siino
Also available by Chris Van Allsburg: The Polar Express; Jumanji; The Mysteries of Harris Burdick; Two Bad Ants; Just a Dream; Queen of the Falls; The Wretched Stone; Zathura; Probuditi!; The Widow’s Broom; The Z was Zapped; Ben’s Dream; The Wreck of the Zephyr; The Stranger; Bad Day at Riverbend; A City in Winter; The Garden of Abdul Gasazi