The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsberg
Summary: Grade 3 Up-Another quietly bizarre and stunning picture book from Van Allsburg. In this modern fairy tale, a Parisian dentist (a prissy and sadistic man who even hates his own dog) is given two magic figs by an old woman who tells him, "'They can make your dreams come true.'" Bibot scoffs. However, after the first fig proves to do exactly that (in a scene in which the dentist walks down the street in his underwear, and then the Eiffel Tower droops over), he realizes how precious they are. Night after night, he hypnotizes himself into dreaming that he is the richest man on earth. Finally, he prepares to eat the second fig. But his dog, Marcel, beats him to it, and the following morning, the dentist wakes up as the helpless pup under a bed, with his own face calling to him, "'Time for your walk. Come to Marcel.'" The Sweetest Fig is a superb blend of theme, language, and illustration, with a very grabbing plot as well. The writing is formal yet direct, using simple, deliberate vocabulary to match the elegant setting and mood. The shades of gray, cream, and brown and the calm, stable design enhance this mood. The angle at which readers view scenes is always intriguing and heightens their involvement. Most children old enough to read this complex book on their own will be fascinated and will return to it again and again. Van Allsburg at his best.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Classroom Implications: This text is great to teach point of view and perspective due to the sudden shift at the end of the book. It also lends itself well to characterization and cause and effect concepts.