Gumption, persistence, and compassion for all creatures, these are things I aspire to. (Okay, except for big spiders.) Though sometimes it is so hard to be brave, to take a leap and try something new, to really stick your neck out for yourself or for another. And if pop culture (music and movies) is any indication, it is a challenge for many people. Even if we never had to worry about legal ramifications.
Well, I found a wonderful picture book with a main character that embodies all of these characteristics. One that also highlights the dangers of first impressions, rumors, and misunderstandings. A picture book that subtly carries an important environmental message as well. This beautiful picture book caries a big punch.
Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast
Author/Illustrator: Sophie Gilmore
Publisher: Owlkids Books (2019)
Compassion, understanding, conquering fears, and environmentalism.
Deep in the jungle lives a child the crocodiles call Little Doctor.
Crocodiles come from far and wide to seek Little Doctor’s care. She treats each one with skill and kindness―even the toughest crocs with thick skins and large, powerful jaws. Little Doctor marvels at these fearless beasts, listening to their stories, while she diagnoses and cures what ails them.
But when she meets Big Mean, the largest crocodile in the land with jaws clamped tightly shut, Little Doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong. And she might be just a little bit afraid.
When one creative idea lands Little Doctor right inside Big Mean’s tremendous jaws, she is sure she’ll be munched or crunched―until she sees that Big Mean isn’t so horrible, after all. They both discover that even the smallest among us can have an enormous amount to offer.
This big-hearted tale speaks to the fearless beasts within us all.
There once lived a child the crocodiles called Little Doctor.
The creatures came from all around to see her.
And Little Doctor treated each one with care.
As she worked, she admired their tough armor and large, powerful jaws.
What I love about this book:
"Little Doctor," as the child main character is known to the crocodiles, is dressed in an adorable crocodile onesie and lab coat. She first appears in an office that most kids (and a few vets I know) would envy.
Image © Sophie Gilmore, 2019.
She rescues crocodiles from splinters, hurt tails, self-esteem problems, and man-made environmental hazards (fishing nets). Who knew crocodiles were introverts too. As payment for her kindness, the crocodiles regale her with tales of adventure and fantastic beasts; tales teaming with "terrible danger, dizzying escapes, and acts of great mischief." Including whispered tales of one monster crocodile - "Big Mean." One day, Big Mean arrived at Little Doctor's office, with her jaws clamped shut.
Image © Sophie Gilmore, 2019.
Little Doctor's repeated attempts to figure out the problem are met with increasing meanness from the big crocodile. Angry and frustrated, she retreats to care for the other sick and injured patients. Her kindness soothes both tempers and Big Mean relaxes. Her final attempt to help Big Mean results in her tumbling through the air right into Big Mean's jaws. I won't give away the resolution, which is both satisfying (showing courage on both sides) and an indictment of humans.
Sophie's humor, both in the text and the illustrations, prevents this from being a scary story; even though the stakes and climax are tense - "moments passed, and she was not munched nor crunched." Importantly, this is a tale of a "fearless" beast, not a "fearsome" beast, a description that accurately fits both the Little Doctor and Big Mean. Sophie's muted colors and delicious details help soften the mood as well. This is a great book for budding scientists, animal lovers, environmentalists, and all of us compassionate, caring, fearless beasts. A book that should be in every library around the world.
- make different size or color paper bag crocodiles and pretend to be their doctor (https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/crocodile-paper-bag-puppet/);
- talk about what you can do to prevent animals being hurt like the crocodiles in the story; or
- write or draw about what scares you most and how do you deal with that fear.
This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.
If you missed it, check out Sophie Gilmore's interview this past Monday (here).