The Sweetest Fig

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The Sweetest Fig
Cover
Author Chris Van Allsburg
Language English
Genre Children's fantasy
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
25 October 1993
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 32 pp (hardcover edition)
ISBN ISBN 978-0-395-67346-1 (hardcover edition)
OCLC 27769414
LC Class PZ7.V266 Sw 1993
Preceded by The Widow's Broom
Followed by Bad Day at Riverbend

The Sweetest Fig is a children's fantasy novel written in 1993 by the American author Chris Van Allsburg. It tells a story of an affluent, cold-hearted French dentist who eats a fig which makes his wildest dreams come true.

Plot summary[edit]

Monsieur Bibot is a wealthy dentist. He lives alone in Paris, France, in a fancy apartment with his dog, Marcel, whom he mistreats, often by beating him over little things, such as sitting on furniture, and he often drags Marcel around town as part of his "walks". Everything in his life seems quite satisfactory until an impoverished old woman stops by his office to get her tooth extracted. He seems to almost enjoy inflicting pain on the woman. After removing the tooth with a pair of pliers, and about to give a prescription for the painkillers, Bibot is upset when the woman can't pay his fee in cash. Instead, she pays him by giving him two figs which she claims will make his dreams come true. Naturally, Bibot scoffs at the thought of magical figs, and refuses to give her the painkillers. Later that evening, Bibot proceeds to eat one of the figs as a midnight snack. The old woman is right: Bibot finds himself walking Marcel in Paris in his underwear, stared at by the passers-by, and the Eiffel Tower has drooped over; everything in the dream that he had the previous night has come true.

Horrified and embarrassed by this mishap, Bibot vows to hypnotize himself to control his dreams so that he may become the richest man on Earth. This self-centered plan involves abandoning Marcel, whom he has continued to harm in more ways than one, for a string of Great Danes from a dream he had the night before. But one day, when Bibot is preparing dinner, the dog gobbles up the second fig sitting on the table. Bibot is furious and chases the dog around the house. Heartbroken over the fig, Bibot goes to sleep. The next morning, however, Bibot wakes up underneath his bed - as the dog. Needless to say, Bibot is horrified and realizes that the dog was dreaming about finally getting his revenge on his cruel master all along. Marcel, who's now in Bibot's form, tells Bibot it's time for his walk. Bibot tries to yell, but all he can do is bark.

Reception[edit]

  • Publishers Weekly:

"Van Allsburg swings back into his most mystifying mode with this enigmatic, visually sophisticated tale . . . A significant achievement." [1]

  • Children's Literature:

Van Allsburg once again gives it the kind of twist that pleases kids and adult fans.

  • School Library Journal:

Gr 3 Up- Another quietly bizarre and stunning picture book from Van Allsburg. ... 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

  • Hazel Rochman:

The detailed, soft-textured pictures in shades of brown and white have the appearance of framed sepia photographs, with dramatic close-ups as well as an extraordinary sense of depth. Their realistic use of light and changing perspective makes the fantasy story an integral part of the everyday. ... Children will recognize the terror, the mystery, and the delicious dream of reversal.

Although The Sweetest Fig does not present an unusual moral, Chris Van Allsburg's characterization of Monsieur Bibot brings a chilling, frightening tone to the narrative.[citation needed] It also depicts the harsh realities of the master-slave relationship. This particular book is considered by many to be a significant achievement in Van Allsburg's literary career, and one of his best stories. Many classroom teachers will read the book during writing lessons, because it features irony and other types of writing normally not found in common stories.

References[edit]

See also[edit]