little doctor and the fearless beast

Imagine a girl veterinarian who lives somewhere deep in the jungle. Now imagine that she treats... crocodiles! What would her clinic look like? What kinds of injuries would crocodiles have and a Little Doctor heal? What kinds of stories could crocodiles tell? Sophie Gilmore's debut picture book Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast takes that premise and those questions and spins a yarn that is engrossing and satisfying.

little doctor and the fearless beast by sophie gilmore book cover
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. As it turns out, the crocodile is only protecting her hatchlings, all tangled in plastic, inside her mouth.

Watercolor illustrations create a richly imagined world in this awe-inspiring story about how even little kids can be fearless, and even big, mean creatures sometimes need help.

Apparently when crocodiles tell tales, their legends are full of "terrible danger, dizzying escapes, and acts of great mischief." And if you treat them well, as Little Doctor does, crocodiles will share their stories as a reward. Little Doctor and her crocodile patients are part of an absolutely beautiful and patently charming picture book that always feels just one jaw snap from disaster, but full of kindness as well. As a bonus, Gilmore's storytelling is matched (or exceeded, even!) by her fantastic illustrations.

Each page spread in Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast is full of details to be examined and pored over read after reread. There are crocodiles in every corner of Little Doctor's home, and it's fun to anticipate where the next one will be. When Big Mean (the biggest, most fearsome creature of all!) comes on the scene, the spreads get even more creative. How will such a big animal (reptile??) fit in Little Doctor's house? Especially when Big Mean is feeling mean and uncooperative?

Gilmore's watercolor and pencil illustrations are a delight. She masterfully captures light, shading, texture and color, and adds whimsy and magic to boot. Both adults and children will enjoy the dangerous suspense of sharp teeth juxtaposed with fearless kindness. Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast is an unexpected (and welcome) surprise, and a soon-to-be classic.

Recommended for: storytimes and read-alouds with little ones ages 4-7 (especially with children who love animals, reptiles, and a little bit of bite), and for fans of beautifully illustrated picture books à la Where the Wild Things Are.

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