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The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920)

by Hugh Lofting

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Doctor Dolittle (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,176353,188 (3.7)77
The adventures of a kind-hearted doctor, who is fond of animals and understands their language, as he travels to Africa with some of his favorite pets to cure the monkeys of a terrible sickness.

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» See also 77 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Do NOT read the original! It is full of offensive colonial themes. We read an updated revised version, but I would recommend you skip this one entirely and read The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle (a revised version). It is the better book by far (and the one the original musical is based on). ( )
  ColourfulThreads | Feb 18, 2021 |
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
If you think this book was boring or terrible you have no imagination and your inner child is dead old and grumpy. ( )
  Musaib03 | Jan 28, 2021 |
I would like to have known a real Doctor Dolittle. I can just imagine his house with its goldfish, dogs, rabbits, cats, mice, squirrels, hedgehog, cows, chickens, pidgins, horse, lambs, duck, pig, parrot, and owl...to name a few. You would think all of these animals would get in the way of Doctor Dolittle taking care of human patients when in reality, he preferred the animals to the people. When he learned to communicate with his furry and feathered friends it was game over. He gave up trying to cure the two-legged folks and concentrated on his true friends.
It is pretty high praise to be compared to Lewis Carroll. Hugh Walpole does just that to Hugh Lofting in his introduction to The Story of Doctor Dolittle.
Lofting wrote the Dolittle stories for his children while he was stationed overseas in the form of illustrated letters. He dedicated Dolittle to "all Children. Children in Years and Children in Heart." Very sweet. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Nov 4, 2020 |
For a story that has been beloved over the generations and made into five different movies (that I know of?)… The Story of Doctor Dolittle was… underwhelming.

I’d read this one before, as a kid, but most my vague memories of the story come from the 1967 Doctor Dolittle film, so going into this against for the first time in, I don’t know, maybe twenty years? I felt like I was going in blind. I remembered Pollyana, of course, and I remembered the Pushmi-Pullyu, and the general concept of doctor-who-talks-to-animals… but that’s about it.

And the first thing I read, going in, was the foreward. I almost never read forewards on books, ebcause more the time it’s a sappy praising review which is all fine and good, but I’ve already got the book in my hands, you don’t have to sell it to me again. I’m not sure what possessed me to read it this time, but I’m glad I did, because I learned that the original version of The Story of Doctor Dolittle and it’s accompanying illustrations was super racist. … Eek! The foreward in my edition – the 1991 re-release with illustrations by Michael Hague – was a warning and an apology that the original text had been altered to rewrite a racist scene where an African prince wished to be white into something more sensitive. … um, yeah, you better get rid of that crap. I’m not sure how I had never heard about that being a thing with Doctor Dolittle before, but that is a THING so if you want to read the original book… read the 1991 version or later.

And that could lead into a WHOLE conversion about racism in classics and whether we should acknowledge, edit, or burn, but this is a book review and not a discussion post, so I’mma put that on my docket for later.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle reads relatively okay for a children’s book. For some reason I went in expecting closer to middle grade – I think the length of the book attributed here, 160 pages, a little long for a children’s book. The writing was extremely simple and the characters very basic and underwhelming. The language in the book mixed with the length probably lends it to a child who is advanced in reading schools, but maybe not ready for full-fledged middle grade novels. There’s nothing to really clasp on to in The Story of Doctor Dolittle – nothing magical about the book. Even with illustrations included, nothing made me fall in love with any of the characters or draw me into the world. Generally speaking, this book is 100% forgettable.

I think the only thing that really gives longevity to The Story of Doctor Dolittle is the central concept – a man who can speak to animals. We certainly see this in the film adaptations, where it’s the only real element that remains from the books (the 1967 version is a little closer to text than the 1998 or 2020 versions) and it’s a good character concept (although outside of that one thing, John Dolittle is lazy, pompous, and a bore). Generations of children may have loved the books for the menagerie they present, but the story and the man aren’t really worth praising in a book that remains a constant in many childrens’ libraries a century later.

Of course, I’m far out of the demographic for this one, but it was never a childhood favorite, either. I remember very little of The Story of Doctor Dolittle from when I was little – and this was the same edition I had growing up – so the lack of impression now is consistent about the feelings I had when I was a child.

My advice? The Story of Doctor Dolittle can be skipped, and doubly so because of the racist understones that have been edited out (and the industry never does that… so they must have been really bad). For maximum fun, watch the Eddie Murphy films, and that’ll do. ( )
  Morteana | May 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lofting, Hughprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernandez, LauraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hague, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobson, RickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klemke, WernerCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knight, NickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lengren, ZbigniewIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Limmroth, ManfredCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindberg, VernaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preiss-Glasser, RobinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Price, NickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
all children

Children in years
and children in heart

I dedicate this story
First words
ONCE upon a time, many years ago - when our grandfathers were little children - there was a doctor; and his name was Dolittle - John Dolittle, M.D.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

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Wikipedia in English


The adventures of a kind-hearted doctor, who is fond of animals and understands their language, as he travels to Africa with some of his favorite pets to cure the monkeys of a terrible sickness.

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Average: (3.7)
0.5 1
1 7
2 19
2.5 8
3 113
3.5 23
4 132
4.5 8
5 77

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 140010100X, 1400108950


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