Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

I had a very fun time reading The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, the second winner of the newbery medal. This book is full of adventure and you don't really have to think too hard to read it. It is a real page turner with really short chapters that allow you to stop and go whenever you please.
The book is set in the time frame of the late 1830's to the early 1840's and is told by an old man looking back in time to when he was nine years old. He tells the story of many of his amazing adventures he had as a boy and meeting the famous Doctor Dolittle.
One day while wandering the boy comes upon a squirrel that had been injured by a hawk. The boy rescues the squirrel but it is in very bad shape and is in need of serious attention. The boy hears of the famous Doctor Dolittle and eventually meets him and asks if he would look at the squirrel for him. The doctor agrees and treats the squirrel. The doctor has a great advantage over other naturalists in that he can talk to the animals and because of that he is able to solve many problems and hardships.
From here on out the doctor and the boy are great friends and the boy eventually becomes the doctors assistant and is allowed to live with the doctor and go on his voyages with him.
They decide to go on a voyage to the floating Spidermonkey Island to study natural history and there they rescue and meet one of the greatest naturalists of all time, Long Arrow.
While on the island the doctor helps the poor people considerably. He helped them overcome the cold. He showed them fire. He fought in battle with them and he eventually became a king against his will.
One of the greatest things in this book to me was the doctors ability to talk with the animals and his views on them.
One of the points people sometimes make about this book is the racism. It is true that in the older version there are some refrences to it. I don't think that is one of the major points that Lofting was trying to make while writing the book though. The new version of this book has been edited and I was surprised to find that quite a considerable amount of writing had been taken away from the older version which is really disappointing because much of it did not have any racism at all. There is an afterward in the new book by his son explaining why the old version was edited.
I'm glad I read both the new and the old version so I did not miss anything. I would recommend this book for children because of its adventure and it's lessons towards kindness and respect towards animals.

1 comment:

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Josh, I've think I've got the edition that you reviewed and that I know Bookchronicle reviewed. I also have a near-original (a 1950 reprinting of the 1922 edition) AND yet another that was edited by Patricia and Frederick McKissack in 2001 and illustrated by Michael Hague (i.e., it does not have any of Hugh Lofting's original illustrations). I finally get hold of the edition that Nicola reviewed, which also does not have any Lofting illustrations. I am working on a post comparing the four.