2020 Reviews · book bingo · children · classic

#Book Bingo 2020 Round 4: ‘A classic you’ve never read before’- The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Bingo 2020 11 April 2020

Book Bingo 2020 is a collaboration challenge I am completing for the third year with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. On the second Saturday of each month, beginning on Saturday 11th January 2020, Theresa, Ashleigh and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2020 card contains a total of 12 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, posting in Page by Page Book Club with Theresa Smith Writes  or by visiting our blogs The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.

Doctor Dolittle isn’t a normal doctor . . .the story of doctor dolittle small

He doesn’t treat humans – he treats animals instead! He loves animals so much that his busy house in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh is full of every creature imaginable – from parrots to pigs, monkeys to dogs and many more – and very soon he even learns how to speak their language.

The doctor’s animal friends are quick to tell him that the monkeys in Africa have become infected with a terrible disease, so with a team of trusty creatures by his side the kind-hearted doctor sets off on an action-packed adventure to save them.

Hugh Lofting’s The Story of Doctor Dolittle is one of the most fun, delightful and imaginative stories in children’s literature. Featuring the eccentric doctor who learns to talk to animals, the novel has been adapted as a major film starring Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson and Selena Gomez. This beautiful paperback edition is illustrated with original line drawing from Hugh Lofting himself and contains engaging bonus material such as a quiz and a word search.


First published in 1920, The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting is a children’s book classic, which has been enjoyed by many generations since it first released. Most people will be familiar to this classic thanks to the screen revivals of this text. From Rex Harrison’s musical, through to Eddie Murphy’s comedy and most recently, Robert Downey Jr’s colourful reprisal. I didn’t read The Story of Doctor Dolittle as a child, so it was a welcome experience to finally read this classic tale.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle is the story of a man who develops the unique ability to communicate and treat animals. Doctor Dolittle relates far better to his vast collection of animals than humans. With his home at Puddleby-on-the-Marsh populated with every animal imaginable, from monkeys, to hedgehogs, mice and crocodiles, this doctor relates to all creatures – great and small. When the renowned doctor is requested to travel to Africa to save a group of monkeys, he sets out on an unforgettable adventure.

I didn’t realise that The Story of Doctor Dolittle is in fact the first book in a series of twelves issues, penned by author Hugh Lofting from the release of this first book in 1920, through to Lofting’s death in 1947.  The Story of Doctor Dolittle is a fantastical romp, providing a snapshot of times past. I enjoyed the innocence and frivolity of this classic tale.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle provides the reader with some grounding and backstory of the famed animal doctor. I was not aware that Doctor Dolittle began his time treating humans first. Dolittle must support his vast animal home and sister, but slowly he loses his human clients and they begin to slip into poverty. Dolittle is forced to sell items in his home such as his piano to feed his clan. Eventually, after this tough time, he realises his true calling. With the help of his loyal animal companions, Dolittle begins his work treating animals. They are some bright scenes involving the various animals that cross paths with the famous doctor. My favourite of the bunch was the wise parrot Polynesia, who overshadowed Doctor Dolittle at some points of the novel!

For those who enjoy high seas adventure tales, in the same tradition as Gulliver’s Travels, Moby Dick or The Jungle Book, I think Hugh lofting’s book will appeal. From kings, princes, pirates, two headed animals and more, this action packed expedition will keep you amused. I read a 2018 Macmillan collector’s library edition of Lofting’s original novel. I was aware of the racism present in the original edition, but my version ensured these aspects were glossed over. With illustrations taken from the first edition, I enjoyed the supporting pictures to this engaging text. However, what I appreciated the most about reading The Story of Doctor Dolittle was the Afterword supplied by Philip Ardagh. This extra material provides a fascinating insight into the making of this treasured book.  We learn that Lofting was inspired to write Dolittle based on his Great War experiences.

‘So Lofting imagined a doctor who decided that it was equally as important to care for animal patients as human ones. He was, quite literally, for the underdog. It surely follows that the best way for a doctor relate to his patients would be to learn their languages. And so, Doctor Dolittle was born on the pages of Lofting’s letters home. The ongoing story embellished with his simple drawings.’

The language is simple and readable, which makes Lofting’s book perfect for a younger audience. The Story of Doctor Dolittle is firmly rooted in the past, but it is a nice reminder of simpler times. There is also a gentle message to the story, hinting to the need to listen more carefully to others, no matter who they are.  The characters are bold and varied, especially the animals, who really do steal the show. The title character of Doctor Dolittle is presented well and the reader can see his longevity as a character.

*** 3.5 stars

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting was first published in 1920. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

9 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2020 Round 4: ‘A classic you’ve never read before’- The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

  1. I love Dr Dolittle but I had no idea who the author was, I only ever think of Eddie Murphy when I think of Dr Dolittle lol. Wow, Robert Downey Jr? I did not know he also portrayed this character. I have all the Dr Dolittle DVDs besides of course the ones played by Rex Harrison and Robert Downey Jr. Now here’s something weird when I saw you mention Rex Harrison I thought oops, Amanda got that wrong Dr Dolittle was played by Dick Van Dyke, a bigger oopsie is that I got it wrong, LOL, why am I so sure that Dick Van Dyke played that part? I have no idea I guess he just seems like the right fit for it.
    Great review by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you are a Dolittle fan! The Eddie Murphy movies are quite fun. I watched the new one with my boys in the holidays at the movies featuring Robert Downey Jnr. I do recommend it but it is different to the book. I can also imagine Dick Van Dyke singing the title song ‘Talk to the animals’ not Rex lol!


  2. By glossed over, do you mean the racism was extracted from your edition? It’s a bit of a given in classics, along with misogyny and other forms of derogatory comments.
    I think I’ll have to read this one, but maybe I’ll look for a nice copy for my classics collection.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I probably didn’t explain it that well in my review, it was a little rushed sorry. Yes the content was changed in my copy to a completely different story strand that omitted the racism (turning black skin into white).
      It’s well worth a read, I also didn’t realise there are 12 book in his collection! I really wish someone would make a biopic of the author, it would be very interesting based on the afterward I read in this edition.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never read Doctor Dolittle either, in fact there are a ton of children’s classics I’ve never read. Maybe I should choose one of those for this square rather than trying to fit in Doctor Zhivago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad I’m not alone, not sure why I didn’t read this one as a child. Anyhow, it was nice to read it as an adult. I knocked the book off in just a couple of hours so its an easy read, which was helpful as I wasn’t that organised for book bingo this month!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s