The Story of Doctor Doolittle

by Hugh Lofting

{ 1920 | Frederick A. Stokes | 180 pgs }

Wow, that was a different era, huh? The Story of Doctor Doolittle has some amazingly outdated (and offensive) depictions. Wow. Just wow.

Our main character, Dr. John Doolittle, is a physician who has a variety of pets. Because he has so many pets, his patients gradually stop coming to see him. This means he has no money. Fortunately, he has a pet parrot who teaches him to speak parrot language, and from there Dr. Doolittle learns how to speak to all the animals. He becomes a veterinarian and prospers – until he allows a crocodile (escaped from the circus) to live in his pond, and then people are afraid to bring their pets to see Dr. Doolittle. Just as he runs out of his last few pennies, he’s asked (by a swallow) to travel to Africa to heal some sick monkeys. He borrows a boat and supplies and sets off to Africa with a few of his most trusted animal companions.

Once they arrive, Dr. Doolittle’s pet monkey Chee Chee starts leading them to the monkey colony (village?), but along the way they’re stopped and captured by the king of Jolligingki. He hates white men and won’t let Dr. Doolittle continue. By a clever ruse, Dr. Doolittle’s parrot, Polynesia, helps them escape, and they continue on to the monkeys, whom Dr. Doolittle heals. In appreciation, the monkeys gift Dr. Doolittle with a pushmi-pullyu, a two-headed gazelle-type creature, so that he can charge people in England to see the pushmi-pullyu and thus restore his fortunes.

Of course, Dr. Doolittle and his animals are captured by the king of Jolligingki again on their way back to the coast; this time, Polynesia again arranges escape for them, with the help of the king’s son, Bumpo. Apparently Bumpo’s greatest wish is to be a white prince, so he can marry a beautiful princess; Dr. Doolittle bleaches Bumpo’s face and hair in exchange for freedom. Again, wow.

The gang heads back to England in the ship Bumpo prepared for them, but before too long they’re attacked by pirates. Dr. Doolittle, with the help of his animal friends, manages to steal the pirate ship. In a locked room inside they find a little boy who was captured by the pirates, along with his uncle, a few days before. But his uncle is nowhere to be found. The animals eventually find him, and everyone arrives safely back in England. Dr. Doolittle makes plenty of money exhibiting the pushmi-pullyu and then retires to his quiet home again.

Aside from the plot, The Story of Doctor Doolittle was written very simply; it feels like it was intended for a six- or seven-year-old. And maybe it was. It was a quick read, but not incredibly enjoyable. I think there are so many other great adventure novels (most of them not quite so politically incorrect) that this one just isn’t quite worth the hour it will take to read it. Try Mary Poppins instead.


In high demand

The Bwun has had a rough couple weeks. After two emergency room trips and adjusting to life with jr, he caught a stomach bug from his cousins and spent most of this morning throwing up. It was miserable for all of us. He woke up crying around 6:30 and barfed almost every hour until early afternoon…which meant all of us were tired, and tired of the Bwun being sick. I’m sure he had it worst.

With any luck, tomorrow will be better. The Bwun took a long nap this afternoon and then asked to go to bed just before 9pm (why doesn’t he always ask nicely to go to bed? I wish!). He seems to be feeling a little better, just really tired and REALLY not interested in having me pay any attention to jr. Sorry, bud, she has to eat. And my lap is only so big.

I do like feeling popular, but I’d rather be in high demand by healthy kids instead of sick ones!

(That doesn’t mean I want you to send your healthy kids over to ask me for attention. They’d just get sick. And I’d be grouchy. So, don’t.)