1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5 

Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle tells the story of an eccentric English doctor who goes on adventures around the world to help animals.

A quick and easy read, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle consists of a colorful cast of characters.  The animal characters fare better than the humans in this little venture, though. Polynesia the parrot was my favorite character, doling out her pearls of wisdom. Jip the dog and Chee-Chee the monkey also get their chance to shine. Of the human characters, Doctor Dolittle and the narrator, Tommy Stubbins, are likeable and fun to read about as they become closer friends. Unfortunately, the rest of the human companions, including Long Arrow and Bumpo, lack the animals’ charms and are stereotypical caricatures of the Indian and African people that will awkwardly remind you that this book was written in the 1920s. 

For a book called The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, the actual voyage does not even start until halfway through the book. It takes a surprisingly long time to get going, and until then, the book wastes time introducing side characters that are unimportant to the plot. The book picks up speed, though, once they start journeying to Spidermonkey Island.

Hugh Lofting’s simplistic tale is essentially a bunch of short stories about Dolittle’s adventures and how his connection with animals saves himself and his friends from danger. For a children’s book, I found the doctor’s dilemma in the final chapters rather poignant, as he has to choose between staying to help a civilization that can’t help itself and returning to a profession that he truly loves doing. Despite this, I just couldn’t find myself caring about the conflict between the Indian tribes and Dolittle’s ascent to the throne. As a result, I was rather bored for the last hundred pages.

The book, though a bit slow in places, showcases a creative world that lets your imagination soar. The only problem was that the supporting cast lacked the ability to infuse the story with meaningful interactions that could complement Dolittle’s fun personality.

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