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The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts
     

The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts

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by Hugh Lofting
 

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The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts (1920), written and illustrated by Hugh Lofting, is the first of his Doctor Dolittle books, a series of children's novels about a man who learns to talk to animals and becomes their champion around the world.

John Dolittle, MD, is a

Overview

The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts (1920), written and illustrated by Hugh Lofting, is the first of his Doctor Dolittle books, a series of children's novels about a man who learns to talk to animals and becomes their champion around the world.

John Dolittle, MD, is a respected physician and quiet bachelor living with his spinster sister in the small English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. His love of animals grows over the years and his household menagerie eventually scares off his human clientele, leading to loss of wealth. But after learning the secret of speaking to all animals from his parrot Polynesia, he takes up veterinary practice.

His fortunes rise and fall again after a crocodile takes up residence, but his fame in the animal kingdom spreads throughout the world. He is conscripted into voyaging to Africa to cure a monkey epidemic just as he faces bankruptcy. He has to borrow supplies and a ship, and sails with a crew of his favourite animals, but is shipwrecked upon arriving to Africa. On the way to the monkey kingdom, his band is arrested by the king of Jolliginki, a victim of European exploitation who wants no white men traveling his country.
The band barely escapes by ruse, but makes it to the monkey kingdom where things are dire indeed as a result of the raging epidemic. He vaccinates the well monkeys and nurses the sick back to health. In appreciation, the monkeys find a pushmi-pullyu, a shy two-headed gazelle-unicorn cross, whose rarity may bring Dr. Dolittle money back home.

On the return trip, they again are captured in Jolliginki. This time they escape with the help of Prince Bumpo, who gives them a ship in exchange for Dolittle's bleaching Bumpo's face white, his greatest desire being to act as a European fairy-tale prince. Dolittle's crew then have a couple of run-ins with pirates, leading to Dolittle's winning a pirate ship loaded with treasures and rescuing a boy whose uncle was abandoned on a rock island. After reuniting the two, Dolittle finally makes it home and tours with the pushmi-pullyu in a circus until he makes enough money to retire to his beloved home in Puddleby.

The original edition of the book included language and plot elements that are considered racist by present-day standards, though probably not intended as such by the writer. Black African characters are clearly intended by the writer to be sympathetic, but their depiction reflects the paternalistic mindset of colonialism still prevailing in Britain at the time of writing, not to mention the racism in Lofting's adopted United States. Editions starting in the 1960s removed some terms for black people which had come to be regarded as offensive. (Exactly when these revisions appeared is difficult to determine, as the changes are not explicitly noted.)

Later editions changed the plot as well, and noted these changes in a new preface for the book. The original edition had a plot line where Bumpo, the African prince, wishes he were white, so that he can marry the Sleeping Beauty. The Doctor, who is imprisoned by the prince's father, grants his wish in exchange for escape by bleaching him. In the original text, this process is accompanied by a strong smell of "burning brown paper". In American editions, there seems to have been a half-hearted attempt at weakening this by changing the bleaching agent to white covering cream, before the poor prince Bumpo's ambitions are either changed via hypnosis or he wishes to be a lion. Ultimately, he is not excised entirely.

Product Details

BN ID:
2940015615692
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
09/21/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
200
File size:
8 MB

Meet the Author

Hugh John Lofting (14 January 1886 – 26 September 1947) was a British author, trained as a civil engineer, who created the character of Doctor Dolittle — one of the classics of children's literature.

Lofting was born in Maidenhead, England, to English and Irish parents. His early education was at Mount St Mary's College in Sheffield, after which he went to the United States, completing a degree in civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He traveled widely as a civil engineer before enlisting in the Irish Guards to serve in World War I. Not wishing to write to his children of the brutality of the war, he wrote imaginative letters that were the foundation of the successful Doctor Dolittle novels for children. Seriously wounded in the war, he moved with his family to Connecticut in the United States. Lofting was married three times and had three children, one of whom, his son Christopher, is the executor of his literary estate.

Lofting commented, "For years it was a constant source of shock to me to find my writings amongst 'juveniles'. It does not bother me any more now, but I still feel there should be a category of 'seniles' to offset the epithet."

Hugh Lofting's doctor from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh who could speak to animals first saw light in the author's illustrated letters to children, written from the trenches during World War I when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull. The stories are set in early Victorian England, (in and around the 1840s, according to a date given in The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle).

The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed (1920) began the series and won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958. The sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922), won Lofting the prestigious Newbery Medal. Eight more books followed, and after Lofting's death two more volumes, composed of short unpublished pieces, appeared. By their internal chronology the books stack up somewhat differently than the publishing order.

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story of Doctor Dolittle, being the history of his peculiar life at home and astonishing adventures in foreign parts 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read, lots of fun
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read!!
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