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The Story of Doctor Dolittle

The Story of Doctor Dolittle

4.3 27
by Hugh Lofting

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In this first book in the series, Doctor Dolittle discovers that he can talk to the animals--Jip the dog, Dab Dab the duck, Polynesia the parrot.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


In this first book in the series, Doctor Dolittle discovers that he can talk to the animals--Jip the dog, Dab Dab the duck, Polynesia the parrot.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Lofting was an Englishman, transplanted to America, who created the Doctor Dolittle character in letters home to his children from the battlefields of World War I. Eleven more books followed, garnering him a Newbery and an unforgettable place in literature for his loveable little doctor who could talk to-and cure-the animals. Lofting was a man of his time, and his fantasy recreates that world, including warts. This new edition chooses to eliminate the warts with a revision "for modern sensibilities" as noted in the foreword by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. This bowdlerization chiefly affects the Prince Bumpo scenes and, of course, eliminates Lofting's original illustrations. Michael Hague's artwork is lovely and lush, but it leaves one yearning for the wry wit of Lofting's simpler drawings. 1997 (orig.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-The story of Doctor Doolittle's adventures and his eventual return home with the miraculous animal who joined the family.
From the Publisher
"Any child who is not given the opportunity to make the acquaintance of this rotund, kindly, and enthusiastic doctor/naturalist and all of his animal friends will miss out on something important."-- Jane Goodall

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Doctor Dolittle Series
Sold by:
Random House
Sales rank:
580L (what's this?)
File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The First Chapter


Once upon a time, many years ago-when our grandfathers were little children-there was a doctor; and his name was Dolittle-John Dolittle, M.D. "M.D." means that he was a proper doctor and knew a whole lot.

He lived in a little town called Puddle by- on-the-Marsh. All the folks, young and old, knew him well by sight. And whenever he walked down the street in his high hat everyone would say, "There goes the Doctor! He's a clever man." And the dogs and the children would all run up and follow behind him; and even the crows that lived in the church tower would caw and nod their heads.

The house he lived in, on the edge of the town, was quite small; but his garden was very large and had a wide lawn and stone seats and weeping willows hanging over. His sister, Sarah Dolittle, was housekeeper for him; but the Doctor looked after the garden himself.

He was very fond of animals and kept many kinds of pets. Besides the goldfish in the pond at the bottom of his garden, he had rabbits in the pantry, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet, and a hedgehog in the cellar. He had a cow with a calf too, and an old lame horse—twenty-five years of age-and chickens, and pigeons, and two lambs, and many other animals. But his favorite pets were Dab-Dab the duck, Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the baby pig, Polynesia the parrot, and the owl Too-Too.

His sister used to grumble about all these animals and said they made the house untidy. And one day when an old lady with rheumatism came to see the Doctor, she sat on the hedgehog, who was sleeping on the sofa, and never came to see him anymore, but drove every Saturday all the way to Oxenthorpe, another town ten miles off, to see a different doctor.

Then his sister, Sarah Dolittle, came to him and said,

"John, how can you expect sick people to come and see you when you keep all these animals in the house? It's a fine doctor would have his parlor full of hedgehogs and mice! That's the fourth personage these animals have driven away. Squire Jenkins and the Parson say they wouldn't come near your house againno matter how sick they are. We are getting poorer every day. If you go on like this, none of the best people will have you for a doctor."

"But I like the animals better than the 'best people,"' said the Doctor.

"You are ridiculous, said his sister, and walked out of the room.

So, as time went on, the Doctor got more and more animals; and the people who came to see him got less and less. Till at last he had no one left-except the Cat's-meat-Man, who didn't mind any kind of animals. But the Cat's-meat-Man wasn't very rich and he only got sick once a year-at Christmastime, when he used to give the Doctor sixpence for a bottle of medicine.

Sixpence a year wasn't enough to live on—even in those days, long ago; and if the Doctor hadn't had some money saved up in his money box, no one knows what would have happened.

And he kept on getting still more pets; and of course it cost a lot to feed them. And the money he had saved up grew littler and littler.

Then he sold his piano, and let the mice live in a bureau drawer. But the money he got for that too began to go, so he sold the brown suit he wore on Sundays and went on becoming poorer and poorer.

And now, when he walked down the street in his high hat, people would say to one another, "There goes John Dolittle, M.D.! There was a time when he was the best-known doctor in the West Country. Look at him now—he hasn't any money and his stockings are full of holes!"

But the dogs and the cats and the children still ran up and followed him through the town-the same as they had done when he was rich.

The Second Chapter

Animal Language

It happened one day that the Doctor was sitting in his kitchen talking with the Cat's-meat-Man, who had come to see him with a stomachache.

"Why don't you give up being a people's doctor, and be an animal doctor?" asked the Cat's-meat-Man.

The parrot, Polynesia, was sitting in the window looking out at the rain and singing a sailor song to herself. She stopped singing and started to listen.

"You see, Doctor," the Cat's-meat-Man went on, "you know all about animals-much more than what these here vets do. That book you wrote about cats—why, it's wonderful! I can't read or write myself-or maybe I'd write some books. But my wife, Theodosia, she's a scholar, she is. And she read your book to me. Well, it's wonderful—that's all can be said—wonderful. You might have been a cat yourself. You know the way they think. And listen: you can make a lot of money doctoring animals. Do you know that? You see, I'd send all the old women who had sick cats or dogs to you. And if they didn't get sick fast enough, I could put something in the meat I sell 'em to make 'em sick, see?"

"Oh, no," said the Doctor quickly. "You mustn't do that. That wouldn't be right."

"Ohl, I didn't mean real sick, answered the Cat's meat-Man. "Just a little something to make them droopy-like was what I had reference to. But as you say, maybe it ain't quite fair on the animals.

Meet the Author

Hugh Lofting was born in Maidenhead, England, in 1886 and was educated at home with his brothers and sisters until he was eight. He studied engineering at London and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After his marriage in 1912 he settled in the United States of America.

When the First World War broke out he left his job as a civil engineer and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Irish Guards. He found that writing illustrated letters to his children eased the strain of war. ‘There seemed to be very little to write to youngsters from the front; the news was either too horrible or too dull. One thing that kept forcing itself more and more upon my attention was the very considerable part animals were playing in the war. That was the beginning of an idea: an eccentric country physician with a bent for natural history and a great love of pets...’

These letters became The Story of Doctor Dolittle, published as a book in 1920. Children all over the world have enjoyed this book and the eleven sequels that followed as they have been translated into almost every language. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle won the Newbury Medal in 1923. Drawing from the twelve Doctor Dolittle volumes, Hugh Lofting’s sister-in-law, Olga Fricker, later compiled Doctor Dolittle: a Treasury.

Hugh Lofting died in 1947 at his home in Topanga, California.

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Story of Doctor Dolittle 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever!! I like what they said in the intro... Fun animals!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My son enjoyed reading the book but enjoyed the illustrations most!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the stories when i was 10, sixty years ago.i was appalled by the reviewer who said to see movie instead. The original movie that recieved and deserved 1 1/2*'s.i compare that to maybe recomending disneys 'mermaid' and panning hans christian anderson.
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Kimberly_Book_Addict More than 1 year ago
I am and always have been a huge fan of old movies. As a kid I was shown the Doctor Dolittle movie starring Rex Harrison and fell in love with the story of a man who could talk to animals. It's been years since I saw the movie and decided to read the first book in the series. Besides The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Hugh Lofting wrote eleven other books in this children's series. Dr. John Doolittle is a respected physician with a love of animals, who eventually loses his human patients due to the increasing amounts of animals that live with him. He lives with his sister in the English town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. One day he learns that he can speak to his animals when he begins to understand his parrot, Polynesia. He then takes up veterinary practice, and his fame spreads among the animals as a doctor who can talk to and understand them. He is eventually persuaded to travel to Africa to cure a monkey epidemic, but on the way is shipwrecked and captured by the king of Jolligingki. He barely escapes with his life, as the king is a victim of European colonization and hates any Europeans. Doolittle and his animal companions eventually make it to the land of the monkey epidemic, where he is able to cure and vaccinate all the monkeys. In appreciation for his services, the monkeys give Doolittle a rare gazelle-unicorn cross called a pushmi-pullyu. On the way back to England, Doolittle is again captured by the king of Jolligingki, but escapes with the help of a prince named Prince Bumpo. Eventually, Doolittle makes it back to England and tours with the pushmi-pullyu in a circus until he makes enough money to retire back to Puddleby. Surprisingly I really wasn't a fan of the book. I think it was because of the racism that was clearly evident in the writing and illustrations. The racial terms used to refer to black people and the monkey-like illustrations really hindered any type of pleasure I might have found in the novel. While young children reading the novel may not understand the offensiveness in the words and images, it still isn't something I'd want them learning if I was a parent. The one thing that I did enjoy about the book was the relationship that Doctor Dolittle had with his animals. It was heartwarming to see how much Dolittle cared about the animals. He was willing to go hungry, lose his house, and his family all for his love of the animals. The idea behind Doctor Dolittle and all the creatures and everything is a creative one, but there was just something about the book that didn't work for me. Maybe I was reading it at the wrong age? For those parents out there , show your kids the Rex Harrison film version if you want to introduce them to Doctor Dolittle, skip these books. Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)
catesalim More than 1 year ago
For some reason, the font was not properly translated, so when reading it, it has odd characters where a letter should be, and page numbers fall in the middle of a page. Despite the difficulty of trying to translate it, it's still a lovely book.
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I bought this book to read to my 4-year-old. We both greatly enjoyed it. My daughter was entranced by a man who could talk to animals and his adventures. Great for boy or girl, young or old. Illustrations beautifully done!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book thirty-five years ago, and I still consider it one of the best books I ever read. Whether I'm going to the post office or discussing truffles, many things in life remind me of one Dr. Doolittle book or another. I have re-read it several times, and plan to read it again soon. It's like visiting with an old friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its ok but i will read it again