The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

ISBN: 0440228336
ISBN 13: 9780440228332
By: Hugh Lofting

Check Price Now


Animals Children Children's Books Childrens Classics Currently Reading Fantasy Fiction Newbery To Read

About this book

Narrated by nine-year-old Tommy Stubbins, crewman and future naturalist, this book chronicles the delightful voyages of Doctor Dolittle and his faithful friends Polynesia the parrot and Chee-Chee the monkey as they survive a perilous shipwreck on Floating Island and other surprises.

Reader's Thoughts


This 1923 Newbery Award winning tale of a very adventurous naturalist and his young assistant is sure to evoke nostalgia with its rusty and antiquated language. Nonetheless, it is heart-warming and charming. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is laden with dangerous and obviously unbelievable travels of a man with a passion...a passion to speak the language of his four-legged, feathered, and/or ocean-living friends. The story is narrated by Tommy Stubbins, who travels along with the great doctor and sees many wondrous sights...bull-fights, a floating island, a giant sea-serpent, just to name a few. The doctor is a man of many talents who can cure, tame, and converse with creatures great and small, all the while making their lives and habitats better in the process. All readers must remember this classic was written in 1922 and as such, has some 'politically incorrect’ terms and phrases, but if the reader can see past it and accept it as being part of the age in which it was written, they'll find a delightful and entertaining story to capture one’s imagination!Newbery Award Winner: 1923

David Blaylock

A children's book written 90 years ago was not the best choice for me to read.


I read "Voyages" now only because I did not want to leave all the oldest books until the end of my Newbery experience because they are generally…well, less good. Plus, (I think) I saw the movie in which Rex Harrison played Dr. Dolittle when I was 17, and my brother was seven, and I recall not being impressed at all. (And I was always easily impressed, even at 17.) Therefore, I was pleased that "Voyages" was not boring at all--at least most of it. The Doctor Dolittle in Hugh Lofting’s book was much more pleasant than Rex’s version, and the characters were sweet and funny. The idea of conversing with animals to help and be helped by them did not seem silly, but a rather noble goal. I also wondered why a man in the early 20th century would create such a fantasy world, and was touched to discover that Lofting created Dr. Dolittle to write to his own children as he was fighting in the trenches of World War I. That certainly elevated the book in my estimation, too.I rated the book a solid three stars, and would have gone the extra “half” if I had been able.


Loved this book as a kid, still love it now & want to keep reading the series. If only I had time. Reminds me a LOT of the Twenty-One Balloons! (Read this for my Newbery class.)As a sequel, I really appreciated that Lofting took the time to introduce us to his new character, Stubbins, before bringing us back to the Doctor. I read the first book when I was a kid, but honestly, didn't even remember it (or that this book WAS a sequel) until I did some research on the first 8 Newbery winners. (Felt kind of stupid, there.) The strength of this for people who have read the books in order is that Stubbins becomes a much more viable character to them - the book no longer is just about John Dolittle, it's about his relationship with Tommy Stubbins. The introduction of Stubbins' character tells children of all ages, myself included, that it's possible to discover & follow dreams you never even knew you had. Of course, there are some tell-tale signs of the times in which the book was written - the monkey being able to pass as a black man and safely travel, the black man traveling with them as a chef, the Red Indians being unable to care for themselves properly and requiring the assistance of John Dolittle, the powerful, civilized, strong savior White Man. But really... this was an awesome book to read. If I had the time, I would go back and read all the adventures of John Dolittle. Maybe I'll make it a monthly project - read one Dolittle! A coworker of mine absolutely LOVES everything Dolittle, and is adamant that the editions should not be made PC because they are indicative of the time in which Lofting wrote them. As she says, "[the prince Bumpo] is well educated, which for his era was unheard of and considered fantasy - a black African getting a European education like he was a human or something." The book keeps it's weight & merit today mostly as a read-aloud - because of the potential issues with the political correctness, I think it'd be better for a kid to read it aloud with a grown-up. The origin of the Dolittle absolutely amazing - the letters Lofting wrote to his children in lieu of writing them horror stories from the war... then the kids demanding pictures to accompany the adventures. Information about this creation should be included in all the volumes - I think kids would love to know about it!


This book is the second in the Doctor Dolittle series, the 1923 winner of the Newbery Medal, and the book upon which the well-known Rex Harrison movie is (somewhat) based.Part of this book's charm is that it is narrated by 10-year-old Tommy Stubbins, and this makes the book perhaps more relatable to children than the first book in the series, which is told in third-person. I know that many have commented on the racial and ethnic faux pas of the book (an afterward by the author's son also notes that some of the more offensive parts of the story have been edited to make the book more "modern"), but I honestly did not find these parts offensive. I didn't find that author was commenting on the ignorance of the indigenous peoples of fictional Spider Monkey Island; instead, I found the book just reiterating that the story's hero, Doctor Dolittle, was just that...a hero. And part of being a hero is being able to do something that no one else can or will do, which, in this case, is create fire, cure ailments, etc. It is even stated that Doctor Dolittle is not essential to these people's survival: "How do you suppose babies got along before you came here, for heaven's sake" (296)? Of course, if this book were published today, it would be more perceived as offensive, but never did the author come across as meaning any disrespect or racial superiority. In fact, one of the secondary heros, Long Arrow, is portrayed as highly knowledgeable and intelligent despite having no formal schooling. I would like to include this book in future lesson planning. That study would, of course, include some historical study on social changes that made yesteryear's racial portrayals inappropriate in today's world, but I truly believe that the innocence of this fanciful tale will overshadow any slight negative portrayal of other peoples.


I have fond memories of watching Disney’s version of Doctor Dolittle as a child. The music is catchy, and the adventures were so grand. Plus, how cool would it be to talk to the animals? A few yeas ago my sister gifted me the book, which is when I realized, I had never actually read this classic story. I put it on my shelf to eventually be read, and just never got around to it. I finally started reading it to my kids as their bedtime story. I’ve found the enjoy real people movies (as I call them) more, if they’ve read/heard the book first.So we finished the book this week, and I was surprised at many of the differences between book and movie (that shouldn’t have surprised me right). When we made our weekly library trip, we were very excited to find Disney’s Doctor Dolittle just waiting for us in the DVD section.My kids have been just as captivated with the movie as I was. They have even pointed out some of the things that are different between book and movie – yay, they were actually listening to me read! We’re only halfway through the movie since it is a long one, but we’ll be finishing it up tonight. Off to find the great Glass Sea Snail!


“Champion of the Rights of Animals” This 1922 childhood classic by Hugh Lofting is related by 10-12 year old Tommy Stubbins, the son of a poor cobbler. Totally swept up in the new science of Natural Studies Tommy evolves from client (with a wounded squirrel) to apprentice, despite his parents’ reluctance. From the moment the boy meets Dr. John Doolittle of Puddleby-on-Marsh, Tommy’s life will never be the same, and he will experience natural and geologic wonders of the world as he accompanies the learned man on voyages of exploration.Respected as an eminent Naturalist this middle-aged bachelor keeps a veritable menagerie in his home and in his private, backyard zoo. Animals truly love this man because of his kindness and compassion, his medical skills, his generosity with his time, talents and modest resources. But there is a more compelling reason for his zoological success: this man can actually Talk with most species of the animal kingdom! Eventually Tommy finds himself onboard a newly-purchased ship called THE CURLEW, as the Doctor embarks on a voyage of discovery and rescue across the Atlantic. Seeking a mysterious, floating isle called Spider Monkey Island, and the vanished Long Arrow, an unappreciated naturalist in his own, Native American world. The pair enlist the aid of Bumpo, an African prince who has studied in England. But it is the Dcotor’s devoted animal companions who prove invaluable, on both sides of the ocean: Dab Dab the housekeeper Duck, Jip the dog, Chee Chee, the African chimp, Polynesia, the brains of the outfit, and Miranda, the exotic messenger bird of paradise. Tommy faithfully records these incredible experiences for generations of children (of all ages!) to enjoy: the trial of a man accused of murder in a Mexican mine; a wager about bull fighting on a Spanish island; stowaways and a shipwreck; rescue of trapped Indians; a war and reconstruction--white man style; Indians buried alive; the dilemma of the white man’s burden, and a fantastic submarine trans-Atlantic crossing. Lofting includes a mild satire on British institutions, food habits and climate. Yet he offers serious sub themes re the role/effect of White man upon native: is it morally necessary to “Civilize” childish or naive natives? This delightful fantasy is easy to read and this edition offers curious pen and ink sketches typical of the early 20’s—a true Kid Klassic! (March 31, 2011. I welcome dialogue with teachers.)

William Dickerson

This was a great read. It makes me glad that I avoided the Eddie Murphy Doctor Dolittle movies. This Doctor Dolittle is resourceful naturalist who has learned a great deal of animal languages with the help of his parrot Polynesia. Doctor Dolittle doesn't know all of the languages, and his passion is learning how to talk to the shellfish so he can learn the oldest histories of the world. This is the second book to win the Newberry Medal back in 1923, but it is still an enjoyable story that is worth the read. Don't miss out on the adventures as Tommy Stubbins, the cobbler's son, learns how to speak to animals and joins Doctor Dolittle on his voyages to explore the world and see what they can


I was actually surprised at how well this book managed to keep my attention. I was really kind of expecting that I would find it very boring and would have to struggle through it. But that wasn't the case at all. Instead, I found myself reading through it quite fast, wondering what would happen. The only thing I had against this book was that it seemed a little "simple" for a juvenile book, but I think that maybe that is because I am a lot older then its intended audience. I would recommend this book for 8-year-olds, or around that age range. I was also a little dismayed to read the introduction and find out that there had been changes made to this book because of "racial prejudices." It only made me want to go out and find the original book. I do not like it when people censor my books for me, I am perfectly capable of judging whether a book is offensive or not. I am now quite curious to know what "minor changes" they made and how it could have affected the book so much that they felt they needed to change it. All in all though, I found this a fairly enjoyable book, aside from a couple ridiculous ideas or settings I liked it and would probably recommend it.*Taken from my book reviews blog:


Some of this was great, especially in the first half (too many books I've been reading lately have great first halves and peter out from there). I can't help feeling like it would have been a better book if he'd stuck to England--and then there'd be a lot less of that messy racism problem--but then it wouldn't be The Voyages, would it?...


I used the 1998 hardcover edition of this book, published in New York by Grosset & Dunlap, which has 276 pages. I am glad to have finally read this book, although I am fairly sure that it is an edited version as I had heard before reading it that some of the character descriptions were fairly racist, as well as some of the illustrations. I found this blog article, which outlines the changes made by Christopher Lofting, the son of the author: That being said, I thought it was a delightful fantastical book. And even though it is one of the worst movies ever made, according to the critics, I loved the 1960s musical version with Rex Harrison. It was part of the reason why I wanted to read the book in the first place. The description of the Doctor's house and gardens with the zoo I found particularly fascinating, as was his study of shellfish and eventually meeting the Great Sea Snail. It is sad that the first two books are the only ones in libraries nowadays, when the author wrote fourteen books in total.

Shawn Thrasher

Proto-Peta, early environmentalist, anti-colonialist - if you've only seen the movies, you're in for a taste of something different (a touch of the radical?) when you read the books. Voyages isn't the best of the Dolittle books (even though it won the Newbery) but it's certainly never dull. 90 years ago, if you were some little farm boy on the Kansas prairie, winter wind blowing outside, then the adventures of a vet who could talk to animals, his voyages fraught with danger and shipwreck, and one of his trusting companions a nine year old boy - it must have been marvelous. Quite frankly, it still is. There is a marvelously far thinking passage where the doctor talks about discovering the North Pole long before anyone else - but the polar bears convince him to keep it a secret because people will come and ruin it all. The polar bears were right all along, weren't they?

Ann Carpenter

I sort of wanted to give this book more stars. I would have if it had ended with the rescue of Long Arrow. At that point the "this was written in the 1920's and the worldview was different" was certainly there, but not as bad as it could have been (and nowhere near as bad as the scenes in Africa from the first book, which, years later, still make me blanch). And then an entire section of the book is spent with the "childlike" Indians (later referred to, by a disgruntled character, as a "bunch of greasy Indians"). They have no concept of fire or cooking their food. Long Arrow is several times stated to have traveled widely and been all over South America, implying that the entire continent has never seen fire. They see the Doctor as a savior and crown him as king. He treats them like children. The casual racism in this entire section ruins quite a bit of the fun of the previous book for me. Up until that point it had been a very enjoyable Victorian romp. Not a lot of character growth, but certainly a lot of fun. Enough fun that it still gets 3 stars.


This is solid, lighthearted entertainment that will keep all ages engrossed for hours on hand. Some of the adventures are kind of random but are still impossibly fun. The new "updated" version (which is pretty much the only one available to the general public) corrects a lot of racial stereotypes present in the original edition. Such changes are obvious, but there is still a rather uncomfortable and fairly racist portrayal of Indians in the main adventure of the story, which is harder to change considering it's a focal point of the plot. But overall, this is a great classic award winner that stands alone well considering it's a sequel.


I read this in 6th grade because it was a Newberry book and because I thought it would be about talking animals. Boy, was I wrong. This book has very little to do with the Dr. Doolittle movie, except that both characters are, well, doctors. It's got an old time feel to it, maybe because it was written in 1922, but, for some reason, that didn't bother me. I don't know what it was, but my 12 year old mind couldn't put it down. At the time this book outweighed any of my previously read books by at least 200 pages but I plowed through it in a single day and it swiftly became my favorite book (at the time).

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *