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


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!


I can't believe I never read these as a kid! This book was so cute. I'm sure I would have loved it. I was especially amused at how the Spanish called him "Juan Hagapoco". That made me laugh. It got a little tedious there for a while, while they were on the island; and then it seemed to rush to the end. But the middle parts, with the actual adventure, that was definitely worth reading. I also enjoyed the idea of traveling the sea floor in a giant snail with a transparent shell. Very imaginative.However, the title is a little misleading, as this book only documents one voyage!

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?


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

Mary Beth

It's great to go back and see where this story originated from. Also interesting to see the style of children's literature from this time period (including some rather interesting political views popular at the time). The edition I read was true to the original and NOT edited for political correctness. The forward explained that it had been banned from schools in the US because of the racial slurs, so Hugh Lofting's son re-wrote certain sections to make it more socially acceptable.


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.


Far and away one of my favorite series when I was young, the Doctor Dolittle books don't bear up so well with time. We are more aware of the implicit racism in characterizations of Africans and South American Indians in this book, and the attempt to bowdlerize the books to make them more palatable to today's inclusive atmosphere don't completely succeed in their own purpose and undermine the novel as a whole. But worst, while the central idea of the series, of a man who can talk to animals, remains intriguing, in this particular instance, at least, the execution seems to be a bit dull, too slow in getting to the real action. There's also a bit of misdirection in the title - the promised "Voyages" turn out to be just a single voyage.


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.


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?...


This is a great book. It is so much fun, and such a change from the "Story of Mankind" that I finished for a reading challenge. It was fun to really get hooked on a book from the beginning. The characters are so much fun. Dr. Dolittle in particular is just fantastic! Lofting has a great imagination, and the premise of a doctor who can talk to animals is unique (it is no wonder it won the Newbery Award). The book teaches kids about natural history, animals, and geography. Plus, his adventurous spirit and fun outlook on life really appeals to kids. There is a strong undercurrent of good morals and values such as fairness, justice, sharing, and compassion.The version I read came with a disclaimer. It was edited in the late 1990s to temper some of the language and images that were acceptable in the 1920s but that would be quite offensive today. In my opinion, there were still some pretty offensive comments (eg: "He was very nicely dressed, especially for a black man.") Also, in one part of the book, the doctor becomes a leader of a group (I will omit major details because I don't want to make this a spoiler) and he essentially Westernizes them. It is clear that this is "better," so there is definitely an ethnocentric feeling about the text. Ironically, Lofting originally put characters in his books to expose kids to different cultures and racial groups in the interest of peace and understanding. So, I chalk it up to the fact that is was written in a different age. I would read this to my kids!


Another Newbery Award winner - I rad the ebook off of Project Gutenberg. There are a couple of places where the "n" word is used to describe an African. This would be a great book to read aloud to your kid and you could 'edit' out anything while reading. It would also be a great book to read while your kid reads and point out how some things have changed over the years.


The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is the second book in a vast series by Hugh Lofting. I never realized there were twelve books in the series as well as a couple of companion books. The first book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle was written prior to the Newberry awards conception. The second book was deemed worthy of the prize and I quite agreed. It had a lovely story, bringing back all of Dr Dolittle's beloved animal friends, as well as, Tommy Stubbins, a young boy who became Dr Dolittle's assistant. The story was also told from Tommy's perspective, a difference from the first book.There was only one issue I had with this book, the Dolittle books are in the process of being edited for today's audience. Because these books were written starting in the 1920's, there are several excerpts that include ideas and vocabulary that are deemed racially inappropriate. The Dolittle books were always popular until the 1970's when parents stopped reading it to their children. They are beloved books and should be read to your children. I agree that racially inappropriate matter should be omitted for young children. However, I feel there is a very fine line between subtle revisions and outright censorship. So many important points in history are being revised and diluted. Look at Texas Board of Education and their approved revisions to textbooks that put more of a conservative twist on history. Such things as exploring the positive aspects of slavery(!) and the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action. What? While I believe that young children do not need to be exposed to texts that support racism, I do believe that older children should see what things were like for racial minorities in history. These things cannot be white washed over. History is history and some of it is ugly. I wish that the copy of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle had the text that was edited in it's original form in the back. But these things are not the fault of Hugh Lofting, he still wrote a wonderful story, one that peaks my interest in the remainder of the series.

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


“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.)


I read this as part of Kat and I's project to read all of the Newbery award winners. It won the second Newbery medal in 1923 and is the first one that I would consider recommending for kids. This is the first time I've read the book, being familiar with the character only from the 1950's Disney movie. Well, and the remakes, but the only thing those share with the book is a doctor that talks to animals.I honestly think the best way to describe The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle is "whimsical." It's a surprisingly long book (the edition that I read clocked in at 350 pages or so) broken up into six parts. Each part is for the most part a self contained story on its own, but they do flow from one to another to form a cohesive narrative. There were a few places where the pacing was a little off, but it was minor. Now to the elephant in the room. Yes, this book was written in the 1920's, and yes, there is the expected casual racism that pervaded everything of the time. The edition that I read was the post-1988 version that removed a fair bit of the offensive material, but as a white guy I can't really be the judge that says "Nope, not offensive any more." Here's a link that discusses the changes.I'd recommend reading it for yourself before passing it along to your child.

Share your thoughts

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