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


Tommy Stubbins is a ten year old whose father is a shoe maker. He lives in Puddleby in England. One day he finds a hurt squirrel and is sent to Dr. Dolittle for help to heal him. When Tommy meets the doctor, he finds out he can converse with animals. Tommy convinces Dr. Dolittle to hire him on as an apprentice and soon Stubbins can converse with a few of the animals as well. The Doctor is trying to learn the language of the shellfish because they are some of the oldest creatures alive. The two friends and an african prince set sale to find Long Arrow, a naturalist who can help them find a giant sea snail. In the process they save Long Arrow and his people, the doctor is appointed king and they spend years on a floating island. I have seen the old movie Dr. Dolittle and I thought this book wasn't going to be as good. I was surprised that I very much enjoyed this story. It wasn't one that I hated to put down, but it was quite entertaining and well written. Some of the sciences mentioned are a little outdated, but overall I though the story was excellent.

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 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.

David Blaylock

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


I read this book in its place among the early Newbery medalists and Honor Books, so it stood out by comparison as probably more excellent than it actually is, but I liked it a lot. It's got pacing! And good dialogue and overall good writing, and is not creepy! And is really, really environmentally sensitive and awesome - Dolittle has rants against keeping tigers and lions caged in zoos, and against bullfighting, and a Bird-of-Paradise snarks about being hunted for her feathers, and all the things. It's glorious. Plus, the little boy actually sounds like his right age, and generally... if I had read this book as a kid I would have loved it most entirely to pieces forever. :DIt's not perfect. Dolittle is a bit colonialist when he tries to rant about politics (the whole arc where he gets crowned king of a native tribe on a floating island after teaching them how to make fire has some pretty colonialist overtones, although it is rather more complex and nuanced than that summary sounds), and there are a couple of n-words dropped by a parrot who's generally a sympathetic character, plus an African prince serves partly as embarrassingly comic relief - although only partly. Get through his first two or three chapters and he mellows down to a sort of... blend between Thor and Jeeves, I want to say. It's kind of epic, and definitely ahead of the rest of the early Newberys that portrayed people of color! :P Just not far ENOUGH ahead, in this particular category. o_OOverall, though, it was amazing, and if it weren't for the N-words and the colonialism, I'd most likely give it five stars.

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?


“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 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!


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?...


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.


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


This is a somewhat bowdlerized edition, and it was a bit too cute for my tastes, but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would.

Willie Butts

Lofting, Hugh. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. New York: Lippincott, 1922. Genre: Children’s NovelDoctor Dolittle is a story about a veterinarian who has the ability to talk to animals. He spends his time with his friend Tommy Stubbins and his animals traveling the seas seeking adventures. In this issue he is on a Journey to Spider Monkey Island in pursuit of the Jabizri beetle and in the process of locating the beetle he and his friends have to find the Indian Naturalist Long Arrow who has mysteriously disappeared. The story is told through the eyes of one of the characters, Dolittles friend Tommy Stubbins. What is fascinating about this story is that although it is written for children there is only one child character in it (Tommy). Through the use of many settings the author attempts to give the story an accurate picture of how the people might live in the different locations they travel to. There are many themes that can be identified in the story one of which is that it teaches children about the importance of being concerned for all living creatures.

Aimee Conner

Well, that’s better! This book was fun! It read so quickly I was quite sad to see the end of the story. Ah, well. It brings back memories (however dim) of Rex Harrison and songs from childhood…yes, another book made into a movie. They really don’t miss a trick! I do not remember reading this particular novel, it must have been the first book that I read as a kid (although since childhood was in the ’60′s, who knows what I do and don’t remember?).Ah, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh!! The tale is told from the point of view of Thomas Stubbins, a ten-year-old boy who becomes the Doctor’s assistant. A poor boy, his family cannot afford to send him to school. Thomas (Or Stubbins, as he was known to the good doctor) seeks out Dr. Dolittle as he is curious about the doctor’s reputation as a “good noticer” and naturalist, and becomes his assistant in return for lodging and some schooling. He starts to learn reading and writing and numbers, of course, but also the languages of the animals and the proper way to treat them.Hugh Lofting’s ideas were far ahead of his time: Dr. Dolittle describes a trip which he says is the first time man has been to the North Pole (this had been done in actuality 15 years earlier but we’re reading fiction here, so listen up). Upon meeting polar bears, they beg him not to tell of his trip. There are massive coal deposits buried there, and as soon as humans find them, there will be a mad scramble to acquire that resource and there goes the north pole. This sounds dreadfully familiar in 2012, doesn’t it?.The doctor also has a “zoo” but not the kind you think of from the 1920′s! From his description of then-modern zoos, Lofting despised them. This zoo has only residents who want to be there. There are locks, yes, but from the inside of the door, so the animals can have their privacy, you see. The animals are all treated more or less as equals although the doctor is a bit patronizing, but this comes as no great surprise. But I think the patronizing is not actually Lofting’s voice. Not always, anyway. Polynesia, a housemate/parrot who scolds and gives her opinions freely, seems to me to be Lofting’s voice more often than not, I’ll make my case later on.Once Stubbins has established his place with the doctor (after his parents have given their blessing, naturally), the adventures begin! Miranda, a purple bird-of-paradise, arrives, weeks after she is expected, with the terrible news about a fellow naturalist that Dr. Dolittle has admired for quite some time. He is an indian from South America named Long Arrow. They fear he is dead, but after a few strokes of fate, the decision is made to go to Spider Monkey Island (the only floating island in the world) where he was last seen. The begin to make preparations for a great sea voyage.After some work with the law and arguments about how many sailors he really needs, the Doctor and Stubbins set off on their grand voyage with Bumpo Kahbooboo, Crown Prince of Jolliginki., He had met Dr. Dolittle in Africa (in the last book) and had come to England, on a whim to be educated at Oxford. But Oxford hadn’t suited him completely. “I liked it all except the algebra and the shoes. The algebra hurt my head and the shoes hurt my feet”. He had come to Puddleby to visit and accepts the position of the third man needed for the voyage. In good spirits, they sail off.Without going through the entire narrative, let me be short: Through Dr. Dolittle’s talents and kindness, a man’s life is saved (and is subsequently reunited with his wife after 15 years), he has to deal with 4 stowaways and the great inconvenience this causes, puts a halt to bullfighting altogether in a Spanish island, and thanks to his quick thinking, they all survive a shipwreck only to land on the shores of Spidermonkey Island, after all. How about that? After saving the life of Long Arrow and teaching the natives how to make fire, he also achieves a peace between the two tribes inhabiting either end of the island. The Indians love him so, he is -very reluctantly- crowned their king.So I said before, Dr. Dolittle is a bit patronizing, and it shows up most strongly once he has been crowned king of both (now united) tribes. He doesn’t really approve their way of living. He builds roads, theaters, teaches school (can’t figure why he didn’t teach teachers to teach for him but that’s not in the story), and works on plumbing and helping mothers with their babies. These ideas and attitudes came from England and are pretty much out of place in this island, but only Polynesia has the sense to see that. But in the end, he gets back home, after meeting the great glass snail and brings home a store of knowledge shared by Long Arrow not to mention his own notes and journals.So, I’ll take a stab at what Lofting is trying to say here. Feel free to call out if you’ve got another idea, here goes: People are probably on top of the natural heirarchy, but not by much. Animals must be respected and listened to, for they often possess a wisdom we are missing. Don’t mess with the environment (polar bears) even if it “betters” the lives of people (Spidermonkey Island). Polynesia has finally had it up to here with the Doctor ignoring his life’s work to continue being the king he doesn’t want to be. He refuses to take a holiday when she, exasperated, points out “Listen: he got made king of this island against his will, see? And now that he has taken the job on, he feels that he can’t leave it–thinks the Indians won’t be able to get along without him and all that–which is nonsense, as you and I very well know”. She has also previously observed — about care of the babies and the building of a theatre: “Oh bother the theatre–and the babies too,” snapped Polynesia. “The theatre can wait a week. And as for babies, they never have anything more than colic. How do you suppose babies got along before you came here, for heaven’s sake?–Take a holiday…. You need it.” Who is she looking out for: the Doctor or the natives? I suspect both.It seems to me that Lofting was way ahead of his time, as a conservationist, treating with respect all the people he met (even ones he doesn’t like which can’t be easy), animals, and the whole of nature, as it works around us and as we are a part of it. Not a bad way to view the world.So, having been delighted with this read, I am troubled by one thing only, and I have been since I was a little girl: How in the world can such a man eat bacon?

Share your thoughts

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