Children's books and book reviews - reading resource for kids, teachers, librarians, parents

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle* by Hugh Lofting - young readers book review

The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle
by Hugh Lofting
Ages 9-12 336 pages Yearling June 1988 Paperback    

If you were a lucky child, you may have gone on an expedition or two with Doctor Dolittle.  Perhaps you were with him when he found the pushmi-pullyu, or met the bird of paradise.  Maybe you even found, in some old dusty box, a complete log of the doctor’s voyages.  If so, you’d have been very lucky indeed.  The stories of Doctor Dolittle,  the man who could speak to animals and make people listen, have been out of print in America for far too long.  Now Yearling books has brought them back, rested and ready to introduce a new generation to the joys of the Doctor’s naturalism.

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle follows the Doctor’s attempts to meet with the other great naturalist of his day, the one man who might match him for knowledge of the natural world:  Long Arrow, son of Golden Arrow.  Joining him for this journey are his old friends Bumpo the African Prince, Polynesia the Parrot, and Jip the Dog.  And, for the first time, the doctor finds himself in need of an assistant, and so one Tommy Stubbins, barely ten,  is allowed to join the voyage--with his mother’s permission. Tommy narrates the story, introducing the doctor and all his animals through his own experiences.  It’s an odd approach for a later novel in a series, but makes The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle a good starting point for new readers.

Lofting had a knack for writing his fantastic stories at the very edge of reality.  Once the basic concept of Doctor Dolittle’s language skills can be accepted, there’s little need to raise the suspension of disbelief any higher.  Giant snails, rock-boring beetles, floating islands-- all are explained so that they seem no more or less improbable than any dozen known natural oddities. Doctor Dolittle and his friends may talk with birds and argue with clams, but their success ultimately depends on their own human powers of reason, observation, and practicality, with a strong sense of humor to back it up.

Those who grew up reading older editions of the good doctor’s adventures may notice some changes in the story.  The more blatant racial references of the era have been changed or deleted, as explained by Hugh Lofting’s son Christopher in the book’s afterword.  While such editorial censorship is a problematic issue at best, it may be a relief for parents worried about safeguarding their children’s vocabulary.

The illustrations are also somewhat different from those previously published.  These changes are more satisfactory, since any illustrations removed from the earlier editions have been replaced with new artwork by Hugh Lofting, often previously unpublished.  Lofting’s illustrations are clean black and white cartoons, with clearly drawn characters and detailed backgrounds reminiscent of both Tintin and Victorian newspaper engravings. His pictures have clever compositions and an obvious love of experimentation.

Beyond a simple retelling of fantastic voyages, the stories of Doctor Dolittle are one of the rare fantasies that invite a deeper enjoyment of real life. While it may be impossible for readers to join the doctor and his friends on their adventures, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle serve as a wonderful reminder that such adventures are, always, there for the having.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

click here to browse children's board book reviews
click here to browse children's picture book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young readers book reviews
click here to browse young adult book reviews
click here to browse parenting book reviews
web reviews
  Sarah Meador/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

For grown-up fiction, nonfiction and speculative fiction book reviews,
visit our sister site Curled Up With a Good Book (