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The Story of Doctor Dolittle (Books of Wonder) Hardcover – September 26, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 149 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Doctor Dolittle--a 19th-century English physician--has never been one for worrying much. Even after his human patients desert him (when one too many sit on one of the doctor's unusual parlor pets), he manages to convert gracefully to animal medicine. Having mastered animal language along the way (with the help of his caustic yet amusing parrot, Polynesia), he has a good head start in his practice. Then, one cold, dark winter night, as the doctor and his pets sit around the fire, a message arrives, via sparrow, from Africa. A terrible epidemic has broken out among the monkeys, and Doctor Dolittle is the only one who can save them. The beneficent physician checks his money box--not a penny left. But the fate of Africa's ailing apes lays squarely on his shoulders.

And so begins the delightful, whimsical adventures that are still enthralling readers three quarters of a century after their original 1920 publication. Hugh Lofting, winner of the 1923 Newbery Medal for The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, has more than a knack for storytelling. His ability to imbue in his characters--human and animal--distinct, unique personalities is remarkable, and his respect for the rights of all who share the planet shines throughout. (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly

Kleinbaum's adaptations, accompanied by Lofting's illustrations from the original editions, bring the classic books to younger readers. Ages 6-9.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 580 (What's this?)
  • Series: Books of Wonder
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Library Binding edition (September 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688140017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688140014
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G. Powell on August 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I liked the story of Dr. Dolittle. However I would like to warn modern readers, that the full version of this book is Racist. So the Editors have carefully changed the story of the African Chief who wished to become Cacausion in appearance to one where he wishes to become a lion. Now, I agree that the story is better this way, but mucking around with books after the author is dead and can't defend or fix them is right out. So in that vein I can't recommend this edition of this book. The editors should have changed the title to "The Modern Dr. Dolittle" or some other name which implies that the story isn't the orginal. They do it all the time with the bible, "King James Ed.", "Good News for Modern Man" etc.
If you are going to read to children, books which treat people unfairly you should take the time explain why this was a poor idea even in its day. Or not read them at all. Or own up to the fact that you've changed the story.
On the plus side the illustrations are great, M. Hague is a great artist.
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Format: Hardcover
I presume anyone reading the reviews already is familiar with the storyline of Dr. Dolittle. I highly recommend this version with only a slight reservation (see below) because its illustration and editing would make an excellent introduction to children as well as a gift possibility and a lifelong keepsake.

I heartily disagree with the reviewer who discredits this edition because it has been updated to modern civilities. The reviewer mistakenly suggests that the edition conceals that changes have been made. To the contrary, the foreword fully describes the editors' concerns for literary sensitivities as they made changes.

If your purpose is to collect unabridged books, do shop elsewhere. But if you share my intent of introducing this wonderful story to children, this book serves the purpose very well. There is minimal distraction from unnecessary anachronisms.

I think this edition would serve children well through elementary school. I would nominate unabridged editions for older children to help teach them about society's changing attitudes towards racism.

My slight reservation (mentioned above) about this edition is that racial stereotypes do persist. In Africa, the (white) doctor is referred as "the good man" while the African king is unjust, his son is goofy, and both the king and his son are easily fooled. These characterizations ARE unavoidable without drastically changing the storyline. However, the story explains the motivation for the king's injustice and is a worthy point of discussion with a young reader.
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Format: Paperback
I read "The Story of Doctor Dolittle" for the first time when I was seven. Recently I read the new edition illustrated by Michael Hague. This new edition is terrific. The revisions are obvious to one who read the original work, but they are sensible and reflect Lofting's intentions while reflecting modern thought. Hague's illustrations are beautiful. I would still recommend that older children and adults read the original, to learn a bit about Lofting's time and because the author's illustrations are wonderfully simplistic. This is also a good read-aloud for younger children, because many, when they are able to read it for themselves, will unfortunately have lost interest in such a fanciful story.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Martin Short brings pure magic to the Airplay Audio Cassette The Story of Doctor Dolittle. My kids and I laughed and listened, over and over again. Martin Short creates a distinct voice for every animal, and the humans, too. Another important aspect is Airplay's version is unabridged, but all the dated prejudices have been dumped in favor of a much more engaging encounter with poor Prince Bumpo, this is a children's story everyone can enjoy.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting is a fun, cute, and quick story about a people doctor turned animal doctor who can talk with animals. He and his wide range of pets go on a trip to Africa and back and go from rich to poor to rich to poor to rich again. The only problem with the book is some racist bits and also a derogatory word for a black person used in a derogatory way toward a lion by a lioness (even keeping in mind it was written almost 100 years ago, seeing that in a children’s book was upsetting – when choosing an edition to read, I’d strongly recommend picking a revised version instead).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This IS NOT the original version- it has been stripped of several chapters.
I love Dr. Dolittle, but this book has been modified to appease the PC police. BOO!

This version is missing the chapters "The Black Prince" and "Medicine and Magic".

They did it to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have done the same thing to Dr. Dolittle.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good for inspiring young naturalists, this book left me with fond memories from having it read to me as a child. Reading it now as an adult, I still enjoy the MD who decides he'd rather be a vet and learns to listen and talk to the animals. I am struck though by the combination of good lessons (compassion, responsibility, caring for others, selflessness, accountability, appreciation of nature and complexity of animal social communication and structure) and out-dated views (imperialist overtones, poor depiction of "African" people encountered) which make it more complex to share with children. It does set-up though for the other books in the series which really captured my imagination as a child--in particular, travelling along the ocean floor in the shell of a giant snail. Thus, with some discussion about the objectionable depictions in the story, this book can still be a good start for encouraging exploration among young readers.
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