Newbery Books 1923: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

I’ve not been on this reading (and writing about my reading) quest very long, but I have already had the side benefit of learning that I need to be more diligent in my spelling.  It’s not as good as it used to be or at least it’s not as as good as I think it used to be, and so I had to learn the following:

It’s Newbery.  Not Newberry
It’s Doctor Dolittle.  Not Doctor Doolittle.

Beyond that realization, I am having a great time with my new reading project.

 I just finished The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. It won the Newberry Medal in 1923. For some reason, there were no honor books awarded in 1923, so I had only one book to read for that year. What a fun book it was!  I am a lover of animals, so a book where a man talks to the animals, and the animals are consistently the heroes in the book?  This was perfect for me.  I realized that this was not the first book in the series, so I found and downloaded the The Story of Doctor Dolittle to read first.  This was the introduction to Doctor Dolittle and was also very fun to read.  (The nice thing about these books also is that they are both available for free download through Amazon thanks to Project Gutenberg!)
Lofting was inspired to create the Doctor Dolittle adventures from the “story-letters” he wrote to his children when he was in the trenches in France during World War I.
Doctor Dolittle is a very endearing delightful character. He is so curious.  He is very kind and truly cares about his fellow humans and animals.  At one point in the book, Doctor Dolittle fights side by side with a native tribesman from a tribe he encounters on a floating island.  Joining them in the fight is Prince Bumpo who is from Africa.  Dr. Dolittle is the last man standing, but it is not he who saves the tribe (at least not directly). Instead the real heroes are the millions of parrots that he summons.  It is always the animals who end up saving the humans throughout the book.  The whales, porpoises, parrots, other birds, and dogs are the ones who literally move islands and ships. They fight battles and they provide direction when the humans are lost.  It’s what makes these books such fun!
(These books have been edited over the years to remove some racial language and attitudes.  I read several articles some of which were critical of Lofting and some which were supportive of his books.  Some of the writers of these articles argued that Doctor Dolittle was portrayed as “The Great Man Who Nobly Saves the Poor Natives”.  Some argue instead that Dolittle’s kind spirit transcends these attitudes, and that there is much to be appreciated from reading the books.  I think this all is a great opportunity for discussion with young readers, and I’d love to share these books with my Davey.)
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