[The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle]: A Review

Hi y’all!

I find myself only able to blog here and there lately. I am grateful for the times and seasons in my life. And for this little corner of the internet that helps me find balance–if only occasionally right now.

I’m excited to share a review today of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. I read this pleasant little book as part of my Newbery Challenge. This novel won the Newbery Medal way back in 1923.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one. It’s a delightful little story that documents the adventures of Dr Dolittle and his apprentice Stubbins on their first adventure together in South America.

Initial Thoughts:

  • I read this on my Kindle app on my phone after getting a free edition (Thanks, mom!) It was a great book to read as an ebook because it is fast paced and action packed. A quick read for me! And just the right amount of excitement for middle of the night nursing sessions.
  • This is actually book two about Dr Dolittle but it is easy to read as a stand alone novel. As this was my first experience in the Dolittle universe, I didn’t feel like I missed anything having not read the first book. I may return to that one some day. 

According to Goodreads, “Doctor Dolittle heads for the high seas in perhaps the most amazing adventure ever experienced by man or animal. Told by nine-and-a-half-year-old Tommy Stubbins, crewman and future naturalist, the voyages of Doctor Dolittle and his company lead them to Spidermonkey Island. Along with his faithful friends, Polynesia the parrot and Chee-Chee the monkey, Doctor Dolittle survives a perilous shipwreck and lands on the mysterious floating island. There he meets the wondrous Great Glass See Snail who holds the key to the greatest mystery of all.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Dr Dolittle’s interactions with the animals in this story. There are many clever ways that the doctor communicates with animals. He learns their many varying languages, understanding what they want based on their species, received visits from exotic birds and animals (even people!) regularly, even having a duck for a housekeeper. It’s really fun to see the clever ways he becomes friends with these animals. I think these unique details would make this a fun book to read aloud to my kids one day.

I really enjoyed Stubbins as narrator. He is a young boy in the story but is looking back on the events some time later. His enthusiasm and zest for adventure is contagious. I enjoyed his innocent, boyish voice and how much he admires the Doctor. He is sincere and ready to work and learn all he can. And he has a lot of courage of his own! I was surprised how level headed and calm he was during the shipwreck and his contributions to getting the group home again. I enjoyed seeing these adventures from his eyes.

The best part of the plot was easily everything that happens on the island! Centering on their adventures on Spidermonkey Island off the coast of Brazil, the plot is exciting and fast paced. From the rescue of Long Arrow to the war with the other village and the crowning of a new king, there is never a dull moment. I also enjoyed the way the island is floating and the way they save it from floating into arctic waters with the help of the whales. I also really enjoyed the bull fighting scenes earlier in the book! I was surprised how creative and action packed this story was. So many unique adventures!

There are also many unique characters in this book that added to the fun story. First is the giant snail!! How did Lofting come up with this? I thought it was really clever that he was misunderstood as a sea serpent and that he helped get the explorers home. Perhaps the biology of his hallow shell doesn’t quite work out, but I really enjoyed the cleverness of the journey! Perhaps my favorite character in the whole book is Polynesia. She is spunky, independent and always keeps everyone else moving in the right direction. A great character!

There were a few drawbacks in this story for me as well but they didn’t affect my overall impression of the novel (Spoilers Ahead!). First, Stubbins’ parents just let him go live with the Doctor full time and even go on a multiple year adventure with him. I also did not like how the ending does not give us a reunion of Stubbins with his parents. What did they think and say after he was gone for so long? The other issue I had is with Dr Dolittle the king. He just thinks a bit too much of himself as the king. These people did survive without him for generations. He seems to think they can’t do it again without him. I was glad when Polynesia finally convinced him to return to his true calling helping animals.

A really fun story and a surprisingly delightful cast of animal characters. I’m not really an animal lover but I really enjoyed the animals in this story. A fun read that I enjoyed late a night and hope to read with my kids one day!


What are some of your favorite classic Newbery winners?
Any Dolittle fans out there? Which are your favorite books?

I read this Newbery Medal winner as a part of my Newbery Challenge.
I plan to read all 100 Newbery Medal winners by the end of 2022, the year the 100th winner is announced.

2 thoughts on “[The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle]: A Review

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