by Hugh Lofting, first published 1923, republished 1997 by Books of Wonder
Illustrations by Michale Hague, Edited by McKissacks.
“After a while, with the parrot’s help, the Doctor got to learn the language of the animals so well that he could talk to them himself and understand everything they said. Then he gave up being a people’s doctor altogether.”
It’s so easy to forget the origin of stories, especially when the movies become wildly popular. Thus I never realized that Doctor Dolittle was a children’s book, until a friend pointed me to it for this website. Along with the title came the information that this children’s book was insensitive to racial differences, written in 1923. However, I was delighted to read the version published by Books of Wonder. In the preface, they explain that to keep the book accessible to children, edits were made to correct the racial bias. I, for one, praise this kind of publishing courage. A children’s book that is as magical as this one shouldn’t be lost because it is culturally outdated.
The fantasy that is outlined in this children’s book is fabulous. Not only can the animals talk, but they do wonderful things for this kind man who takes care of everyone and everything. The message of kindness goes on and on in every page. In particular, the message that we must take care of the natural world is very timely. I also love the astonishment of the animals in Africa when they find that people have to “pay to eat.” Indeed, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t! This is definitely a book to enjoy together with the children.