The Story Of Doctor Dolittle – Hugh Lofting (1922) – A Kid-Lit Review

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This was a nostalgic blast from the past as my Mum used to read me Dolittle as bedtime stories, and, actually these are the only bedtime stories I can remember so they must have made quite an impression (and no, it wasn’t because I was 25 at the time!). I particularly remember having a thing for Sophie the sea-lion, who doesn’t actually make an appearance in this one. I’m sure I would have read this myself as a child and probably have given it a go before in adulthood. I managed to read this in the old Puffin paperback format I so clearly remembered

I think Lofting may have been finding his gear with this introductory novel and that later books in the series might have better stood the test of time. This is likeable enough and the characters are set up nicely but not enough is done with them and no sooner is a problem posed than it is solved. There is also the issue of Prince Bumpo, the African Prince whose dream to turn white is aided by the Doctor in a sequence which makes it hard to recommend (and the reason why there have been rewritten versions over the years). This was a book largely produced in the trenches during World War I, so if it rushes along that’s a fair enough excuse. Lofting created the characters whilst he was serving in the Irish Guards in letters to his children as he did not wish them to know anything about his real war experiences. It is a promising start to a series rather than an out and out children’s classic. It may be that fond memories of this are a conglomeration of the books rather than of individual volume (certainly not for the Rex Harrison film which never really did it for me).   threestars

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