Thursday, February 28, 2008

Book Review: The Story of Doctor Doolittle

My kids and I are reading a delightful book by the name of The Story of Doctor Doolittle and enjoying it so much that I just had to tell you all about it. Before our trip to the library on Monday, I did not know that there was such a book. Of course I had heard of and seen the Eddie Murphy movies but I did not know that they were very loosely based on this very old story.

Doctor Doolittle is a quaint, funny, little man who loves animals so much it hurts his business. He learns, with the help of his parrot, to speak animal language and soon becomes world famous in the animal kingdom. Being the kind man that he is, he helps any animal (and person) that comes to him and many of them become his pets. Then, one very cold winter, he gets word that the monkeys in Africa need his help and off he goes on an adventure to help the monkeys. During his trip to, at, and from Africa there are many mishaps and just as many opportunities for discussion with your children. All the while, the kids will be glued to you, listening, laughing, and begging for more.

The book is written in a casual, conversational tone with plenty of descriptive passages and dialogue. Much of it is fantastical, with animals doing and saying things that they never would or could in real life. There's action packed sequences in which the Doctor and his animals are chased by the army of the King of Jolliginki and the Barbary Pirates. You'll find many fun animals, including a fantasy two-headed creature called the pushmi-pullyu. Regardless of what happens to him, the doctor's actions are above reproach as he always does the right thing even to those who would seek to hurt him. All of this really brings the book to life and makes it fun to read. As a plus, there area many opportunities for teaching, from literary topics to moral topics, as you read through the story.

The Story of Doctor Doolittle was written in 1920 by Hugh Lofting. The world was much different back then; attitudes were different and authors and publishers were less concerned about political correctness. Because of this, there are a few things that some would find offensive.

The book portrays the black King of Jolliginki and his men as blundering fools. They lock up the Doctor and his animals twice but are easily fooled. One of them, Prince Bumpo, asks the Doctor to make him white so that he can kiss and win the heart of "Sleeping Beauty" who denied him the first time when she saw that he was black. This apparently, has offended some, leading the book to be edited to make it acceptable (apparently the Prince asks to be changed to a lion in the edited version). As we have read the book, I found that neither my kids nor I have taken the book as an affront to black men. The King of Jolliginki is just another silly character just as all the characters in the book are silly. To draw attention to and be offended by it is taking a children's story too far, in my opinion. I do not believe the author intended to offend. So, what I'm saying here, is that I believe the original version of the book is fine as it is, but if you believe you will be offended by this content, go with the edited version of the book.

It really is a delightful little story and I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

**Disclosure: This review was provided of my own free will. I did not receive anything from the publisher, author, or anyone else for the review. I'm just sharing my feelings, opinions, and experiences that are part of our homeschooling experience.

Stumble Upon Toolbar