The Story of Dr Dolittle by Hugh Lofting – The 1920 Club

 Two People cover

The last book that I read for The 1920 Club week which finished yesterday was The Story of Dr Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. I’ve read a few of these books but this is the first one which explains that Dr Dolittle had been a doctor for humans, but he was far more interested in the many animals that he had in his house/surgery. Not surprisingly this upset his patients, one sat on a hedgehog and eventually he found he had only one patient left and no money was coming in. That one patient – the cat’s meat man – suggested that he should become an animal doctor. Dr Dolittle set about learning to speak with animals and in no time he was able to pay his bills again.

When a swallow brings news that all of the monkeys in Africa are dying of a strange disease (yes I know!) Dr Dolittle sails to Africa with lots of his animals including Chee Chee his monkey. So begins the adventure that sees them being locked up by a king when they travel through his land, but of course Polynesia the parrot helps them to escape.

Of course Dr Dolittle does manage to save the lives of the monkeys who haven’t already succumbed to the mystery disease that has killed thousands of them.

If only Covid-19 could be so easy to sort out.

This was an enjoyable read and it’s the first in a series of books which was turned into the film starring Rex Harrison in 1967 and more recently Robert Downey Jr. in 1998.

Dr Dolittle

My other Dolittle books are really nice old ones but this on is a modern one from 1998, published by the Daily Mail – of all things. The rather naive illustrations, also by Lofting, are charming.

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

I’m continuing with Judith at Reader in the Wilderness‘ meme Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times which I’m really enjoying, particularly because I actually finished reading one of the books that I wrote about last Friday. This might be a great way for me to concentrate on reading my own books. Mind you the fact that all of the libraries are shut has helped too! I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Flowers in the Grass by Monica Dickens soon.

So this time around I’m again featuring just three books that have languished on various bookshelves of mine.


Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary is a book for children written by Hugh Lofting, it’s quite a big series, written for children but suitable for all ages. The author illustrated his own books.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk belongs to Jack, Pamuk is one of his favourite authors but I’ve never read any of his books. I think it’s about time that I did.

The Century's Daughter

The Century’s Daughter by Pat Barker is one that I bought fairly recently. I’ve read a few books by Barker and really liked them, this one seems quite different though and it’s a Virago publication.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017

As I’ve already completed my reading for the Classics Club I decided to get stuck into Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 which is run by Karen @Books and Chocolate (what a fab blog name).
My book list consists of:

1. Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott
2. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
3. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier
4. Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
5. Montaigne Essays
6. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
7. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
8. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
9. Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary by Hugh Lofting
10. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
11. I, Claudius – Claudius, the God by Robert Graves
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Have you read any of these ones? I’ve had most of these book waiting in a queue to be read for years now and this will encourage me to get around to them at last!

Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting

Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting was first published in 1924. I’ve enjoyed a few of the books in this series but this one just didn’t hit the mark somehow. The pushmi-pullyu was homesick for Africa and asked Doctor Dolittle if he would mind taking him to Africa for a few weeks holiday so he could walk around his old grazing grounds once more.

Doctor Dolittle is happy to oblige him and so he buys an old boat and off he sails with some more of his animal friends. After enjoying a good holiday they set sail for home but when they find a weeping woman in a canoe they have to stop and help her.

The woman Zuzana is weeping because her husband has been taken captive by slavers, so Dolittle and his animal friends track the slave ship down with the help of a British Navy ship which is also trying to put the slavers out of business.

So – job done, all’s well that ends well – except Doctor Dolittle has the idea of using the world’s birdlife to run an airmail postal service, thus enslaving all birds! Bizarre, as if they don’t have enough to be getting on with themselves.

I usually only read one or maybe two books at a time although I will put quite a few books on my Goodreads reading list and work my way through them, this one has been weighing on my conscience as it has been languishing on Goodreads for ages – awaiting me finishing it, whilst I started and finished umpteen other books in that time.

It did get better towards the end but it isn’t a great idea for a children’s book. Doctor Dolittle has learned to speak to animals of course and I was interested to read in Wendy Moore’s biography of the anatomist John Hunter that it’s thought that Hugh Lofting took Hunter as his inspiration for Doctor Dolittle.

If you’re interested you can have a look at lots of Dolittle images here.

Christmas Books

Christmas Books

Above is a photo of the books which I bought over the weeks before Christmas – and said to Jack, just wrap those up for me! After so many years it isn’t crucial to get a sumptuous present and I’m in the happy position of not really needing or wanting anything expensive.

You’ll have noticed that my cache of books leans heavily towards children’s publications, that was just luck or serendipity, not something which I set out to do.

1. Crime Out Of Mind by Delano Ames. He was a 2014 discovery for me and I’ve read a few of his books, I’ve enjoyed them all and this is another Dagobert and Jane book, his married sleuths, so I have high hopes of it. It was published in 1956.

2. Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald. First published in 1879 this is a children’s book by a Scottish writer who used to be very popular but is now hardly read.

3. Love by Elizabeth von Arnim, published in 1925. I already have a copy of this but I had to buy this one when I saw it in its green binding, I have most of her other books in this guise and my other copy of Love is a modern paperback.

4. Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office by Hugh Lofting, first published in 1924. This is another children’s author which I missed completely as a youngster. There are a lot of books in the series and the Doctor Dolittle film was based on them.

5. Whizz for Atomms by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, published in 1956. I bought this because of the Ronald Searle cartoons, it’s a similar idea to the St Trinian’s books, it looks like a good laugh.

6. In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor, published in 1961. I have read a fair few of her books and enjoyed them.

7. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming, this is an omnibus of the three stories which Fleming wrote in 1964 – 1965, but this book was published in 1971. I’ve already blogged about this one.

8. Not a Bad Lad by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman, published in 2010. I’ve not read anything by Morpurgo yet (I think) and it’s about time I did but to be honest I would have bought this book just for the illustrations because I’m a Foreman fan.

9. Last but definitely not least is Edmund Dulac’s Picture Book for the French Red Cross, published in 1915. As it says on the front cover, all profits on sale given to the Croix Rouge Francaise, Comite de Londres. Obviously to help with the First World War casualties. I was lucky to get this one at St Andrews for a reasonable price, there are people online asking silly money for it. Some of the stories are old faithfulls like Cinderella but there are a lot which I hadn’t heard of before. The illustrations are lovely and if you are interested you can download it free from Project Gutenberg here.

Two for Children of All Ages

I’m quite a bit behind with my book blogging, due to the mayhem which comes with preparing to move house after 26 years of living here. I can hardly get into some rooms, they’re so piled up with boxes. Books are lovely, but a nightmare when it comes to moving elsewhere!

Anyway, it must have been at least four weeks since I finished reading Children of the New Forest. The original book was quite a bit longer than my copy which has been edited to cut out the more boring bits apparently.

I enjoyed this one, in parts it reminded me of The Little House on the Prairie books. There are similar descriptions of how they survived and thrived in a new environment.

The children in the title are the four Beverley children. Two boys and two girls, their parents were Royalists during the Civil War. When Cromwell’s men burned their large family home down it was believed that the four children had perished in the fire, but they had been taken into the home of a poor forester who passes them off as his grandchildren. This entails teaching them how to be peasants, rather than the product of a privileged upbringing which they really are.

The life of a peasant sounded idyllic then as it was before the land and forests were enclosed and the only animals which were off limits were the deer, not that that stopped them from shooting deer.

So as the children needed milk they managed to capture and tame a wild cow and in no time they had a surplus of food which they could sell at the market. Sadly the boys learned how to farm and hunt, while the girls learned to cook and keep house. This book probably isn’t for the squeamish as at the beginning there is quite a lot of hunting and descriptions of animals being butchered going on. Apart from that I would have been quite happy to move into that woodland cottage.

The story ends with the eldest boy going off to fight for Charles II and helping him to return as King.

The second children’s book which I’ve read recently is Doctor Dolittle’s Garden. I’m likely to pick up any book which has garden in the title to have a look at it, which is how I ended up buying this one recently. I must admit that I was also drawn to the vibrant artwork of the endpapers.

I hadn’t heard of this series of books before, but I realised that the Doctor Dolittle film starring Rex Harrison was based on the books. I never liked Rex Harrison as an actor, he was neither use nor ornament as far as I’m concerned but someone must have liked him – or he knew where the bodies were buried!

Doctor Dolittle is of course conversing with all sorts of animals and when he finds one which he isn’t able to talk to he isn’t happy until he can find a way of communicating with them. The book has lots of humorous illustrations by the author. These have been reprinted but my copy is an old hardback from 1927, so I’m not sure if the new ones have the illustrations. You can see some Hugh Lofting illustrations here.

And here’s a photo of those zingy endpapers.