Monday, December 08, 2008

Newbery: The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle

“If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee
Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement that would be”

Even if you haven’t read the book or seen one of the movie adaptations of the story, many people recognize the character of Dr. Doolittle, the doctor who could talk to animals. I’ve never seen the Rex Harrison or Eddie Murphy versions, but from what I’ve read of them, they bear little resemblance to the story.

I wasn’t too keen on reading the book, but I was overdue for a Newbery book from the 1920s. In spite of my misgivings, I enjoyed the book (perhaps due to low expectations). Although the book has been cited for its characterization of minorities, the instances are not mean spirited and are very brief (however, I mhave read a version in which the more unfortunate aspects were removed). The book, unsurprisingly perhaps, advocates humane treatment and respect of animals, unique for its time.

Although the book is very turn of the century British in its sensibility, it’s not an inaccessible book. I actually enjoyed much of the story and didn’t have to “endure” it as much as I did. However, I probably wouldn’t read it again.

Have you read The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle?


Martyn said...

Interesting blog. Another less-well-known earlier Newbery Honor book has just been reprinted. The Jumping-Off Place by Marian Hurd McNeely is now available again (with a new afterword) from the South Dakota State Historical Society Press.

Jennifer Schultz said...

Good to know-thank you!