Book Review: The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle

The first thing that surprised me about this book was that it was out of print for a long time. The version I picked up at the local library was reprinted in the late 90’s. It had been pulled from the shelves because of the language concerning one of the characters in the book, who was black.

I’m sure I’ve discussed my views on censorship and books a few times on this blog, so I won’t rehash them. While I was disappointed to learn that a small portion of the book had been rewritten to be more politically correct, I decided to read it anyway and hope for the best.

I enjoyed the book a lot. Enough to want to read the rest of the books in the series. Only one other book has been republished with the potentially “offensive” language removed. Given that they did this one well, I am willing to read the others. When they first introduced the character, I didn’t even realize it was the portion of the book that had been adjusted. (That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t like to read the un-adjusted portion still – I want to know what exactly was so offensive in a British book that wasn’t offensive in some other books of the era dealing with the same kinds of characters).

Dr. Doolittle is a bumbling naturalist with an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. He takes on an apprentice, and along the way, he is searching for the language of the shellfish. That becomes important later in the book. Most of the story centers around their journey to a mysterious island to find a missing Indian chief and what happens along the way.

The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle is a fun and easy read. The characters are well fleshed out and interesting, and they maintain their distinct characteristics throughout the book. The talking animals are written well and actually do not seem out of place at all. I would recommend this book as a light read – just for the fun of it!

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