The Story of Doctor Dolittle - Hugh Lofting
This is really a very unique and delightful little story about a very kind and gentle man who can speak to and understand animals. What's even more charming is that Hugh Lofting wrote these stories as letters home to entertain his family while away fighting in WW I. This book has that strange fantastical rambling quality that only children's stories from a bygone era have. It's the kind of story where the larger plot takes a backseat to characterization and dialogue. As a result the storyline jumps around a bit, but it is a very inventive and humorous little story and one that I think could be a very nice read aloud.

It is important to note that this particular version includes passages that have been altered to remove racially insensitive details. Additionally, Lofting's original illustrations have been replaced with more current ones by Michael Hague. Hugh Lofting was simply a product of his times and held some rather dated attitudes. To be fair he was even a little ahead of his times. He once wrote: If we make children see that all races, given equal physical and mental chances for development, have about the same batting averages for good and bad, we shall have laid another very substantial foundation stone in the edifice of peace and internationalism.

As it stands, I'm not usually a fan of tampering with classic books, but I'm afraid if this wasn't done for this book it wouldn't survive. There aren't many parents who would be comfortable reading the original chapter in which a young African prince begs Doctor Dolittle to turn him white so he can be attractive. I believe the point of this passage was to emphasize the folly of vanity and the importance of self acceptance, but in today's world this message is lost. In this version the prince instead begs the doctor to turn him into a lion. I really appreciated the introduction with a detailed explanation of these changes and how the editors took great pains to to preserve the flavor and style of the original writing.

All in all, I think this is a great chapter book to read aloud with a young child. Children will enjoy the silly, cheeky little animals and the fun little adventures they have. If you enjoy this story I highly recommend the sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1923.