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Dr Dolittle is the central character of a series of children’s books by Hugh Lofting starting with the 1920 The Story of Doctor Dolittle. He is a physician who shuns human patients in favour of animals, with whom he can speak in their own languages. He later becomes a naturalist, using his abilities to speak with animals to better understand nature and the history of the world.

Dr Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

John Dolittle lived with his sister in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, a little English village by the seaside. He was a well-respected doctor and treated everyone in the parish whenever they had a cough or a cold from his office in his house. Dr. Dolittle loved to help all living creatures. And so he had a lot of different animals living with him in his house. He had chickens and goats, rabbits and ducks, cats, dogs, cows, and even an old horse. His parrot, Polynesia, followed him everywhere, squawking and chatting to his patients.

Dr. Dolittle could never say no to taking in a homeless animal. So, over the years, his menagerie grew and grew. Eventually, it was so big that his patients didn’t want to come to his house anymore because it was so noisy and smelly. Every month, he saw fewer and fewer people. And one month, he saw none at all. He wasn’t making any money at all.

“What will I do, Polynesia?” he said sadly. “If I don’t have any patients, the animals will start to go hungry.”

“Wow,” squawked Polynesia. “I have an idea.”

Polynesia and Dr. Dolittle came up with a plan. Being a parrot, Polynesia could talk to both humans and animals. If he could teach Dr. Dolittle the secret of his speech, Dr. Dolittle could become the most famous and wonderful vet in all of England. He could speak to the animals and find out exactly what was wrong with them, and treat them just like he did with his human patients. They worked together every day for weeks, with Polynesia teaching the doctor sound by sound.

After a few months had passed, Dr. Dolittle had done it. He could speak to the chickens and goats, rabbits and ducks, cats, dogs, cows, and even the old horse. He began to treat the pets of the people in Puddleby. He started to make a little money again from his animal patients and their owners. Word of his incredible skill spread fast. And soon, he was the most sought-after vet in all of England. Soon, the news spread overseas, and the doctor received a call from Africa.

“We have heard you are a marvelous vet,” shouted the voice at the other end of the telephone. “We have a terrible problem with our monkeys. We just don’t know what’s wrong with them. Could you come and see if you can cure them?”

Dr. Dolittle was very excited and made arrangements to leave at once. He bought a ship and filled it with supplies for the journey. He didn’t want to leave his animals alone. So he brought them along, too, as the crew members.

The voyage was long and hard. Trapped in such a small space, the animals argued often. And Dr. Dolittle worked hard to keep everyone happy.

Several days into the voyage, the ship was hit by a terrible storm. It rocked and rolled in the waves. Every animal inside braying, screeching, and howling. Eventually, the ship smashed into the shore of Africa and broke into many pieces. Dr. Dolittle and all the animals were left to walk the rest of the way to the monkey hospital.

After walking for many days, Dr. Dolittle and his animals finally made it. The monkeys were very sick, and all the vets of Africa had run out of ideas. They couldn’t tell if the monkeys were too hot or too cold, or if they were feeling sick or achy. Dr. Dolittle spoke with the monkeys and treated their symptoms. He made vaccinations for their illness and helped to nurse the sick ones back to good health. Everyone cheered for Dr. Dolittle and his unusual skills.

When all the monkeys were well again, it was time for Dr. Dolittle to leave. The kind people gave him a new ship and supplies, so he and his animals could get home safely. The monkeys gave him a gift of their own. They ran deep into the forest and brought back a strange animal. The animal was just like a llama or fluffy deer, except it had a head at its front end and a head at its back end.

“This is a push-me-pull-you,” the monkeys chattered.

The push-me-pull-you was a rare animal that had never before been seen in England. Dr. Dolittle thanked the monkeys and the people of Africa very much and set off again on his voyage. This time, the crew managed to avoid storms and pirate ships. And in a few weeks’ time, they were back on the shores of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. Dr. Dolittle and the animals were very happy to be home. And the push-me-pull-you settled in happily to its new home.

Dr. Dolittle carried on treating all the animals of England with his amazing talent and often got into more adventures overseas. News of the push-me-pull-you living in England spread quickly throughout the land. And soon, Dr. Dolittle had a queue of people outside his door, clamoring to take a peep at it. The doctor was able to make a little money from this, too. So he and his animals lived happily, never going hungry again.

Dr Dolittle Book Read Aloud YouTube Video


So what conversation will you have with your child after reading this book?

Some questions you might like to ask are:

Where John Dolittle lived?

John Dolittle lived with his sister in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, a little English village by the seaside.

What he loved?

Dr. Dolittle loved to help all living creatures.

What he had in his house?

He had animals like chickens and goats, rabbits and ducks, cats, dogs and cows.

What other conversations or questions might you add? Please leave a comment below.

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