The Story of Dr. Doolittle

told by Hugh Lofting. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co. 1920. 12mo, x+180 pp. Illustrated by the Author. $2.25.
THE ’children in years and children in heart,’ to whom Mr. Lofting dedicates his biography of the Animals’ Own Doctor, will delight in every page of this demurely twinkling little book; but their pleasure will be tempered with regret that other great lovers of animals do not share Doctor Dolittle’s linguistic gifts. What a help to William Beebe in Kartabo, if the good doctor were at his ear to interpret the arms-manual of the warrior ants, or elusive Guinevere’s little language! The modest physician would doubtless give the credit of his achievement to Polynesia, the polyglot parrot, who showed him the clue to animal language, and kindly sat on the kitchen table all one rainy afternoon, dictating bird words to him; but the talent of Doctor Dolittle is patent to everyone who reads his adventures.
It was the Cat’s-meat-Man who persuaded him to give up his human practice; and the early chapters of the story relate the doctor’s vicissitudes with his animal clientèle. The crisis came when his sister refused to have the crocodile round. It ate the linoleum and, ‘It’s a nasty thing to find under the bed,’said Miss Dolittle. Most of us would agree with her; indeed, championing the crocodile had well nigh cost our quixotic hero his living, when there came the Message from Africa. This is the doctor’s Great Opportunity, and the rest of the book tells how he rose to it. There is an inimitable drawing, by Mr. Lofting, of the doctor’s Red Cross hut in Africa, with monkeys coming in endless procession out of the dim perspective, to be vaccinated.
The gravity of Mr. Lofting’s fun is one of its charms. The pictures and the print vie with each other in solemn absurdities; and every farcical episode illuminates the devoted doctor’s simple and robust personality. F. C.
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