The original Dr. Dolittle book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, was published in 1920. Hugh Lofting wrote it in 1917, from the trenches of World War I in France, sending the stories to his children back in England in letter after letter, illustrated with simple and charming cartoons.
Note that the books have NOTHING to do with the sucky movies.
The full text of The Story of Doctor Dolittle, and the most famous sequel, Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, is available through Project Gutenberg.
In the book, we meet the genial Doctor and his house full of animals. His human patients are scared away by the animals, and he becomes poorer and poorer. Polynesia, his parrot, begins to teach him to speak various animal languages -- he begins with dog and bird.
One dark winter night the Doctor hears that the monkeys of Africa are dying from an epidemic - they send a messenger to beg for help. Polynesia, Jip the Dog, the crocodile, Dab-Dab the duck, the white mouse, and Chee-Chee the monkey go with him to Africa in a sailing ship. They meet Prince Bumpo, a pushmi-pullyu, and Barbary pirates.
In recent editions of Dr. Dolittle books, scenes withh Prince Bumpo are rewritten heavily. Originally, Bumpo, who loved to read fairy tales, asked the doctor to turn him white, because the princes in fairy tales are all white. In the sequels, Bumpo appears in England, as his father sent him to Oxford for his education; he loves to use big words, but sometimes uses them wrong with a comic effect. He is the doctor's valued friend and ally. As he is rewritten in the bowlderized versions, Bumpo is not quite as charismatic; I think it is better to add an explanation of changing times and views of racism, and leave the books as they are.
Hugh Lofting wrote several other Dr. Dolittle books:
- The Story of Doctor Dolittle
(1920) - The doctor's first voyage to Africa
- Doctor Dolittle's Post Office
(1923) - The doctor sets up a postal service for animals
- Doctor Dolittle's Circus
(1924) The Doctor takes over a circus and runs it in cooperation with the animals
- Doctor Dolittle's Caravan
(1926) - The Doctor returns from Africa and lives in a caravan, exhibiting the pushmi-pullyu for money
- Doctor Dolittle and the
(1951) The Doctor and friends put on a light opera in London.
- Gub Gub's Book*
(1932) Gub Gub's Encyclopedia of Food. Silly.
- The Voyages of
(1922) Winner of the Newberry Award - The best in the series. The doctor and Tommy Stubbins travel to Spidermonkey Island and meet the great naturalist Long Arrow, returning to England by travelling across the ocean floor inside the shell of a giant pink sea snail.
- Doctor Dolittle's Zoo
(1925) - The Doctor sets up a zoo
- Doctor Dolittle's Garden
(1927) - Stories from the idyllic garden in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh
- Doctor Dolittle in the Moon
(1928) - The exciting story of the Doctor and friends flying to the moon on the back of a giant moth. Excellent, along with its sequel.
- Doctor Dolittle's Return
(1933) - The Doctor comes back from the moon. Fun!
- Dr. Dolittle's
(1953) Novelettes, some during Caravan
- Dr. Dolittle and the
Secret Lake* (1948) - Another voyage to Africa.