"The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle" is Hugh Lofting's second book about the famous doctor with the ability to talk with animals. I was surprised by how much longer this book is than his debut novel - "The Story of Doctor Dolittle".
Tommy Stubbins - a young boy in Dolittle's hometown of Puddleyby on the Marsh - befriends the Doctor and narrates this story. Dolittle takes Stubbins as a ward and apprentice, teaching him to read and to talk with animals and to learn as much as the Doctor can teach him.
After helping with the murder charge acquittal of a local hermit (by translating the testimony of the hermit's dog), the Doctor and Stubbins set out on an adventure to an island off the coast of South America to find and rescue Dolittle's friend Long Arrow, who happens to be the second greatest naturalist in the world.
This is a fun ride filled with characters and adventures. Many scenes in this book found their way into the Rex Harrison movie that I loved as a child. Reading about the dog who testified at a trial and the shipwreck, and the floating island and the great glass sea snail was like revisiting an old friend after decades apart.
In some ways, "Voyages" is progressive for a book written a hundred years ago. While visiting Spain, Dolittle challenges the cruelty of the sport of bullfighting; and he befriends natives of South America and sub-Saharan Africa and treats them with respect. But one cannot ignore that the author treats these races as primitive savages, and they are saved by the white doctor - a philosophy used by many to rationalize centuries of European imperialism. If you can look past this and consider the time in which Lofting wrote his story, it is much easier to enjoy.