Rereading: DR. DOLITTLE’S GARDEN by Hugh Lofting

Dust jacket for an early edition, art by Hugh Lofting.

This book continues straight on from “Dr. Dolittle’s Zoo,” and is in four parts, with the first part reading like leftover material from that book. It’s another story from the Home for Crossbred Dogs, one of the sections of the Dolittle Zoo in his expansive garden, and is mainly the story of a terrier named Quetch who sets out to live on his own in the wilderness completely apart from humans. His story is interesting and full of incidents that eventually bring him to the Zoo. Tommy Stubbins is once more the narrator and the Doctor’s assistant, taking down Quetch’s tale.

The rest of the book is a build-up to Dolittle’s next great adventure: a trip to the moon, though that trip is only just begun by the end of it. Part two has the Doctor exploring the language of insects, to the great annoyance of his household, as he brings in all sorts to try in his listening machine. Eventually he succeeds and hears many stories of the insect world, even back to prehistoric times “before there was a moon.” Stories about giant moths fascinate everyone, and culminate with one arriving in the Doctor’s back garden one night. It turns out it’s an envoy from the moon, where many giant insects live, and they have invited Dolittle to visit them on the moth’s back, with the help of some giant flowers that give out large amounts of oxygen.

Soon the Dolittle household is convinced the Doctor is going to go off to the moon without them, or most of them, and Tommy Stubbins hatches plans to go along too, even without permission. Who can blame him? But the presence of the giant moth, and rumors of what’s been going on in Dolittle’s back garden, have attracted a large crowd of peepers and reporters trying to get more information, upsetting everyone’s plans.

While the opening section of this book is a little slow, the rest builds in excitement and interest. One does have to put aside what we know about the moon and possible travel there in this fantasy from 1927, and enjoy the adventure as it unfolds.

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