Great Books

with Dachelle McVey

We believe in the power of story.
“When you read a book, you are in a mind-to-mind encounter with its author, whether he lived 1000 years ago or lives today. This is the wonder of real books—all kinds of books, not only the serious and factual. Your mind grows through these encounters.”
—Dr. Ruth Beechick
We’re excited to introduce you to our new Great Books columnist, Dachelle McVey. Dachelle is a working, homeschooling mom of three.

She is also the author of dozens of online book clubs for kids from preschool to high school at her site:

Elementary/Middle School
The Story of Doctor Dolittle
Speaking to Animals
Based on The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Book Description:
The story of the good doctor who can speak to animals has been reinvented many different times and in many different forms of media. But the original story has much more depth and character than most of the movie versions. The Story of Doctor Dolittle (also known as The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts) is the story of a physician at the turn of the twentieth century who has a very hard time making and keeping money. He doesn’t really seem to care for the institution of money and only desires to help others.

With the help of his parrot friend, he learns to speak to animals and eventually becomes a veterinarian (which is fine with him since he understands animals so much better than humans). When he decides to head out to Africa to answer the call of the monkeys, his animal friends join him. This story takes us on an adventure to the jungles of Africa where he meets familiar animals, a prince, and even a fantastical new animal. And if that’s not enough, he’ll even encounter a pirate or two!

Why You Will Want To Read This Book:
This book is a classic that has been retold many different times. Children love the idea of being able to speak to animals and what’s better than a story whose main cast of characters are humorous, talking animals? As you are reading, you and your family can talk about and research the animals mentioned in the novel and even pull out the atlas or globe and learn about a new area of the world.

If you like to try new foods and drinks, make note of some of those mentioned in the book (like orangeade) and make some to sip or snack on while reading.

Discussion Questions:
The original version of this book was written at the turn of the twentieth century and contains some terms that you may decide aren’t appropriate for your children. If this is a concern for you, we recommend the version that is illustrated by Michael Hague and edited by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. If you are reading the original version, this would be a great time to stop and talk to your children about how some words may affect others that would not affect you.

Be sure to discuss with your children why someone would pick up and travel hundreds of miles away just to help someone. What factors would make you consider traveling through dangerous areas to give aid to someone? Does the doctor make good decisions? Is money important to him? Should he care how he can afford to buy food and supplies? How does Dr. Dolittle show the importance of listening and helping those around you? How would it feel to be Prince Bumpo? Have you ever wished you were someone else? For fun, you can watch one of the many movies and compare it to the book.

More Books Like This:
This book is the first in a series of books about the good doctor. You can also read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Doctor Dolittle’s Post Office, and many others in the series.
For more fun with our literary adventure, check out the Doctor Dolittle Online Book Club from Literary Adventures for Kids.
Dachelle McVey

achelle McVey is a working homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. She is the owner of, a blog about her adventures in homeschooling and parenting. She is also the author of dozens of online book clubs for kids from preschool to high school at her site Literary Adventures for Kids. You can often find her reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. ;)

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Activity Guide
Find fun, hands-on activities for each of the Great Books in our Spring Activity Guide!
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