cover image Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle

Seymour Chwast. Creative Editions, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56846-258-5

Chwast, who adapted The Odyssey and The Canterbury Tales into short graphic narratives, condenses Hugh Lofting's colonialist 1920 novel into a snappy albeit still colonialist comics-style picture book. Fourteen chapters occupy a multipanel page or two each, focusing on the amiable cooperation between Dolittle and his animal companions, known as "the pets." After learning animal language from his parrot, Polynesia, Dolittle sails to a nonspecific African region, intending to rescue ailing monkeys. There he meets an unsympathetic, unnamed king and queen, who jail him and his menagerie. Once Polynesia tricks the royals, Dolittle continues his mission to save the monkeys. Chwast excises Lofting's racial stereotypes while preserving Dolittle's encounter with Barbary Coast pirates; a kindly shark asks, "Do you want us to eat these pirates?" and Dolittle magnanimously replies, "No thanks, but maybe you could keep them busy for a while." Lofting's two-headed Pushmi-Pullyu likewise remains a fixture, earning money for the doctor as a seaside fair attraction. Chwast's flippant line illustration and imperfect crayoning communicate a casual approach as he hits the highlights and dispenses with anachronistic elements. Ages 9%E2%80%9312. (Oct.)