There's a 'garden gleanings' post over on the other blog today, so here's a similar style snippet from current reading:
"While he was in the trenches, [Hugh Lofting's] children at home begged him to send them illustrated letters. There seemed little he could write about, for most of the news was unsuitable on account of the horrors of trench warfare and the dictates of strict censorship. However he had become interested in the part animals were playing in the war, particularly the horses who were learning to take the risks amid bursting shells as quietly and bravely as the soldiers themselves. But it seemed hard that, whereas a wounded man was carried carefully away behind the lines to the casualty clearing station and the field hospital, a horse if wounded at all seriously was simply shot. There ought, he felt, to be doctors and hospitals for horses, just as there were for men. But, wishing to write something for the children as far removed as possible from the horrors all around him, Lofting imagined a doctor in a sleepy country village in England giving up tending human beings and spending all his skill on doctoring animals. The natural step was for this doctor to learn his patients' language and become their friend as well as their medical adviser.
Here was the subject for those illustrated letters, and Elizabeth and Colin Lofting soon became familiar with Dr John Dolittle, the small tubby man with the top hat and the black bag, and with his animal friends, Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the pig, Dab-Dab, Polynesia, Chee-Chee and the rest who dwelt with him in the little house with the big garden at Puddleby-on-the-Marsh."
From Tellers of Tales by Roger Lancelyn Green, who goes on: "the early Dolittles stand supreme, for their 'mixture of homeliness and imagination, of drollery and simplicity, of poetry and the most prosaic naturalism', to quote Forest Reid. 'Woven into the very texture of these stories is a spirit of innocence, an extraordinary freshness and sweetness - qualities, I should imagine, that wear uncommonly well." '
The illustration above is from the title page of my childhood copy of The Voyages of Dr Dolittle, given to me when I was seven by a family friend, and much loved. I see there is an audio version read by Alan Bennett.