Doctor White by Jane Goodall and Illustrated by Julie Litty

At the library last week, just as the baby started breaking down, my son grabbed this book off the shelf and asked if we could take it home with us.  Considering my rule is to always say “yes to books” when we go to the library, I obliged and packed it into our already overstuffed library bag.  I didn’t even look at the cover — it’s a picture book after all — there’s no harm in saying yes.

This book sat on our shelf for about a week waiting patiently for us.  Then today, while the baby was napping, I asked my son if I could read to him.  He immediately ran to the shelf and said, “I’ve previewed this one for us. I think we’ll like it!”  My eyebrows shot up as I heard him say “previewed” because this is an all-too-familiar phrase that he hears from me.  At the library, I almost always say yes to a book he wants to bring home, but I also almost always look through a book before reading it to him.

“You previewed it?  You think we’ll like it?”  I asked him cautiously.

“Yes!  There are no guns, no bad people, and everyone behaves well.”  He said in earnest.

“Let me see the book.” I said.

Oh.  It’s by Jane Goodall.  But it has a dog on it…  Okay.  I do a quick flip through the book and it looks good.

At first I see the dog, but I am confused as I read a bit into it.  Doctor White is the dog?  Sure enough, he is.  He’s not just any doctor, he’s a good doctor.  He visits sick children and has a great reputation for helping them get well quickly.

All is happy as Doctor White goes to visit the sick children.  Then one day — the health inspector arrives (cue ominous music) and demands that the dog be removed this instant.  My son thinks he’s evil, but I assured him that the poor man is just doing his job.

The dog is sad, the children are sad, and the nurses are sad, too. Life at the hospital is even more glum.  Then one day, the health inspector comes back and actually needs Doctor White’s help.  The beautiful and sweet irony of this story has both my son and I in love with this book.  It’s a wonderful tribute to the power of pet therapy.

We read this book five times in a row and then later he asked if we could read it again.  I’m not surprised that he enjoyed this book, it’s very well done. But I am surprised that he picked out this book on his own and at how much he enjoys this book.  I suppose this book is a mile marker that my boy is growing up.  He put it in a stack and told me that we would read it again tomorrow.  I’ve no doubt.  I’m so glad that I said yes to him.

The illustrations by Julie Litty are beautiful.  They are done in watercolor with lots of whites and blues.  It sets the tone and compliments the story perfectly.  You can tell from the uniforms and lack of fancy, high-tech machines that this true story takes place in the past — but the book still has a timeless feel to it.

Had it not been for my son’s urging to read this book, I would have missed this beautiful story and experience with him.  I want to make sure that there is someone in your life urging you to read it, too.  So here I am saying this to you: When you have a moment please find a way to read Doctor White with someone that you love.

Ages 5 – 7. minedition.  April 2014. 40 pages. ISBN:  978-9888240746 Nonfiction.

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Where Obtained:  Library.  No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


  1. When I was little I always liked books about hospitals–I never read one where the dog was the doctor, though! Are you familiar with 1960s classic Johnny Goes to the Hospital, written for 5-7 year olds? It’s about a little boy who has to spend the weekend in the hospital for some minor operation and it takes reader through the whole experience in a charming but unpatronizing manner. I can still remember Johnny packing his little case and taking his teddy bear–then laughing when he put on his hospital gown, called a “johnny.”


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