Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review: The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun story, great characters, fun humor
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Familiar story
But differences from movie
Both worth enjoying

In Search of Puppies

When I first moved to Southern California, I was browsing my local library one day and spotted (pun intended) The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith.  I knew the Disney movie of the same name came from a book, and I’d always been curious to read it.  Now all these years later, I decided to reread the book, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did before.

It’s a double wedding for Pongo and Missis and their pet Mr. and Mrs. Dearly.  The new couples are settling in to their life in London, and even more exciting, Missis is expecting puppies.

However, the newlyweds are living down the street from Cruella de Vil, an old school mate of Mrs. Dearly.  Cruella loves furs so much she actually married a furrier.  And after seeing Pongo and Missis, she’s decided that a Dalmatian coat would be lovely.  So when the puppies go missing soon after they are born, Pongo suspects he knows who stole them.  But can they find them in time?

Now, if you are familiar with the movie, then you know the broad strokes.  Details are different, and some of the scenes from the book were cut, but the general outline of the story remains the same.  I found it easy to forget the movie and get lost in the fun that is this story.  The biggest change is with Perdita, who plays a very different part in the movie than she does here (a case of combining characters, which also happens to some humans).

And if you haven’t seen the movie, you will still find this book enjoyable.  The plot, while not completely believable, works, and the world that the author has created is so fun you want to believe it could be.  Dogs communicating via barking at certain times?  Charming and fun.  They even work together with cats a couple of times.

Likewise, the characters are charming – both human and animal.  They are infused with so much personality it’s easy to root for the heroes to get their way.  And Cruella?  She’s so over the top she’s so fun to love to hate.   Plus she gets a better comeuppance than she does in the movie.

What surprised me was the comedy.  Yes, the Disney movie is funny, but it is more broad, slapstick comedy.  While the book does have a little of that, overall this is much more subtle, often creating humor from how dogs view the world (we are their pets) or characters names.  We even learn more about the de Vil family, which is quite clever and funny.  I’m honestly not sure how much of this kids will get, but I loved it.

The majority of the book takes place the week before Christmas, and that plays a bit of a part in how the story unfolds.  Yes, the movie mentions this briefly, but the overall effect here is much bigger.

So if you are a fan of the more famous movie, you owe it to yourself to read the book.  And if you are fresh to the concept, dive in here and enjoy.  Either way, you’ll be glad you spent time with The 101 Dalmatians.

This book is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  It was also read as part of the Reading to Know Classics Book Club.  You can read other entries from the book club here.

And finally, if you haven't seen the movie, here's my review of Disney animated classic 101 Dalmatians.


  1. I enjoyed the movie but did not realize where the story had come from. Thanks for featuring as it will certainly be on my list of future reads.

    1. You are very welcome. I hope you enjoy when you read it.

  2. I've been meaning to read this for awhile. 101 Dalmations is one of my favorite Disney movies. I also enjoyed CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith too. Thanks for featuring it--this would be a good one to read around Christmas time!

    1. This would absolutely be a great book to read at Christmas.

      I've heard great things about I Capture the Castle. I keep meaning to read it, but it hasn't quite happened yet.

  3. I always forget this is a book. I'm making a Tickler note for myself to read this in December -- it will make an appropriate end for my year of reading all things British.

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. Yes, this is a great December book. I kind of wish I'd read it then.

    2. I remembered! I finished it last night and reviewed it just now:

      Thanks so much! What a terrific book to read during Christmas week in the year that I went to England.

    3. Thanks for letting me know. Off to check it out.

  4. Yes, it was a delight! Even my teens enjoyed it because of her use of humor and language!

    1. I had not remembered the humor from the first time I read it, so that was a very pleasant surprise.

  5. Love the subtle humor in this book.

    (Obviously I'm playing catch up here. I was looking for this review.) :D

    Glad you read along AND enjoyed it.This book is a great one to land on a re-read shelf. It's worth devouring a time or two.

    1. It was definitely worth a reread. Thanks for prompting me to do just that.

  6. Loved this book. There's a more sciencefictiony sequel -- "The Starlight Barking" -- which I did not enjoy as much, but it's okay.

    I was not a fan of "I Capture the Castle". Starts out great, but then an "A loves B, who loves C, who loves D" kind of plot kicks in, which is not my thing. But I seem to be in the minority on that.


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