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The novel begins when Tommy Stubbins, the narrator of the story, finds a squirrel injured by a hawk. Matthew Mugg, the cat’s meat man, informs him to get help from Doctor Dolittle, who can speak the language of animals. The Doctor is away on a voyage, but when he returns, he attends to the squirrel. Tommy is introduced to some of the strange animals in Doolittle’s care, such as the Wiff-Waff fish, and those who care for his household, such as Dab-Dab the duck, and Jip the dog. Polynesia the parrot arrives in Puddleby from Africa informs the Doctor that Bumpo is studying in Bullford. Tommy begins his studies with Doolittle, or rather with Polynesia who teaches Tommy the language of animals. Chee-Chee comes from Africa disguised as a lady and tells about his voyage to Puddleby. The Doctor acquires The Curlew and is thinking of taking Tommy, Polynesia, and Luke the Hermit.
Later, the Purple Bird of Paradise informs the Doctor that Long Arrow, son of Golden Arrow, who is a friend of the Doctor, is missing so after they play the game Blind Travel, which would determine where in the world they would voyage, they decide to take a trip to Spider Monkey Island to find Long Arrow. The Doctor, Tommy, Bumpo, Polynesia and Mathew start the voyage across the sea but on the way they discover some stowaways and drop them off at Penzance. Their first stop is in the Capa Blanca islands of Spain; the Doctor makes a deal with the bullfighters that if he can beat them in a fight they would stop bullfighting. Bumpo makes a side bet of 3000 pesetas that the Doctor will win. The Doctor talks to the bulls and they agreed to stick to the plan to make everyone think that he outwitted them.
Afterwards there is a storm that wrecks the ship leaving Tommy alone; the Purple Bird of Paradise tells him that his friends are on Spider Monkey Island so with the help of the porpoises Tommy reaches the island and the crew. Doolittle finds out from catching a Jabizri, a rare beetle, that Long Arrow is stuck inside Hawk’s Head Mountain so they try to find an opening but fail so they use the Jabizri to locate it. When they find a slab in the mountain they dig under it until it collapses and Long Arrow is free. The Doctor finds out from the people of the island that the island is going southward and is going to perish so the doctor gets some whales to push the island back to South America.
After this the Doctor is told by the Popsipetels, the people of the island, that they will be attacked soon by their rivals the Bag-jagderags so the Doctor uses the birds of the island as well as the Popsipetels to battle them. The Doctor and his army win but the people then decide after so much he did for them that they would crown him king of their island. So for many months the doctor rules the island and makes good changes for the Popsipetels. The Doctor abandons Spider Monkey Island and sets off with Polynesia, Tommy, Matthew, Chee-Chee and Jip and makes his journey. When they come back to England the Doctor and his crew go back to Puddleby in the doctor’s house.
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