The 101 Dalmatians (The Hundred and One Dalmatians, #1)

By Dodie Smith

35,519 ratings - 4.1* vote

Pongo and Missis had a lovely life. With their human owners, the Dearlys, to look after them, they lived in a comfortable home in London with their 15 adorable Dalmatian puppies, loved and admired by all. Especially the Dearlys' neighbor Cruella de Vil, a fur-fancying fashion plate with designs on the Dalmatians' spotted coats! So, when the puppies are stolen from the Dear Pongo and Missis had a lovely life. With their human owners, the Dearlys, to look after them, they lived in a

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Book details

Hardcover, 184 pages
January 1st 1996 by Barnes Noble

(first published 1956)

Original Title
The Hundred and One Dalmatians
ISBN
0760704066 (ISBN13: 9780760704066)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Merphy Napier

I won't rate this because it's a children's book and I'm obviously not the intended audience, and I think that's a big factor in my enjoyment of this. I thought it was fun, and I could really see myself as a child LOVING it! The detailed way that the dogs think, and how the communicate would have been something my imagination would have run away with, and the grad adventure mixed with the horrible villain would have had me on the edge of my seat. As an adult, my enjoyment mostly came from imagining how I would have reacted to it as a child, and looking forward to reading it to my kid someday. A sweet children's story for sure.

Kelly

When I was little, I got a copy of this book from my grandmother. It was old, the cover was falling off, and the edges of the pages were stained red. I adored it, and read it several times.

Later came the various movies, first the animated version, which was enjoyable, and then the live-action movie, which was awful. None maintained what captivated me most about the story - the inner life of the dogs and their complexity.

Anyway, I was suddenly seized by the need to read it again, and couldn't find my old copy. It must have fallen apart beyond repair, since I certainly would never have let it go otherwise. I got a new copy and when it arrived, devoured the whole thing in one night (it was shorter than it seemed back then).

Still a good story. Still special and to be treasured. As an adult, the datedness of the women characters (Nanny wears pants! Shocking! But she keeps the apron on, so it's ok.) which extends to the female dogs, is more troubling. Even Cruella does not ultimately have control over her life, but is trapped in the winds of change that befall her husband's career.

Other than this, it's still a classic, and still one every kid should read (with maybe a nice chat about feminism after).

Stacey (prettybooks)

This post is part of the 2015 Classics Challenge.

“Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them."

Cruella de Vil is enough to frighten the spots off a Dalmatian pup. But when she steals a whole family of them, the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Missus, lose no time in mounting a daring rescue mission. Will they be in time to thwart Cruella’s evil scheme, or have they bitten off more than they can chew?

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Likely when I first watched the Disney adaptation in the 90s. I'm much more of a cat person, but I've always loved the film and adored Dalmatians!

101

WHY I Chose to Read It
You picked my December classic and The Hundred and One Dalmatians won (27.32% of the vote). It was included in the poll because I wanted to read this newly-published edition, illustrated by Alex T. Smith.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It is written by I Capture the Castle author Dodie Smith, a much-loved children's classic and author.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was hooked on The Hundred and One Dalmatians from the beginning. I loved discovering all the little differences from the story I grew up with and was surprised to discover that our courageous couple is not Pongo and Perdita, but Pongo and Missus. I was pleased to see that all of the animals in the story still had distinct, lovable personalities.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians is written in a wonderful style. It's told almost conversationally, and in a way that is incredibly enjoyable to follow. I read it as if I were floating down a calm river or on a quiet jaunt through the countryside. But combined with the tense – and at times quite frightening – scenes that make Cruella de Vil one of the most notable villains in children's literature, it becomes a brilliant canine adventure. It's also beautifully accompanied by Alex T. Smith's gorgeous illustrations, particularly of the puppies!

Even though I adored the story, I was a little disappointed by the attitude towards some of the female characters and the perpetuation of traditional gender roles, even if it was originally published 60 years ago. I was also intrigued by the description of Cruella de Vil (“She had a dark skin, black eyes with a tinge of red in them, and a very pointed nose.") compared to how she's usually imagined – as a lady with pale skin. If you Google 'Cruella de Vil' and 'dark skin', you get zero results. Why is this?

Even if a little old-fashioned at times, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is still an incredibly charming classic that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a delightful end to the 2015 Classics Challenge.

"Nanny Cook slept dreaming of Dalmatian puppies dressed as babies, and Nanny Butler slept dreaming of babies dresses as Dalmatian puppies."

WILL It Stay A Classic
It's difficult to think of the book without thinking of the film. Would it still be a classic without Disney?

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love illustrated fiction, puppies and children's books.

“Dogs can never speak the language of humans, and humans can never speak the language of dogs. But many dogs can understand almost every word humans say, while humans seldom learn to recognize more than half a dozen barks, if that.”

I also reviewed this book over on Pretty Books.

Richard Derus

This review has been revised and can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

Vikas Singh

What a lovely book. I saw the movie several years back and had greatly enjoyed it. But the book is more enjoyable than the movie. One of the best books on dogs that I have ever read. Lovely reading and a must read , even if you are not a dog lover

Ken

Another one of my childhood favourites that only until recently discovering it was based on a book.
I used to rewatch the Disney Classic numerous times as a kid!

Even though there’s some slight differences, Disney pretty much stayed faithful to Smith’s original story...

The only real difference is Pongo the main Dalmatian is with Missis and we’re introduced to Perdita later on.
The evil Cruella de Vil is hell bent on turning the newly born pups into a fur coat and it’s a race against time to stop her.

I loved the depiction of the dogs, there’s some fun nuggets of the pet and owner relationship.
I also liked that some throw away lines during the first half of the story was picked up later on.

This book far exceeded my expectations, was slightly nervous if it would hold up for me. But it was perfect, the illustrations were a great addition.

MissBecka Gee

Update:
Finally got around to re-watching the movie and while I enjoyed it and will likely watch it again in the future...the book is a better fit for me.

Original Review:
That was certainly a lot darker (and funnier) than what I remember from the Disney version.
Also I feel like a lot of this was changed for the movie.
It's been too long since I've seen it to be sure.
We are gonna re-watch the movie tonight for comparison.
Not sure if my husband and I will bother with the "sequel" book since it looks like it has the barest connection with this one.

Phil

A delightful children's book that I read as a kid (many times) and haven't read since. I decided to read it again to see if it held up and was still fun. It definitely was an entertaining read.

When I was looking it up, I was surprised to see so many Goodreads reviews complaining of sexism or anti-feminine views presented in the book. This was certainly never anything I noticed as a kid, but then, how many kids are clued in to that sort of thing? I found myself reading to enjoy, and also to examine, and my findings are that this book is hardly demeaning of women.

To be clear, I mostly focused on gender roles and the differences portrayed between the sexes, and judged the book thereby.

What first caught my attention was the fact that Mr. Dearly was the primary caregiver to the newborn dalmatian puppies (beyond their mother, Missis). He crawls into the cupboard for two days feeding babies constantly while working long distance over the phone. If traditional gender roles were in play, shouldn't this be Mrs. Dearly's job? This is clearly an inversion of the binary. Secondarily, of the two female nannies, Nanny Butler insists on wearing pants after the Dearlys are married, and back when this written, this was hardly the social norm. Again, a seeming inversion of the stereotype.

What I looked at next was the differences between Pongo and Missis. Pongo can understand human speech, can read, and thinks faster and clearer than Missis. On a cursory reading, it does appear that Pongo is presented as superior, and Missis as inferior, but that isn't the case. It is a clearly established conceit throughout the book that dogs differ in intelligence, and in human understanding. It is quite clearly stated that Pongo played with alphabet blocks and volumes of Shakespeare (thus accounting for his English comprehension) and is even referred to as the "keenest mind in all of dogdom" which establishes his special peculiarity in both intelligence and human understanding. If one considers that a dog learns English much as any other non-native English speaker, this lines up exactly with human experience and is not sexist at all. After all, how much English would you learn if the most common word you heard was your name, and the rest was in condescending baby talk? Probably not even as much as Missis. Also, she clearly seems to be personally disinterested: she simply does not bother or care to learn more, which is a personal choice.

Now, one could make a case for sexism based on the fact that it is Pongo to whom these advantages are given and not to Missis, and if all the dominant traits were Pongo's, I would agree with you, but in almost all other cases, the two dogs are equal. They share equal affection and concern for one another. They equally adopt and feel ownership for all of the other dalmatian puppies, they are equal in their strength and determination throughout their desperate journey. In fact, Missis even trumps Pongo when he is injured by the little boy who throws things. She restrains him from acting against the child in anger; she finds the haystack and forces him to rest; she finds the Spaniel and secures food and lodging for them both. Again, if this were clearly sexist, he would be rescuing her instead of the other way around. In this episode, she is the hero, not the male dog.

There is one episode with the Spaniel in which Missis tries to learn her right from her left and ends up horribly confused and unable to get the two straight, and that could be seen as an indication that the female possess less intelligence, but abstract concepts are hard to grasp for someone that isn't introduced to them from a young age. I am a male, and I am an adult, and I frequently have trouble telling my right from my left. This is humiliating to admit, but it is true. I never bothered to learn them when I was a child, and as an adult, the concept is more difficult to grasp. There is clear research showing that much learning is cemented in the early ages, and the brain becomes more rigid after that. I have managed to decrease my ambiguity about right and left, but it has taken practice and focus. In the story, Missis has much more on her mind, and is clearly emotionally stressed about both her husband and her puppies. It is no wonder, then, that during the heat of the moment she simply became frustrated and couldn't grasp the concept. Again, why her and not Pongo? Again, I think this is part of staying consistent to character rather than making a sexist statement about the inferiority of women. If anything, Missis' lack of education is more Mrs. Dearly's fault that her own for not providing her with Shakespeare to chew on, but then while Mr. Dearly is given barely a few sentences to round out his job and life, we are given almost nothing about Mrs. Dearly. This is, after all, a story about the dogs and not their pets, and so there is precious little from which to draw conclusions. In order to remain un-sexist, one does not have to always choose the female over the male, but must show equality and fair treatment. In all, Missis is Pongo's equal in practically every way that matters. I get the feeling that if Pongo chose to teach her, Missis would learn quite aptly.

Lastly, some people got upset about the fact that the one puppy who was obsessed with television was the youngest female puppy, Cadpig, who was also the weakest, and they called this sexist. I disagree. In fact, this lone, apparently weak female made for Dodie Smith (the author) the most important observation of all. The narrator of the story, not necessarily Smith, appears to be religious. The last building in which the puppies take refuge is a church. Cadpig becomes more obsessed with the nativity on display than she ever was with the television. In the end, she concludes that whoever "owned [the church] - someone very kind she was sure" had set out that refuge for them, complete with puppy sized beds. Clearly she is misinterpreting the reality of a church, as only a young, uneducated puppy can (female or male) but the narrator is using her to make a statement about God: the kindest person who looks out for even the most lost and destitute soul, according to most Christian theologies anyway. It is not insignificant, then, that the smallest and weakest character, through her obsession to the television, is the only one to realize the ultimate reality of good triumphing over the "de Vil". To the woman is given the realization of the theme, plot, and message of the entire story.

Sexist? hardly. if it were, it would be Pongo making that realization. There is every indication that he missed the implication entirely.

Actually, for my own part, I thought that having the villain of the story be a woman, the colorful and deliciously evil Cruella de Vil, could possibly be the strongest argument made for sexism. After all, the woman is the evil one! However, as Cruella's cat explains, her husband was no less evil, just weaker, and in that is the deconstruction of the argument: Cruella is the villain because she is much stronger than her husband, who is made out to be a mostly sympathetic character until his true nature is revealed.

Therefore, between Mr. Dearly inverting the nurturing paradigm, Missis heroically saving her husband, Cadpig realizing the moral of the story, and Cruella trumping her husband's strength, this book is not sexist in the least. At least, in my humble opinion. Read it with an open mind, divorcing yourself of pre-conceived ideas and agendas and decide for yourself.

Over all the book was entertaining, amusing, fun, and quite well written for what is essentially a children's novel. As much as I enjoyed it as a kid, I enjoyed it probably just as much as an adult.

Manny

The part of this book I liked best was the Starlight Barking. Since reading it at age 9 or so, I have observed the phenomenon innumerable times. It's comforting to know what the dogs are really doing. Thank you, Dodie Smith, for explaining it so well.

Three or four years ago, while I was living in Sunnyvale, I saw a remarkable example of how useful the Starlight Barking can be. My friend Beth Ann has two very smart Dobermanns. Late one evening, both of them suddenly started yelping furiously, for no apparent reason. We could just about hear that the mutt next door was also expressing concern. Luckily, Beth Ann is quite fluent in Dog, and knew that she needed to go outside to see what was up. She immediately smelled smoke. The house two doors down was on fire! She called the fire brigade, and, literally within five minutes, we had three giant fire trucks parked outside, blocking the whole street. The dogs looked pleased with the effect their warning had had.

As one does, we went out again to gawp. It wasn't actually that dramatic - the house in question was empty, so no one had to go in and perform a rescue. While we were watching, our neighbor stumbled out of his front door in a bathrobe, looking very sleepy and confused. "Oh... right! So that's why Gromit was so agitated! I see!" He was clearly rather less fluent than Beth Ann.

Mackey

I saw this as a "classic read" and realized that it was yet another book that I never marked as "read."

This was, hands down, one of my kids' favorite books. If you've only ever seen the Disney movies then you definitely should give this book a read. It is a bit different from Disney's version - aren't they always - but the repetitiveness and alliteration in the book make it a delight for children. There is a reason it is a "classic."

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