The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

Series: The Hundred and One Dalmatians (#1)
Shelved: Classic (children’s)
Published: 1956
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #12
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my last post for the 2015 Classics Challenge – you can now join the 2016 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!

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.”

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

16 thoughts on “The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

  1. I absolutely love the movie for 101 Dalmations! It’s possibly my favourite Disney film… Okay no, let’s be honest, I love them all!
    But one of the most memorable things about it is the song “Cruella De Vil”. I sing that all the time and once when my school’s music concert was Disney themed, that was the song I secretly wanted to sing.

  2. The sequel, The Twilight Barking, is better.

    I had forgotten about how different Cruella is in the book, I think we’d consider Smith a wee bit racist nowadays. I Capture the Castle is a much better book though, more rounded and better written.

  3. Love the images! Planning to write about my childhood classic favourites this week too. They never grow old! Gorgeous blog.

  4. Interesting comment about Cruella’s appearance! Hmm. As for the racist/sexist undertones, it’s fun (in a strange way, so maybe “fun” isn’t the appropriate word) to spot them now, 60 years later, and feel uncomfortable about it. It suggest we’ve made progress in the right direction (but there’s still more to cover, of course. Always evolving, humans!).

    I’m gonna have to read this.

  5. Sounds like an adorable book! If I ever get the chance, I’ll have to read it.

  6. Love researching for picture books for my kids. I found one they really love, “Cooking With Mr. C.” I found a link where they tell all about it and the author as well. I’m predicting an early Caldecott honor. Thanks for all the great work you post on here. It’s appreciated by parents.

  7. Hmmm. I’ve seen the movie about a hundred times — but I didn’t even know it was a book. Guess I’ve got to go to the library! 🙂

  8. Definitely going to have to read this! I somehow had no idea it was based on a book!

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