Barks, Dogs, and Spots REVIEWING The 101 Dalmatians

Welcome back to The Real World According To Sam! Today there will be two posts. This first one is a review of a novel which was adapted into films. Why? Because it is Magic Monday and it is also the 60th anniversary of the Walt Disney animated feature, One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Later this year is also an anniversary for the live action version, so I will do the movies as separate posts from the book. So this post is the book review. The movie review will be up a little later today. 

The 101 Dalmatians

Author: Dodie Smith
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Year: 1956

The 101 Dalmatians


This is Dodie Smith's classic tale about 101 Dalmatians and their fight for survival against the evil Cruella De Vil. When Missis and Pongo's puppies go missing, the two Dalmatian parents know the scary Cruella De Vil has had something to do with it. After all, she adores furs, and the Dalmatians have such beautiful coats. The dogs' pets, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly, don't understand them, so it is up to Pongo and Missis to rescue their pups - with the help of all the dogs in England. The Hundred and One Dalmatians is an all-time classic children's book. Famously adapted by Walt Disney Studios, it continues to be one of the most popular children's books.   


The 101 Dalmatians is a classic novel that I hadn't yet had the pleasure of reading. A few years ago I found out it was a book, but my to read list is super long. When I saw that this year is a big anniversary year for the animated feature AND the live action film, I thought it'd be a good year to read it. So let's get right into it. 

This book tells the story of a lot of Dalmatians. Pongo and his wife, Mrs. Pongo, live with Mr. and Mrs. Dearly. One day, Mrs. Pongo gives birth to a few puppies. She has a hard time nursing, but luckily the Dearlys are able to find another Dalmatian named Perdita. Perdita had recently had a litter of puppies, but her humans sold them and her husband lives far away with different humans. This means she is all alone with plenty of milk. She becomes a kind of nursemaid to Mrs. Pongo, helping to care for the puppies. Everything is fine, up until Cruella de Vil comes over and shows interest in the puppies. The rest is the story you probably know. The puppies are dognapped, Pongo and Mrs. Pongo go out to find them, and eventually there are a total of 101 Dalmatians. 

This book is very charming. It is also a relatively short book. The copy I read was under 200 pages (around 184). I took a couple of days to go through it because I really wanted to savor it. The writing is straightforward, but enchanting. It is told from the perspective of Pongo and the other canines in the cast. Pongo and Mrs. Pongo undergo extreme conditions and push themselves hard to locate and save their puppies. 

The story is straightforward and well known. With the help of a network of dogs across the English countryside, a pair of parents are able to locate their young. The puppies were stolen by an evil woman who wants to kill them all so she can have a coat made out of their fur, because she really likes furs. The characters aren't too detailed, but they are all recognizable and enjoyable to read about. Cruella is truly a cruel woman and her love for furs is ridiculous. She has two henchmen who aren't the brightest tools in the shed. The dogs are the ones that really shine though. A couple of the puppies are focused on and developed more than the rest. It is easy enough to see the different personalities of each of the dogs. Pongo and Mrs. Pongo are very determined in finding their puppies. The dogs they meet along the way are incredibly helpful and interesting to read about. 

The book and the movies are incredibly similar with only a few changes overall. I will talk about those moreso when I discuss the movie. To name a short couple, Pongo is not married to Perdita. Perdita is a separate Dalmatian, outside of the family entirely. Also, the number of Dalmatians in the title refers specifically to ALL of the Dalmatians, including the adults, not just the puppies, in case anyone was wondering. 

This is a very heartwarming book and it has a slight sense of adventure to it, while still feeling very relaxed. The pacing is consistent and driving, but it doesn't rush too quickly past any details. Each stop Pongo and Mrs. Pongo make is purposeful and every dog they talk to has an important part of their life to share. Each stop and each bark allows us to gain a deeper insight into the world of dogs. I enjoyed this book and I do want to eventually read the sequel, The Starlight Barking. I liked the story and I liked the characters. I would definitely love to spend more time running and barking alongside the canines. Seeing the world from their perspective was fun. I give The 101 Dalmatians a Lone Star rating of ✯✯✯✯. I think this book can definitely continue to be enjoyed by new readers for many years to come. The story is simple enough, but deep and emotional enough to really make a lasting impression.

This concludes another review here at The Real World According to Sam, where I bring the books to your computer screen and even put in my two cents about them!