The One Hundred & One Dalmatians (1956) by Dodie Smith; read by Martin Jarvis
This is the classic children's story that inspired the animated Disney film. Pongo and Missis (not Perdita!) are enjoying a comfortable newlywed life with their human pets, Mr. & Mrs. Dearly (also newlyweds) when two things happen that will change all their lives significantly. First Mrs. Dearly runs into a woman whom she had gone to school with--Cruella de Vil. And, second, Pongo and Missis are found to be expecting puppies.
Cruella has married a furrier. Which is good for her--since she can never be too warm and constantly wants to be wrapped completely in furs. And she's always on the lookout for new and exotic patterns for furs. She comments on how beautiful the coats of the Dearlys' Dalmatians are...and how Dalmatian coats would make such a lovely fur. If that doesn't make everyone shiver, I don't know what would.
When Pongo and Missis become the parents of fifteen (!) puppies, the entire household is delighted. But fifteen pups are a bit much for Missis to manage feeding, so the Dearlys have to find a mother dog who has lost her own pups and still has milk to give. They are fortunate to find Perdita, a liver-spotted Dalmatian in need of a rescue. And so the eighteen Dalmatians and their humans settle down to a routine of puppy-rearing. Until the unthinkable happens--all fifteen puppies are dognapped and Scotland Yard is baffled. But Pongo has a sneaking suspicion who is behind the crime and sends out an urgent message through the dog-world's message system, the Twilight Barking. Soon every canine in dogdom is on the case and helping the Pongos find their pups...and a whole lot more.
I really enjoyed the original story--a charming tale, though very much of its time. I particularly liked that the dogs who helped the Pongos were featured a bit more than in the Disney film. There are, of course, differences between the printed and filmed versions--mostly, I think, to condense the story into a better length for young audiences. It's a shame that Missis and Perdita were fused into one character in the film, though I can see that having two mothers might have seemed a bit redundant.
The written story is a bit darker, but overall a delightful adventure for all ages. I both listened and then read an online e-copy of the original book--complete with original illustrations. Great fun! ★★★★
I also listened to the audio version read by Martin Jarvis.
First Line: Not long ago, there lived in London a young married couple of Dalmatian dogs named Pongo and Missis Pongo.
Last Line: For in front of every one of the many seats there had been a little carpet-eared, puppy-sized dog bed.