An amazing Christmas present …
I received this wonderful book as a Christmas present when I was a young boy and loved it, reading it many times over the years. The copy I received as a present had the older cover shown near the bottom of this post.
I have read many dog stories over the years including Juneau the Sleigh Dog, White Fang, Call of the Wild, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Frosty, and, of course, Beautiful Joe, which was always one of my favorites.
I guess I have recently had a resurgence of interest in dog stories because a dog plays a key role in my book Serpents Underfoot and its upcoming sequel, Montagnard.
I tried to order a copy with the same cover as the edition I originally was given, but could only find it through ABE Books, and the seller wanted $275 for it. So, I settled for a newer edition from Amazon. But, how I wish I still had my original copy!
A truly wonderful tale …
This is indeed one of the most beloved stories in the English language
Originally published as a novel in 1894, “Beautiful Joe” is based on the true story of a real dog from the town of Meaford in southern Ontario. Written by Margaret Marshall Saunders in 1893, this wonderful, heartwarming book was the first Canadian book to sell one million copies and it was the winning entry in a literary contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society.
Margaret Saunders originally heard the tale of this dog, who had actually been abused and then rescued as depicted in the story, from her sister-in-law, Louise Moore and it was Louise’s father, Walter Moore, who had rescued the dog on which this tale is based in 1890.
About Beautiful Joe
The real Beautiful Joe was an Airedale-type dog. He was medium-sized, brown, and described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier. He was also described as a mongrel, a cur, and a mutt.
The town of Meaford now has a park and statue honoring the real Beautiful Joe and, in 1994, a private heritage society was created to preserve the Moore home and establish a museum.
The story is told as an autobiography from the dog’s point of view and recounts his earliest memories of his mother, their cruel owner, and his rescue after being horribly abused, as well as his wonderful life with the “Morris” family. Beautiful Joe is inspired to tell his life’s story in the belief that it will please his mistress.
And indeed, Saunders’s story immediately makes reference to the story of Black Beauty in her story, Beautiful Joe. Saunders does not refer to the book by name but instead, writes (from Joe’s perspective) “I have seen my mistress laughing and crying over a little book that she says is a story of a horse’s life”.
Joe goes on to explain that he will write the story of a dog’s life, to similarly please his owner. Within the narrative of this story, Beautiful Joe is directly inspired to tell his tale by the story of Black Beauty.
Saunders bases her fictionalized version of the story in a small town in Maine, and recounts the many wonderful adventures of Joe and the other animals and people in and around the “Morris” family farm. The farm, it’s little barn and barnyard are the scene for many delightful tales that will warm your heart, make you chuckle, and even perhaps bring a tear to your eye.
Perhaps most importantly, hidden within “Beautiful Joe,” is a powerful call to end cruelty to animals. And, it is a message the author delivers effectively through the vehicle of a narrative that can be enjoyed and loved by generations of readers, both young and old.
My thoughts …
It was a real pleasure to read Joe’s story again. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, that I think I may re-read some of the other dog tales mentioned above. And, I guess as I do, I will review them here.
I give this book an easy Five Out of Five Stars for readers of all ages. Margaret Marshall Saunders’ tale clearly illustrates why dogs have earned their reputation for being man’s best friend..