Tag: Autobiography

Beautiful Joe: A Dog’s Story

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 …

beautiful joe

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.

beautiful joe
The cover of my original edition of Beautiful Joe

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..

ON THE BATTLEFIELD: A Book Review

ON THE BATTLEFIELD: A Memoir of an Ethiopian Airborne Soldier

On the Battlefield: A Memoir of an Ethiopian Airborne Soldier tells the incredible story of one of Ethiopia’s most celebrated combat generals.  

battlefield

Brigadier General Tesfaye Habtemariam is one of Ethiopia’s greatest military leaders. General Habtemariam’s career spanned three decades and survived three different Ethiopian governments. From 1964 to 1991, he commanded troops on the battlefield in nearly every engagement in which the Ethiopian military saw action.

Drawing on his wartime journals, notes, letters and memories, Habtemariam discusses his childhood and military career. From working with Israeli commandos to form a new “Special Forces” unit to establishing the Anti-hijacking Office.  From training several Ethiopian Airborne Battalions to commanding several large units, Habtemariam served his country as only a true patriot would.

This fascinating memoir details military actions on the battlefield as well as covert operations behind enemy lines and includes detailed diagrams, battle plans, and photographs. General Habtemariam shares details of the heroic escape in which he and his few remaining men, half-starved and out of ammunition, prepared to fight to the death. Charging the enemy position with fixed bayonets, they discover it suddenly abandoned. The enemy just pulled out! Now, instead of dying in battle, they find themselves struggling to cross a dangerous desert wasteland to rejoin their forces … hopefully living to fight another day.

Tesfaye Habtemariam took part in eight major battles. He later commanded a battalion in the Special Forces, the 18th Mountaineer Division, and the Airborne Training School.  Finally, he became the Army Commander of the Tewodros Force. Brigadier General Tesfaye Habtemariam received the “Hero of Ethiopia” medal from a grateful nation after thirty years of selfless sacrifice and service to his country.

If you enjoy military history, this is one book you will definitely want in your collection.

A fascinating read!

battlefield

I received an advance release copy of this book and found it to be a fascinating read. It provided a window into a military history I previously knew so little about. This book is not just the memoir of an Ethiopian military general and hero. It is also  the story of Ethiopia’s attempts to rebuild itself. Ethiopia struggled to reshape and regain its independence from European administration after the Italian invasion and occupation during World War II.

In addition it is also a story about sacrifice, honor, victory and yes, even defeat. It is about bureaucratic incompetence, individual heroics, and a people willing to die to defend their brothers-in-arms and their country.

There is an interesting flair to the  narrative. This  makes it a different yet enjoyable read. Originally written by Tesfaye Habtemariam in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, it was later translated into English. Therefore, the prose has a unique character, but is very clear and easy to read.  I give this book 5 Stars and recommend it to anyone interested in military history.

Soon to be released

ON THE BATTLEFIELD is now out in Kindle and paperback. 

Check out other great posts and book reviews here!

Stuart Hopkins: No Gray Areas, An Autobiography

No Gray Areas … The Autobiography of Stuart Hopkins

stuart hopkinsStuart Hopkins is truly a real-life ‘Piano Man.” In his autobiography, No Gray Areas, Hopkins writes of his life experiences as an international hotel pianist. It is indeed quite a story, and one that will tug at your heartstrings.

From his early childhood years living with a distant, abusive father and his alcoholic mother to working as a pianist in some of the finest hotels in Southeast Asia, Stuart Hopkin’s life story runs the complete gamut from wondrous and magnificent experiences to seeing first hand some of the worst tragedy, heartbreak, and sadness life can send our way. Beginning with his first paid gig at age fifteen at the Broom Grange Hotel near his home to gigs on ships and international hotels, and through several near brushes with death, No Gray Areas, tells the fascinating tales of human interaction, some hilarious and some tragic.

 

Thailand Tsunami of 2004

In his autobiography, Hopkins tells the tale of working at a hotel in Phuket, Thailand during the Tsunami of 2004. He writes about families comforting each other in the hotel lobby bar,. These people are just happy to still be together after such a disaster. Guests were comforting complete strangers. Members of the hotel staff were hugging and crying with guests. The author writes, “The most heartbreaking thing I saw were those guests who’d come to Thailand with their loved ones. Many who would be traveling home next to an empty seat.”

Hopkins survived the tragic Tsunami  in Thailand as well as three months spent in a brutal Thai prison on false charges of fraud. He writes of having a beer in a ship’s bar with the ghost of his long dead brother.  In addition, he tells of breaking a long-standing 30-year soloing record at Norwich Flying School. These are just a few of the stories readers of this compelling autobiography will enjoy.

I recommend this book.