HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Greyfriars Bobby
Author: Eleanor Atkinson
Publisher: Waverley Books Ltd., republished in 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0899668192 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0899668194 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1855349261 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1855349264 Paperback
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Atkinson, Eleanor. Greyfriars Bobby (originally published in 1912; republished in 1999 by Geddes and Grosset, 144 Port Dundas Rd., Glasgow, G40HZ, Scotland). The story begins in 1858 when Bobby is a young, slate gray, Highland Skye terrier who lives on a sheep farm in the Pentland Hills outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. He claims as his master an old shepherd named John Gray, age 63, generally known simply as Auld Jock, although the dog actually is owned by the tenant of Cauldbrae farm where the shepherd works. That winter the farmer has to let Auld Jock go for lack of work, and the elderly shepherd rents a room in Edinburgh. Bobby runs away from the farm to be with Jock, is returned to the farm, runs back to the ailing shepherd, and is with him when he dies of heart failure and pneumonia. Auld Jock is buried in Greyfriars Kirk cemetery, and Bobby goes back to the farm.
However, the little dog returns again to the graveyard to watch over his master’s grave and, even though animals are not supposed to be permitted in the cemetery, is allowed to remain for the next eight years. He is providied for by the cemetery caretaker, Mr. Brown, and his wife; a local dining room owner, Mr. Traille; and some of the children who live in the tenements near Greyfriars Kirk. However, a local policeman wants to take Bobby away because he has no collar. Then the terrier escapes and follows a regiment on a march into the surrounding hills. What will happen to Bobby? Will he be able to return? This is a charming tale that is based on fact, and a life-size stature of Bobby still stands in Edinburgh to commemorate his devotion and loyalty. Several men are said to smoke pipes, but there is no bad language or any other major objections.
Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson (1863–1942) was an American author, journalist, and teacher. She was born Eleanor Stackhouse in Rensselaer, IN, and later married Francis Blake Atkinson, himself also an author. A teacher in schools in both Indianapolis, IN, and Chicago, IL, she also wrote for the Chicago Tribune under the pseudonym “Nora Marks” during the late 1890s, and later became publisher of the Little Chronicle Publishing Company, Chicago, which published several of her own works, along with other educational books and the Little Chronicle, an illustrated newspaper intended for young children. Whilst she wrote both fiction and non-fiction, the former mostly romances and the latter mostly educational books, she is best known for her 1912 novel Greyfriars Bobby, which was the basis for the film Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog by Disney in 1961. The biggest complaint about the book is the difficulty of the dialogue with its Scottish spellings, and it is also true that the plot moves rather slowly at times, but it is well worth the effort.