HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Beautiful Joe: The Autobiography of a Dog
Author: Margaret Marshall Saunders
Illustrators: William M. Hutchinson, Charles Copeland
Publisher: Bibliotech Press, republished 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1618955708 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1618955705 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0771079405 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0771079400 Paperback
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Saunders, Margaret Marshall. Beautiful Joe: The Autobiography of a Dog (Published in 1893 by The Judson Press of The American Baptist Publication Society; republished in 1920 by Grosset and Dunlap Publishers, New York City, NY). Joe is a medium-sized, brown Airedale-type dog, described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier, in the town of Fairport, ME. He was originally owned by a local milkman named Jenkins, who cruelly abused the dog to the point of near death, and even cut off his ears and tail. Rescued by a young man named Harry Gray from what likely would have been a violent and painful death, he is taken to the home of Harry’s cousins, the Morrises. Mr. Morris is a minister, and his children, daughter Laura and sons Jack, Carl, Ned, and Willie, have all kinds of animals as pets. The Morris boys add “Beautiful” to the dog’s name. Can Joe survive his mistreatment? Will he stay with the Morrises? And how does he react with the other animals?
Margaret Marshall Saunders (1861–1947), a Canadian author, was born in the village of Milton, Nova Scotia, where her father was a Baptist minister. Beautiful Joe was a real dog in Meaford, Ontario, who was rescued in 1890 and whose story inspired her bestselling 1893 novel-length, fictionalized, autobiographical version of it entitled Beautiful Joe, told from the dog’s point of view, which contributed to worldwide awareness of animal cruelty, seeking to do for dogs what Anna Sewell did for horses in Black Beauty. In addition, the book deals with other social ills of the day, including poverty, child neglect, and especially the evils of drink. Some don’t like the book. One reader reviewer wrote, “Every page literally this woman went on and on…proselytizing either her religious views, humane treatment views, societal problems, etc….Very judgmental.” Of course, if a person has no fixed moral standard, any firm sense of right and wrong becomes “judgmental.”
I’ll admit that the author gets a little heavy at times on the humane treatment of animals but nowhere nearly so bad as the P.E.T.A., “animals are people too’ types. Another just said, “Don’t waste your time reading this one. There are much better dog stories out there.” I guess that it all just depends on what one likes and is looking for. Most people enjoyed the book. One person wrote, “Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography of a Dog was even more delightful than I’d hoped!” Another called it “a sweet book that was difficult to put down,” saying, “Dog people will especially enjoy this book.” Still another noted that “the story is made a little tedious by its anecdotal style, but appropriate for the child with good focus and attention span.” I liked it. Various editions have illustrations by different artists. In 1902, a sequel, Beautiful Joe’s Paradise, was published.