Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Beautiful Joe

I adored this book as a child--more than adored it. This story lit every capillary in my body on fire.When my mother called me for dinner, I didn’t want to leave the pages. Everything inside my ten-year-old body was invested in the outcome of this puppy that was suffering abuse by a sadistic man.  Beautiful Joes’ ears had been cut off and his sweet soul was heading for early, horrendous death by a cruel miller.

Now, many decades later, I have discovered that Beautiful Joe was based on a  true story and that the book I read so long ago was, in fact, an international bestseller. I had no idea! I only knew that I needed to save this dog and prayed, as I turned the pages, that the young boy in the book, my hero, would save him for me.

Written in 1893 by Margaret Marshall Saunders, I discovered this lovely website where you can learn a whole more about Ms Saunders who in 1934 was recognized for furthering the humane treatment of animals.

I also found this short recap of what inspired Saunders to write the book:  

In 1892, in the town of Meaford, Ontario, Margaret Marshall Saunders was introduced to Beautiful Joe--a mongrel dog that had been cruelly mutilated by its owner. The author was inspired to write this true story to emphasize the plight of domestic animals everywhere.  Upon publication, Beautiful Joe quicly became a Canadian classic, enchanting readers of all ages. Although Margaret Saunders relocated the story of Beautiful Joe to a fiction town in Maine, readers know the story is actually based in Meaford, where a park and monument have been dedicated to the dog's memory."

And this interesting tidbit from Amazon about why Saunders called herself Marshall Saunders (and not Margaret):

"Published in 1893, Beautiful Joe was the first Canadian book to sell a million copies and was extremely popular in America, too (selling almost a million copies by 1900). A work of fiction told from the dog's point of view, it is based upon the true story of an abused dog (in the tradition of 1877's Black Beauty). It reflects many of the unfortunate realities of society in those days, but it had an incredible impact upon the Western world's ideas about humane treatment of animals. Interestingly, it is still published with the author listed as Marshall Saunders. In fact, it was written by Margaret Marshall Saunders, and published using her middle name since it was felt that no one would want to buy a book written by a woman. (She was in fact the first woman to write a book which sold a million copies!) Every animal shelter and rescue organization in America and Canada owes a debt to Beautiful Joe."

Do you know this book? Have you read it? Do you have a copy of it? Tell me, please!

I’m off to order it, thrilled and grateful that this story is still alive.


  1. Read this book many years ago as a boy of ten or so. It should be required reading in all schools.

  2. Hi, Dale. I love knowing you read it as a boy. Thanks for visiting here and sharing your thoughts. Of course, I agree.

  3. Due to a headache since birth, I tried to read as little as possible as a child (it made my headache worse). However, somehow, and I cannot recall how, I got a copy of this book and read it. I remember when reading it that my mother had to call my name three times before I heard her (she was standing right behind me). :) What an amazing book! I now own a 1903 edition I bought online, and I have the 2nd book as well (sadly, I have yet to read it though....36 years and the headache is still there).
    This book should be in every school and every home! I will always cherish it!

  4. What a beautiful story, Roxanne Blackford. How lucky that you own a 1903 edition. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Very moving to say the least. Best, Jessica