sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

June 24, 2012

into the stacks: love that dog
posted by soe 11:02 pm

Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech

From the jacket: “This is the story of Jack/who finds his voice/with the help of/paper/pencil/teacher/and/dog.”

My take: In this spare, but evocative book we get a year’s worth of Jack’s weekly poetry assignments from his elementary school teacher, Miss Stretchberry. He starts out short, objecting to the assignment, claiming that a) as a boy, he doesn’t write poetry, and b) he has nothing to say. But by the end of September, he’s responding to the poems being read aloud and answering questions raised by his teacher about his previous work. By the end of October, he’s letting her post his poems on their class bulletin board, but only if she promises not to put his name on them.

As the year progresses, Jack’s comfort with expressing himself with his poetry grows, as does his willingness to allow others know he’s writing it. Miss Stretchberry forces him to dig deep and face fears and leave his comfort zone — and, in the process, gives him the tools to share universal truths.

Creech is a talented writer, because all we get are poems from Jack’s perspective. We aren’t getting his teacher’s comments or his classmates’ reactions. We’re just getting Jack — with comments to his teacher in poetic form or responses to the poetry read that week in class or with thoughts on his life. And yet, within that strict, constrained form, Jack (and Creech) manages to say so much and touch us so deeply. (Thinking about it that way reminds me of the sonnet scene between Meg and Mrs Whatsit in A Wrinkle in Time.)

This was another of the remaining books I had left to read from the 2010 list of top 100 children’s books from the School Library Journal.

Pages: 86 (plus ten or so pages of the published poetry Miss Stretchberry uses in class)

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