Reviews for Love That Dog
Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 August 2001
Gr. 3-6. In simple free verse, Jack tells his teacher that he cares nothing about poetry and sees no point in that snowy woods stuff: "Why doesn't the person just / keep going if he's got / so many miles to go before he sleeps?". But despite himself, he's enraptured by what his teacher is reading: the beat of "Tiger, tiger burning bright" just won't go away. At the same time, he's writing poetry in his own voice about himself, culminating in a breathtaking poem about what happened to his beloved dog. At the end, Creech overdoes Jack's fawning adoration of author Walter Dean Myers, who comes to school at Jack's behest, but that won't stop kids from recognizing both Jack's new exuberance and his earlier uptight mood. Best of all, the story shows how poetry inspires reading and writing with everyday words that make personal music. This is a book for teachers to read aloud and talk about with kids. Some of the poems Jack's teacher reads are appended, including Myers' wonderful "Love That Boy." ((Reviewed August 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2002 Spring
Jack's free-verse journal charts his evolution from doubt to delight in poetry. His teacher introduces him to poetry, advocates for his writing, and flatters him into believing he's a poet. Unfortunately, he isn't, despite the book's attempt to convince us otherwise. Jack finds a personal connection to poems, but his linguistic banality restricts his expression and limits his voice. Still, his gradual appreciation of poetry is natural and believable. Copyright 2002 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2001 #6
"I don't want to / because boys / don't write poetry. // Girls do." Jack's free-verse journal charts his evolution from doubt to delight in poetry. His teacher, Miss Stretchberry, introduces him to poetry, serves as an advocate for his writing, and flatters him into believing he's a poet. Like an art student diligently copying great masters, Creech has Jack borrowing liberally from the works of others ("Blue car, blue car, shining bright / in the darkness of the night: / who could see you speeding by / like a comet in the sky?") and imitating the form ("I guess it does / look like a poem / when you see it / typed up / like that"). Unfortunately, he is no poet, despite the book's attempt to convince us otherwise. Although Jack finds a personal connection to poems, his linguistic banality restricts his expression of that link and limits his voice. His comparisons are more precious than precocious ("I didn't know about / the spell-checking thing / inside the computer. / It is like a miracle / little brain / in there / a little helper brain"), and, while breathless enthusiasm may show how Jack feels, his verse, as is typical of children's writing, fails to extend such personal response to more universal provocations. Still, Jack's gradual appreciation of poetry is both natural and believable, and the sentence parsing required by the book's format will be a refreshing aid to beginning chapter book readers, whose fluency is threatened by word-by-word reading. The format, generous with white space, allows the book to reach the often-required one hundred pages without containing large chunks of text. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2001 July #1
Versatile Newbery Medalist Creech (A Fine, Fine School, p. 862, etc.) continues to explore new writing paths with her latest, written as free verse from the viewpoint of a middle-school boy named Jack. Creech knows all about reluctant writers from her own years of teaching, and she skillfully reveals Jack's animosity toward books and poetry, and especially about writing his own poems. He questions the very nature of poetry, forcing the reader to think about this question, too. Jack's class assignments incorporate responses to eight well-known poems (included in an appendix) and gradually reveal the circumstances, and Jack's hidden feelings, about the loss of his beloved dog. Jack's poetry grows in length, complexity, and quality from September to May, until he proudly sends his best poem about his dog and a heartfelt thank-you poem to Walter Dean Myers after the author's school visit. The inclusion of the eight poems is an advantage, because comments on the poems are often part of Jack's poetry. Others not already familiar with these famous poems, though, might miss the allusions in Jack's work. (There is no note at the beginning of the book to point the reader to the appendix.) But it's a quick read, offering a chance to go back and look again. Teachers will take this story to heart, recognizing Miss Stretchberry's skilled and graceful teaching and Jack's subtle emotional growth both as a person and a writer. This really special triumph is bound to be widely discussed by teachers and writers, and widely esteemed by Creech's devoted readers. (Fiction/poetry. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2001 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2001 June #3
In last year's Fishing in the Air, Creech took a spare, metaphorical approach to a father-son relationship. Here she examines the bond between a boy and his dog to create an ideal homage to the power of poetry and those who write it. The volume itself builds like a poem. Told exclusively through Jack's dated entries in a school journal, the book opens with his resistance to writing verse: "September 13/ I don't want to/ because boys/ don't write poetry./ Girls do." Readers sense the gentle persistence of Jack's teacher, Miss Stretchberry, behind the scenes, from the poems she reads in class and from her coaxing, to which the boy alludes, until he begins to write some poems of his own. One by William Carlos Williams, for instance, inspires Jack's words: "So much depends/ upon/ a blue car/ splattered with mud/ speeding down the road." A Robert Frost poem sends Jack into a tale (in verse) of how he found his dog, Sky. At first, his poems appear to be discrete works. But when a poem by Walter Dean Myers ("Love That Boy" from Brown Angels) unleashes the joy Jack felt with his pet, he becomes even more honest in his poetry. Jack's next work is cathartic: all of his previous verses seemed to be leading up to this piÃ¨ce de résistance, an admission of his profound grief over Sky's death. He then can move on from his grief to write a poem ("inspired by Walter Dean Myers") about his joy at having known and loved his dog. As in any great poem, the real story surfaces between the lines. From Jack's entries, readers learn how unobtrusively his teacher guides him to poems he can collect and emulate, and how patiently she convinces him to share his own work. By exposing Jack and readers to the range of poems that moves Jack (they appear at the back of the book), Creech conveys a life truth: pain and joy exist side by side. For Jack and for readers, the memory of that dog lives on in his poetry. Readers will love that dog, and this book. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 February #2
"Creech examines the bond between a boy and his dog to create an ideal homage to the power of poetry and those who write it," said PW in a boxed review. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2001 August
Gr 4-8-Jack keeps a journal for his teacher, a charming, spare free-verse monologue that begins: "I don't want to/because boys/don't write poetry./Girls do." But his curiosity grows quickly as Miss Stretchberry feeds the class a varied menu of intriguing poems starting with William Carlos Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow," which confuses Jack at first. Gradually, he begins to see connections between his personal experiences and the poetry of William Blake, Robert Frost, and others, and Creech's compellingly simple plot about love and loss begins to emerge. Jack is timid about the first poems he writes, but with the obvious encouragement and prodding of his masterful teacher, he gains the courage to claim them as his own in the classroom displays. When he is introduced to "Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers, he makes an exuberant leap of understanding. "MARCH 14/That was the best best BEST/poem/you read yesterday/by Mr. Walter Dean Myers/the best best BEST/poem/ever./I am sorry/I took the book home/without asking./I only got/one spot/on it./That's why/the page is torn./I tried to get/the spot/out." All the threads of the story are pulled together in Jack's final poem, "Love That Dog (Inspired by Walter Dean Myers)." Creech has created a poignant, funny picture of a child's encounter with the power of poetry. Readers may have a similar experience because all of the selections mentioned in the story are included at the end. This book is a tiny treasure.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.