LOVE THAT DOG: A NOVEL by Susan Creech (Scholastic, 2001)
HONORS: Carnegie Medal finalist;
REVIEW: On September 13, Jack writes down in his notebook that he does not want to write poetry, because “boy’s don’t write poetry. Girl’s do.” By the end of the book, on June 6th, Jack writes a letter thanking Walter Dean Myers for writing the poem, “Love That Boy” and for coming to talk to his class. Jack’s evolution over the course of the year is moving and inevitable and Creech reveals worlds of emotion through his changing relationship to poetry and his ability to write it. By weaving in snippets of, and references to, canonical poems, (“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Red Wheelbarrow” among others) Creech hints at a deeper world and poetry’s ability to transcend resistance and grief. That said, the narrative is the opposite of stuffy, and Jack is a compelling but typical kid. His growth over the course of the year is not miraculous. It is natural. But that manner in which he experiences it is true poetry.
OPINION: Creech tells the moving story of a boy’s relationship to his dog and his growth over the course of a year with a spare, poetic grace. Structurally, Love That Dog could not be more sound, mixing prose and poetry seamlessly and effectively to communicate story, emotion and the accessibility of poetry with simple, stunning efficiency. I realize that I’m gushing, but I was simply blown away. And the back matter Creech includes at the end only deepens the reader’s appreciation for, and understanding of, the topic.
IDEAS: It’s a fantastic discussion book and would do well as a quick book club selection or intro to a unit on poetry. Would also do well in a poetry display with Robert Frost, Walter Dean Myers and William Carlos Williams, among others.