Creech, Sharon. 2001. Love that dog. New York: HarperTrophy.
Reading this interesting book in this unique genre of verse novels has left me a little puzzled. On the one hand, I really enjoyed and appreciated the story of Jack and his poetry notebook and his dog. What educator among us doesn’t like the story of a kid who gets turned on about something he’s being taught in the classroom? On the other hand, it’s not the kind of poetry I’m used to reading. Some of it seemed like nothing more than short, choppy prose, like the entry from October 10, page 5 in my copy:
“You didn’t say before
that I had to tell why.
The wheelbarrow guy
didn’t tell why.”
That’s not to say that none of the main text of the poem contains poetic elements. There is repetition, like on October 4, page 4:
“Do you promise
not to read it
Do you promise
not to put it
on the board?”
and part of the entry from October 24 on page 9 has nice rhythm and onomatopoeia:
“Some of the tiger sounds
are still in my ears
Of course, Jack does write some excellent poetry in response to his teacher’s requests, like his “Blue Car” poem, meant to be like William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow:”
a blue car
spattered with mud
speeding down the road.”
This poem has great imagery, even if the reader has no idea what significance the blue car has to the boy yet. Jack says he doesn’t like it, but I think he is still struggling with understanding what poetry is. What he says about this in his entry on January 17, pages 22 & 23, is that “maybe the wheelbarrow poet was just making a picture with words and someone else—like maybe his teacher—typed it up and then people thought it was a poem because it looked like one typed up like that.” He doesn’t realize that making a picture with words, the right words, is poetry.
The story is entertaining and maybe a little inspiring. It has some good poetry in it. Perhaps the best part is that it’s told in very few words, which is a great boon to struggling readers who have a hard time with sheer volume of words in the traditional novel. I’m glad I read this book and I think I will try to recommend it to my students where it is appropriate.