Sharon Creech’s Love That Dog is a unique and special book. On the surface, it is a simple story told through poetry. But that story works its magic in devious and mysterious ways. The young protagonist, Jack, who thinks he doesn’t like poetry, is compelled to endure a poetry unit. Every week his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, shares poetry with the class and then expects them to write their own. Jack thinks he can’t write any poetry, but it is Sharon Creech’s genius that even his initial objection comes out as poetry nonetheless. The first page reads, in its entirety:
I don’t want to.
Because boys don’t write poetry.
Creech uses this simple, magical method to create a story in which Jack explores the poetry of Robert Frost, writes his own poem about his dog, and eventually invites the poet Walter Dean Meyers to his school. It is a short book – it can be read in a single sitting – but so touching and moving that it begs to be lingered over. We recommends that your families read it over two weeks, giving them time to explore the book and the referenced poems, and maybe even write some poetry together. Love That Dog is a great choice to read in conjunction with National Poetry Month (April), to help foster students’ interest in reading and writing poetry.
Love That Dog teaches readers and listeners alike to slow down and appreciate the phrases, images, moments, and turns of phrase that make up good poetry – and good prose, too. In presentations to parents on How to Read Aloud, Read to Them’s Bruce Coffey uses an excerpt from Love That Dog to illustrate his one, over-arching meta-tip: How to read prose like poetry. It is a lesson well-learned through the pleasure of a simple, effective story – the story of a boy writing about his dog.