Book Review: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

If that is a poem
about the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
then any words
can be a poem.
You've just got to

Written ostensibly as a class diary, Love That Dog is a simple and brilliant introduction to the nuts and bolts of poetry. Its author, Jack, begins his journal entirely opposed to writing any poems of his own. Then he begins to journal his reactions to the poetry that Miss Stretchberry introduces during class and as he does so he begins to discover what it is about poetry that makes it so special.

It's a one-sided dialogue between a student and his teacher, discussing the ins and outs of poetry, and the humour and wit that unfolds through Jack's observations easily draws a reader into the narrative. And beyond the subject of poetry, there is a strong emotional narrative that Jack doesn't like to speak or write about as readily as his critiques of what makes a poem or his observations of what he likes about the poetry of Walter Dean Myers. Though it seems simple, the difficult story of a boy and why he won't talk about his dog dovetails beautifully with Jack's metamorphosis, through the pages of his journal, from a boy who scorns poetry as something for girls into a student with burgeoning confidence in his own skills and views about poetry.

In and of itself, Love That Dog works to demystify poetry as a subject and, through Jack's journey, shows off why the poetic form endures even today. Beyond that, in asking what makes a poem, why poetry needs to be studied, and without handholding readers through the answers -- Love That Dog makes a case for the power of poetry to translate emotions into pieces of art that anyone can make and anyone can understand. In Jack's 'play' with poetry in his journal and the way that Creech deftly works with different simple and fun poetic forms, the book delivers an affectionate and powerful demonstration of how poetry matters.

Excellent for kids beginning to learn about poetry, or just anyone who enjoys thoughtful books and poetry. It also works very well as a book to read aloud. Love That Dog is currently available at Woods in the Books and Books Ahoy!

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