March 17, 2009

Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

I am not much of a book-written-in-verse fan. I read Out Of The Dust when it came out and if the story hadn't creeped me out so much, I probably still wouldn't have been a big fan since the blank verse just did not appeal to me. But I loved Love That Dog and Hate That Cat. They are terrific books even if you think you won't like a book written in poetry.

I fell in love with Sharon Creech when I listened to Walk Two Moons on CD two summers ago and these two books have renewed my fervent fandom.

Love That Dog is about Jack, whose teacher, Mrs. Stretchberry, introduces the class to some famous poems and has them write responses to it in blank verse and then write their own versions of the poems they've enjoyed. The whole book is Jack's responses to what they've read or listened to in class and sometimes his replies back to Mrs. Stretchberry's critiques and encouragement (which you never see, since this is only Jack's words in the book).

Jack really falls in love with Walter Dean Myers, particularly his poem "Love That Boy," and writes his own version called "Love That Dog," about his own dog, Sky, which turns out to be so much more than just a simple poem about a friendly dog.

Hate That Cat picks up the next school year where Mrs. Stretchberry is once again Jack's teacher and they focus again on poetry, beginning with some of the poems they'd studied the year before. "The wheelbarrow poem again?" Jack writes. "Did you forget we read it last year?"

He also talks about his Uncle Bill who thinks it's only real poetry if it rhymes and has long grand lines. William Carlos Williams' poems about wheelbarrows and plums are just crocks, in Uncle Bill's opinion.

This year they learn more about specific literary devices, like metaphor and simile and onomatopoeia and alliteration, and Jack begins working them into his own poems with varying degrees of success.

I laughed aloud when they read "Poem" by William Carlos Williams and Jack said, "The title is POEM (Is Mr. William Carlos Williams a little lazy?)."

I can't wait to share these books with my kids, introducing them to a grand variety of wonderful poems and poets, methods of writing, and literary devices. That makes them sound like they might be those horrible kinds of books that "disguise learning with a story" but are really painfully obvious. Creech's books are nothing of the sort - discussing onomatopoeia is completely natural in context and blends right into the story.

The original poems - by William Carlos Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, T. S. Elliot and others - are in the back of the books, so you can look at them for reference.

These are very quick reads - you can knock each volume out in an hour or less. And you should. They're worth every second.

Even if you don't like poetry, I think you'll love these books. Just read them.

14 comments:

  1. And I love that Jack changes his mind about cats via the poetry and the writing. For little volumes, they do a splendid job giving us insight into Jack's growth as a learner and as a person. Love, love, love these books!

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  2. I really think "Love That Dog" is a great way to interest children in poetry. I read it with a group of 3rd graders and I've read it to my 2nd graders too and they all loved it.

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  3. My husband (a teacher) brought home "Love that Dog" as a giveaway from a publishing company, and I LOVED it! I didn't know there was another, I'll be putting that on hold at the library today!

    Amen to Out of the Dust...

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  4. You are going to be every teacher/student's dream librarian--one that can find a book for every child because you've read such a variety!

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  5. I didn't know there was a sequel either - loved this one, not so much Karen Hesse.

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  6. This looks truly, truly enjoyable.

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  7. My dad gave us that book (Love That Dog) when we had Jack. I was just thinking he's finally a good age to enjoy it. Thanks for the inspiration! We'll have to check out Hate That Cat too.

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  8. I LOVE Love That Dog. I hadn't heard of it until my children's lit teacher read it aloud to us (she was SO good at read alouds). I've loved it ever since and read it to my 2nd graders last year. I had no idea there was a sequel - I'll have to buy it (I already own 3 copies of LTD...something could happen to one of them, you never know).

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  9. love that dog is really cute. and i didn't even know about the cat. i actually like books in verse. my high schoolers have been asking for them lately so i'm going to order a whole bunch.

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  10. Sharon Creech lived "down the road" from us in NJ. My favorite story about her is that when she won the Newbery she was living in England with her husband who was a headmaster. She had to ask her editor what the Newbery was. Her editor replied, "Your life just changed." I have 25 copies of Love That Dog.

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  12. I'll have to try it. Walk Two Moons is probably on my top five. . . wait, make that top ten . . . okay well at least some book list involving young adults, journeys, native culture, and/or layered storytelling.

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  13. Love That Dog is one of our favorite books, but we haven't read Hate That Cat yet. In fact, I didn't even know it existed. So know I'm going to have to find it. Thanks for the tip.

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  14. My sister adores Sharon Creech, and owns every book she's written! I've read a few and also love them, and then I saw her speak at the book festival in Washington, DC a few years ago. She was so amazing! She pulled a few kids from the audience and had them read and act out part of her new book, totally impromptu, and it was awesome. She is so naturally kind and easy to click with, the kids and everyone in the audience were immediately comfortable and felt so intimate with her. It was great. If you ever get a chance to see her in person, don't miss it!

    (I think I got to your blog today from a comment on RA's blog. Nice to "meet" you.)

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