Love That Dog: A Novel by Joan Koerper

Sixty-six. That was the final tally of books I read for the “50 Book Challenge” this past February. Sponsored by the San Bernardino County Library, the reward for checking out and reading fifty books was a book bag. I didn’t need another book bag. But I thought that participating would be a way to catch up on some award-winning children’s and young people’s books, revisit old favorites, and explore new-to-me adult reads. It was a terrific adventure.

One of my selections goes hand-in-hand with National Poetry Month. Love That Dog: A Novel is penned by Newbery Medal Award winner Sharon Creech. Meant for readers ages 8-12, like most books for young people, to me, it is also a book for people well beyond age 12.

The inside front book cover reads, in part, “This is the story of Jack / who finds his voice / with the help of / paper / pencil / teacher / and / dog.”

Jack, the storyteller, is a student in room 105. Miss Stretchberry is his teacher. The class is exploring poetry: both writing and reading it. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“September 13

I don’t want to

Because boys

Don’t write poetry.

Girls do.


September 21

I tried.

Can’t do it.

Brain’s empty.”

A novel in poetic form, chronicling Jack’s struggles to overcome his “empty brain,” the story proceeds throughout the school year until the last entry dated June 6. His discoveries along the way, and eventual glee at his newfound form of expression, will invite you to laugh out loud, perhaps remind you of your own melee with poetry, and touch your heart.

Hand in hand with Jack’s poetic scuffle is the encouragement, and patient nurturing, Ms. Stretchberry offers her students. Indeed, Creech dedicates the book in part, “…to all the poets / and Mr.-and-Ms. Stretchberrys/who inspire students every day.”

An excellent read you will want to revisit again and again, Love That Dog, A Novel, was published in 2001 by Joanna Cotler Books, An Imprint of Harper Collins. Eight-eight pages.

Treat yourself.