Love That Dog Summary

Sharon Creech

Love That Dog

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Love That Dog Summary

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Love That Dog is a 2001 children’s book of free verse poetry written by American author Sharon Creech. It takes the form of a 13-year-old boy’s poetry journal that he grudgingly fills in as part of a school assignment which he hates, because he hates poetry.

Young narrator Jack is in Miss Stretchberry’s English class in Room 105 of his school. The date is September 13 and he writes, “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do.” The next date isn’t until September 21, on which he writes, “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty.”

The next entry is on September 27. Jack complains about the famous, beloved, but frequently misunderstood short poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams. That poem reads,

“so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.”

Of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” Jack writes, “I don’t understand the poem about the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens and why so much depends upon them. If that is a poem about the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens then any words can be a poem. You just have to make short lines.” Humorously, the last three words, “make,” “short,” and “lines,” are all on a separate line. Whether he realizes it or not, Jack appears to have written a meta-commentary on “The Red Wheelbarrow” using the form and verse style of the poem itself. His teachers would be proud.

The next entry is October 4. Here, Jack betrays quite a bit of vulnerability, pleading with his teacher: “Do you promise not to read it out loud? Do you promise not to put it on the board?” Without getting a response, of course, Jack debuts what he believes is his first poem, though in reality he has been writing poems this whole time. His poem is a clear rip-off of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” though again it could be viewed as commentary on the original poem and even the nature of poetry itself:

“So much depends
upon
a blue car
splattered with mud
speeding down the road.”

On October 10, Jack appears to be responding to his teacher’s criticism of the poem (or maybe it’s criticism he expects to hear or self-criticism). Jack asks why so much depends upon a blue car. His poem obviously doesn’t say. But in Jack’s opinion, it shouldn’t matter because William Carlos Williams never said why the red wheelbarrow matters or why “so much depends upon” it.

In the next two entries, Jack goes on to criticize Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” humorously saying he doesn’t want to talk about the speeding blue car anymore because it’s got “miles to go” before he sleeps, just like Frost’s narrator in “The Road Not Taken.”

Over the next few weeks, Jack goes on to critique and ridicule a number of different poems and poetry styles, including “The Tyger” by William Blake. We learn, however, that his yellow dog Sky has died. This is a source of real painful emotion for him. And it’s through this real painful emotion that he finally breaks through and expresses himself poetically without sarcasm or snark. The result is a beautiful meditation on both misguided English teachers who try to convince students to write poetry without really communicating how the poetic experience works – and also a beautiful meditation on grief itself, through Jack’s own painful emotions.

According to Publishers Weekly, “Creech conveys a life truth: pain and joy exist side by side. For Jack and for readers, the memory of that dog lives on in his poetry. Readers will love that dog, and this book.” At the end of the book, we see this joy and pain side by side in a beautiful, hilarious final poem: Toward the end of the short book, Jack talks about poems that are in the shape of objects like apples. In the end, Jack finally settles on a poem and poetic style he likes. His final poem is called “The Yellow Dog” and the words are in the shape of his dog, which he loves, and words like “leg,” “body,” and “tale” are arranged as such.