60 pages 2 hours read

Sharon Creech

Love That Dog

Fiction | Novel/Book in Verse | Middle Grade | Published in 2001

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Summary and Study Guide


Love That Dog is a Newbery Award-winning middle grade book by Sharon Creech. Published in 2001, the book combines comedy and tragedy in detailing young Jack’s journey to loving poetry—a journey that takes form via free verse journal entries. Though Jack initially scoffs at the idea of writing poems, he later learns the value of his own voice. This guide refers to the 2002 Bloomsbury Children’s Books paperback edition.

Plot Summary

Jack, a student in Miss Stretchberry’s class, initially spurns her writing prompts. He doesn’t understand poems—nor what makes them poetry—and dislikes his own work. Nevertheless, he begins incorporating new phrases and structure in his journal. Though reluctant, Jack allows Miss Stretchberry to post them on the class board, albeit anonymously. She asks Jack to write about a pet, but he claims to not own one. Jack reveals that he used to have a pet—a yellow dog named Sky—but he rarely speaks of him in detail. As the class reads more famous poems, Jack starts to appreciate elements of poetry, growing more comfortable with his own reading and writing. Jack’s classmates enjoy his anonymous poems about Sky’s adoption and how he used to play. Still, Jack fears that his writing isn’t real poetry. When he finally comes forward, his classmates compliment him. Jack asks Miss Stretchberry to encourage other anonymous poets to share their names.

Jack’s understanding of poetry grows upon discovering Walter Dean Myers, the poet behind “Love That Boy.” Jack sneaks one of Myers’s books home so that he can copy the poem and hang it on the ceiling above his bed. Jack writes a secret poem that borrows Myers’s phrases and structure. He encloses the poem in an envelope as he doesn’t want to anger Myers by plagiarizing. Miss Stretchberry quells his fears and offers to include a caption denoting the poem’s inspiration. Jack likes the idea but doesn’t want his poem posted. He doesn’t disclose the poem to readers until the book’s final page.

Upon learning that Myers is a living poet, Jack asks Miss Stretchberry if they could invite him to visit. Miss Stretchberry encourages Jack to write Myers a letter. Jack is elated at the thought of meeting his favorite poet, but Miss Stretchberry tempers his expectations by informing him of the publishing process.

Jack asks Miss Stretchberry to teach him how to type his own poems. Jack’s first typed poem tells the tragic story he withheld for the whole book. The story begins with Sky playing with the neighborhood kids on the street. Jack noticed his dad coming home before hearing one of the kids warn everyone about an oncoming car. He saw Sky chase a ball into the street, only for the dog to get hit by the car. Jack’s dad moved Sky to the lawn, but the dog died shortly after. Jack thinks the poem is too sad for Miss Stretchberry to post, but she convinces him to do so with his name.

Miss Stretchberry has exciting news: Myers agreed to visit the class while visiting a friend in town. Jack is ecstatic and takes extra care to hide his secret poem. In a second letter to Myers, Jack describes his visit: Myers smiled the whole time, read the class’s poems, and mentioned that he would feel honored if someone wrote a poem based on his own. Jack includes one more paper in the thank-you note: his secret poem “Love That Dog.”