Love That Book This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 11, 2013
I don’t remember my fourth-grade teacher’s name, and I barely remember the name of the school I was attending at the time. I do remember two things for sure: math tests, and Love That Dog.

My fourth-grade teacher read a lot of books to my class, but I only really remember Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. Fourth grade is the time when your teacher sits on a stool at the front of the room and reads books to you and you pretend not to like it, but there’s something about the way someone’s voice sounds when they’re reading aloud. As if the story exists a little bit more than it would if it were just in your head. As if we weren’t reading a book, but having a conversation. That conversation took the form of a small yellow paperback, about 60 pages, with the title on the front in blue block letters and a small illustration of a dog. Yellow isn’t my favorite color, but if it were, it would be that yellow.

Love That Dog is about a kid named Jack. I remember his being probably about the same age as fourth-grade me, going to school like fourth-grade me, and listening to his teacher read aloud to his class like fourth-grade me. His class is working on a poetry unit, and he’s not thrilled about it. They’ve got to keep journals that the teacher reads, and his first entry says that poetry is for girls. I won’t summarize the whole book, but I will tell you that Jack’s last entry doesn’t remotely resemble the first. I always wondered if he really existed, when I was little. As if the entire book were taken from somebody’s real journal entries, and maybe somewhere this kid was still reading and writing poetry. I wanted to find Jack and talk to him. I didn’t realize that I already had.

As a fourth-grader, I think Love That Dog stood out to me because it was relatable. It’s about a young kid with a dog who isn’t really into poetry, like me at the time. It was as if Sharon Creech could get inside my mind and twist my thoughts into poems and then have my fourth-grade teacher read them aloud to me. As Jack grew into poetry, I felt myself growing with him. It was a shared experience, as if we were in the same class reading poetry together.

My eleventh-grade English teacher once said that reading is like telepathy. At the time, I thought he meant that you can understand the writer better by reading their work, but now I’ve come to realize it’s a two-way street. I think the reader can feel understood, too, like the writer knows what their life is like. Telepathy isn’t just one person reading another’s mind; it’s a conversation. Writers write for the same reason that readers read: to feel like they are not alone.

Everyone is looking to be understood, looking for something to relate to, and I caught a glimpse of it in Love That Dog.

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