Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Review: Sharon Creech's Love that Dog

First a confession: I read while in the bathroom. I have no excuse. I don't have kids who are distracting me, or a super-busy life, or anything...I just find myself bored and in need of a book at times. And I do tend to judge books by that measure: if a book is so good that I either a) read it in super-long sittings that make my legs go numb or b) walk out of the bathroom with my book still in my nose, then I know I've got a good book.

It's important for me to confess this as I checked Sharon Creech's book out at the library on Saturday, and took it straight into the bathroom with me.

And read the entire thing in one sitting.

While this is probably way too much information--and probably way too gross to talk about in mixed company--this is the best review I can honestly give a book. I could not put it down. I loved it. It is beautiful.

I sobbed on the toilet, y'all.
It was just that good. The writing--the story--the language--and that second-to-last poem where it all ties together--made me cry in that achy, hurting kind of way, where the tears come from that space in the center of your forehead where it hurts to even blink.

Five Sentence Summary: Jack's teacher has assigned him to write poetry. The book, which covers a year-long journal of Jack's poetry, is done entirely in verse. In writing, Jack discovers that he actually likes poetry, especially Walter Dean Myer's poem "Love that Boy." While Jack is discovering poetry, the reader is discovering Jack...and the reason why the speeding blue car has so much importance, and what happened to Jack's dog, Sky. (For more about the book from the author, click here.)

So what do we, as writers, learn from the book?

1. Full Circle/Detail Use: Here's the reason why my husband found me crying on the toilet: something mentioned briefly in the first few pages--a throw-away detail that seemed of no importance--became the crux of the end of the book. A tiny, tiny detail became so important that it shaped the entire ending of the book. (This next bit might be to spoiler-y, so I'm hiding it--just highlight. And if you're tempted to read it without reading the book, DON'T.) It hit me like a speeding, mud-splattered blue car when I realized how it tied together. In one of the first poems, Jack writes about a speeding blue car and it's importance, but says there's nothing to it but words, like William C. Williams's poem on the red wheelbarrow. BUT. Then you find out that that speeding blue car was the car that killed Sky...ah! I'm starting to tear up again!

2. Voice:
Creech uses her word choice to show voice very well. For example, when Jack likes Walter Dean Myer's poem, he doesn't just call it a good poem, he calls it the "best, best, BEST" poem. It's subtle, but it makes the writing real. It gives the narrator personality. Throughout, Jack's voice is very clear, and very unique. And, like I said, it's not very drastic. It's just saying a word three times instead of once, or putting a word in all caps, or using a different word than one would normally think of ("typer person" instead of "typist"). But the devil's in the details there.

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