From School Library Journal
Grade 4–8—In this worthy sequel to Love That Dog (HarperCollins, 2001), Jack is once again in Miss Stretchberry's class, developing his poetry composition skills and learning from the masters. His Uncle Bill disparages the free-verse form and mundane subjects, stressing the importance of metaphor, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and LARGE moments. But Jack works his way into these concepts by means of Miss S's introduction to the work of Edgar Allan Poe, T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Valerie Worth, and Walter Dean and Chris Myers, and her constant encouragement of his own attempts. Jack, still healing from the loss of his dog, resists getting a new pet and despises an aloof neighborhood black cat with which he has an unpleasant run-in. He also grapples with putting into words his feelings about his mother, who is deaf, a fact that is slowly and deftly revealed in his poems. When the Christmas-present kitten he has learned to love disappears, Jack grieves anew, until the despised black cat saves the day. Once again, all of the poems are addressed to Miss Stretchberry, and Jack's growing excitement as he discovers the delights of sound ("Tintinnabulation!") and expression is palpable. He also learns the poetry of silence as he and his mother communicate through sign language and tender gestures. The relevant poems are included at the end of the book, along with a hefty bibliography of "Books on the Class Poetry Shelf." Readers will be touched and inspired once more.—Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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In a worthy companion piece to Love That Dog (2001), Creech employs observant sensitivity and spare verse to carve an indelible portrait of a boy who discovers the power of self-expression. Once again, Jack works on a poetry journal for Miss Stretchberry, now his fifth-grade teacher. He responds to her instruction with skepticism, all the while absorbing the depth of feeling in the poems she shares, sometimes in spite of himself. Creech is a master of negative space; though we see only Jack’s side of their dialogue, we learn a great deal about the other figures in Jack’s life. In Love That Dog, Jack’s reluctant relationship with poetry mirrored his struggle to let go of a good friend. In this title, we see Jack’s reluctance waning, and with it, the resolute protection of his feelings. Try as he might to hold them off, the lines of Miss Stretchberry’s poems open a space in his heart just big enough to allow affection for a small black kitten, dotted with white, to find its way in. Grades 3-6. --Thom Barthelmess
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