So much depends/ upon/ the yellow dog/ glazed with poetry

I think Mr. Robert Frost

has a little

too

much

time

on his

hands.

So writes Jack, the young protagonist of Sharon Creech's new novel, "Love That Dog." Implicit in his sarcastic little verse is his opinion of poetry. Jack thinks that boys don't write poetry, and that if Mr. Williams's words about a red wheelbarrow and a white chicken are a poem, then anything is a poem.

The trouble is that his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, keeps insisting that he read more and more poetry. Worse, she keeps insisting that he write poems, as well!

"Brain's empty," Jack writes, but his mind is most certainly not, and with the gentle encouragement of his teacher, a story about a speeding blue car and a beloved yellow dog is about to emerge.

In the tradition of Beverly Cleary's "Dear Mr. Henshaw" (1983) and Creech's own "The Wanderer" (2000), this book comes to us in the form of journal entries in Jack's own freeverse.

The effect is deceptively simple: Readers, like the reluctant narrator, will be surprised at how reading and writing poetry help Jack find an exuberant new voice and come to terms with the things he needs to say.

Told with insight and humor that are as rare to the subject of poetry as they are to young boys, "Love That Dog" is not to be missed. In the person of Jack, and through an expert choice of appealing poems, Newbery Medal-winner Sharon Creech reminds us once again that words can change lives.

The beautifully bound, elegantly typeset hardcover edition from Joanna Cotler Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, includes the full texts of poems by William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, S.C. Rigg, and others, as well as Jack's favorite poet, Walter Dean Myers.

Courtney Williamson is a freelance writer in Marblehead, Mass.

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