LOVE THAT DOG

Versatile Newbery Medalist Creech (A Fine, Fine School, p. 862, etc.) continues to explore new writing paths with her latest, written as free verse from the viewpoint of a middle-school boy named Jack. Creech knows all about reluctant writers from her own years of teaching, and she skillfully reveals Jack’s animosity toward books and poetry, and especially about writing his own poems. He questions the very nature of poetry, forcing the reader to think about this question, too. Jack’s class assignments incorporate responses to eight well-known poems (included in an appendix) and gradually reveal the circumstances, and Jack’s hidden feelings, about the loss of his beloved dog. Jack’s poetry grows in length, complexity, and quality from September to May, until he proudly sends his best poem about his dog and a heartfelt thank-you poem to Walter Dean Myers after the author’s school visit. The inclusion of the eight poems is an advantage, because comments on the poems are often part of Jack’s poetry. Others not already familiar with these famous poems, though, might miss the allusions in Jack’s work. (There is no note at the beginning of the book to point the reader to the appendix.) But it’s a quick read, offering a chance to go back and look again. Teachers will take this story to heart, recognizing Miss Stretchberry’s skilled and graceful teaching and Jack’s subtle emotional growth both as a person and a writer. This really special triumph is bound to be widely discussed by teachers and writers, and widely esteemed by Creech’s devoted readers. (Fiction/poetry. 9-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-029287-3

Page Count: 112

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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  • Newbery Honor Book

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE

A 10-year old girl learns to adjust to a strange town, makes some fascinating friends, and fills the empty space in her heart thanks to a big old stray dog in this lyrical, moving, and enchanting book by a fresh new voice. India Opal’s mama left when she was only three, and her father, “the preacher,” is absorbed in his own loss and in the work of his new ministry at the Open-Arms Baptist Church of Naomi [Florida]. Enter Winn-Dixie, a dog who “looked like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain.” But, this dog had a grin “so big that it made him sneeze.” And, as Opal says, “It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.” Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets Miss Franny Block, an elderly lady whose papa built her a library of her own when she was just a little girl and she’s been the librarian ever since. Then, there’s nearly blind Gloria Dump, who hangs the empty bottle wreckage of her past from the mistake tree in her back yard. And, Otis, oh yes, Otis, whose music charms the gerbils, rabbits, snakes and lizards he’s let out of their cages in the pet store. Brush strokes of magical realism elevate this beyond a simple story of friendship to a well-crafted tale of community and fellowship, of sweetness, sorrow and hope. And, it’s funny, too. A real gem. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0776-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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