“The Poet’s Dog”, a Book For The Ages


“Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.”

Those are the opening words in Patricia MacLachlan’s new book, The Poet’s Dog.  I have read the book twice, because there are many words not to be missed; words that are pure and don’t need added adjectives and text.  MacLachlan’s writing stands alone in a field of masterful literature.  Her eighty-eight pages are some of the best I have ever read.  In the words of the publisher:

“Alone in a fierce winter storm, Nickel and Flora are brave but afraid.  A dog finds them.  Teddy speaks words and brings them to shelter.  The Poet’s cabin has light and food and love.  But where is the poet?  Teddy will tell the story of how words make poems and connect to those who hear each other.”

Sylvan the poet constantly reads to Teddy.  He reads Yeats and Shakespeare.  He also reads Charlotte’s Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Ox Cart Man.  Teddy learns how words follow one another.

I had no idea that Ox Cart Man, one of my favorite children’s books, is actually a poem.  I scrambled to find my copy and read the words again, this time seeing the words for what they are meant to be – a poem.  When I read the book again to my preschoolers this month, it will be more beautiful than ever.

The Poet’s Dog is a story of adventure, survival, love and friendship, death, reading and poetry.  The beginning is a fishing line that hooks the reader, and the ocean opens to… well, you will have to read the book  The ending is as surprising as ever.

I told a friend and fellow teacher about The Poet’s Dog and quoted to her the first lines, “Dogs speak words.  But only poets and children hear.” Our conversation went something like this:

“I hear my cat.  I know what she’s saying.”

“Then you must be either a child or a poet.”

“I’m a child.  My heart is always a child.  And I love poetry.”

She smiled a knowing smile.  I did, too.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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34 Responses to “The Poet’s Dog”, a Book For The Ages

  1. frenchc1955 says:

    This is wonderful, and I will get my own copy of this book!

  2. It sounds so sweet. I have never read much poetry as I know very little about it. Looks like a good way to start.

  3. Sue Ranscht says:

    Reblogged this on Space, Time, and Raspberries and commented:
    A gifted teacher highly recommends The Poet’s Dog, a book to read out loud to children or enjoy as an adult.

  4. Libby Sommer says:

    a good book review. thank you. would you be interested in reviewing my book ‘My Year With Sammy’ published by Ginninderra Press? “Sammy is a wild, stubborn girl who is also endearing and fascinating. This is a compelling story of the challenges and joys of parenting, but at the heart of this book is an unforgettable portrait of a determined and unusual child. I loved this intimate, funny and very moving novel.” – Andy Kissane

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Libby! Thank you so much for asking me to do a book review. Can I get your book at the library, as I go there tomorrow for my children’s reading groups.

      • Libby Sommer says:

        i notice you live in New England. is that New England in New South Wales or the U.S? if you live in Australia you can get your library to order the book in. it was published by Ginninderra Press in December 2015. the book is available through the publisher, various book stores, Amazon, Book Depository or as an eBook. or i could post you a copy.

      • Jennie says:

        Hi Libby. I live in the U.S., in Massachusetts. I will try to get your book and read it. Is it a children’s book? I cannot promise, but I will do my very best. -Jennie-

      • Libby Sommer says:

        no, Jennie, ‘My Year With Sammy’ isn’t a children’s book. it’s about a child though. i thought you might find it interesting because of your profession. the book appeals to mothers and grandmothers of difficult children and how the child’s behaviour affects family dynamics. it’s written as a fiction and narrated by the grandmother of Sammy. Libby

      • Jennie says:

        Hi Libby. I have not reviewed a book that isn’t a children’s book. I look forward to the read. Please be patient with me, as during the school year I don’t have the same time to read. Best to you!

      • Libby Sommer says:

        thanks Jennie. sounds good. and best to you too.

  5. Oh, good, I’m glad to hear how wonderful The Poet’s Dog is. I ordered it for my library last week, but it hasn’t arrived yet. I’m also a fan of Ox Cart Man. Years ago I went to a program featuring Donald Hall. He was Poet Laureate for NH at the time. He said he often writes each line of his poems about 100 times, sometimes just adding a word in and then removing it over and over again. His dedication certainly pays off and of course the illustrations were by another of my favorites–Barbara Cooney!

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia! You will love the book. Let me know when you read it. I can only imagine how interesting hearing Donald Hall must have been. And, Barbara Cooney lived in Pepperell, the next town over, before she moved to Maine. In Miss Rumphius she draws the town library. I taught one of the children who is in the group listening to her on the last page of the book. That’s my only Barbara Cooney claim to fame. Ha! 🙂

  6. What a beautiful book review. You make the book irresistible, Jennie.

  7. sddobrodt says:

    Jennie, I’m really looking forward to reading this! I’m a big Patricia MacLachlan fan and wasn’t aware that The Poet’s Dog was available. Thank you for a great review! Susan

  8. How Beautiful! I must get a copy for my granddaughter. Thank you

  9. srbottch says:

    Jennie, your reviews are entertaining unto themselves. I’ll look for this one. Ahhh, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, a classic for all ages.

  10. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    This a lovely review, Jennie. And certainly sounds like a book, I should read. 🙂

  11. jfisher8404 says:

    Great review! I will have to check this out. By the way I nominated you for the 3 quotations in 3 days challenge. You can find the rules here: https://jfisher8404.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/day-one-of-3-day-quote-challenge/

  12. Sounds like a beautiful and interesting book. I must get a copy.Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  13. Jennie, this sounds like a wonderful book. What an excellent opening line. I remember being pulled into the story via opening words as a kid.
    And how neat that you got a different perspective on Ox Cart Man.
    Many blessings to you and all the kids you teach. 💖

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