“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.