Jack is a reluctant writer who questions the importance of the poems his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, reads with his class. Over the course of the year, Jack begins to express himself as a more confident poet with his teacher’s encouragement and his beloved dog, Sky, as his inspiration.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In “Drum Dream Girl,” a young girl dreams of playing drums in a society that only allows boys to play the drums.
Read this text after the section “February 21,” to have students think about poetry’s impact on different characters. In this section, Jack’s class has just read a poem about an apple. Have students discuss why Jack is excited about the poem. Then, have students highlight words and phrases in “Drum Dream Girl” that describe how the girl feels when she hears drums. Compare Jack’s experience with the apple poem to the girl’s experience listening to music in the poem. Ask, “What do Jack’s feelings tell us about his changing perspective on poetry? How is Jack’s description of how the poem makes him feel similar to how the girl feels in ‘Drum Dream Girl?’” Students may use words and phrases from both texts to show that reading poetry and listening to music involve your brain and body.
In Deirdre Mundy’s short story “The Poetry Quilt” a Puritan girl gives up poetry after her sister tells her it’s for babies.
Read this text after the section “March 7,” to have students think about the effect that teachers’ encouragement has on students. In this section, Jack reads a beautiful poem written by an anonymous classmate. Have students discuss what Jack thinks about the tree poem and what he wants Miss Stretchberry to do. Then, have students discuss what Charity thinks about her poetry before and after she talks to Mistress Bradstreet in “The Poetry Quilt.” Ask students to consider the significance of the encouragement Jack and Charity receive. Ask, “How has Jack’s teacher helped him become a more confident poet? How are Jack’s feelings at this point in the story similar to how Charity feels at the end of ‘The Poetry Quilt?’” Students may draw on the importance of role models, both in and outside of school.
In the text “Friendship, Spelled D-O-G,” Barb Rosenstock describes the special role dogs played in Helen Keller’s life.
Read this text after the section “March 22,” to have students analyze the significance of pets to their owners. In this section, Jack writes the poem about his yellow dog Sky. Have students highlight details in Jack’s poem that describe his relationship with Sky. Then, have students discuss the relationships between Helen Keller and her dogs in “Friendship, Spelled D-O-G.” Ask students to compare the significance of the pets in both texts. Ask, “Why was Jack’s dog important to him? How is Jack’s relationship with Sky similar to Helen Keller’s relationships with her dogs Belle, Phiz, and Kami?” Students may share examples that illustrate the deep bonds between pets and their owners.
In Tony Medina’s poem “Poetry Means the World to Me,” Medina speaks from Langston Hughes’ point of view to explore his love for poetry.
Read this text after finishing Love That Dog to have students analyze the importance of poetry. Have students discuss what Jack said about poetry at the beginning of the story and how he feels about poetry at the end. Then, have students name the reasons why the speaker in “Poetry Means the World to Me” loves to write. Have students make connections between the speaker’s reasons and Jack’s perspective. Ask, “How did Jack’s feelings about poetry change over the course of the novel? How does he view himself at the end of the novel? How is Jack’s perspective similar to the speaker’s in the poem?” Students may describe how both Jack and the speaker believe poetry is comforting, that words don’t have to be perfect to show how you feel, and that writing poetry is an act of courage.