Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Love That Boy: Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

ROOM 204.

September 12: I hate that cat.
Like a dog hates a rat.
I said I hate that cat
Like a dog hates a rat.
I hate to see it in the morning.
I hate to see that
FAT black cat.

In Newbery winner Sharon Creech's new Hate That Cat: A Novel, through his class journal we again meet Jack, the poetry-averse fourth-grader introduced in her acclaimed Love That Dog. Written in simple, heart-touching free verse, the first book shows how Jack, grieving deeply over the death of his dog Sky, works out his feelings through his teacher's skillful presentation of poetry to the class.

In this sequel, Jack's remaining grief over the loss of his dog is evident in his repeated assertions that he hates cats, especially the big black neighborhood cat whose prickly self defense Jack sees as a personal affront whenever they meet.

Today the fat black cat
up in the tree by the bus stop
dropped a nut on my head
and when I yelled at it
that fat black cat said
in a

I hate that cat.

This is the story of
and cat.

In his journal entries through the school year we see Jack learning about the tools of poetry in the work of Edgar Allan Poe, William Carlos Williams, and Walter Dean Myers, writing his way through his still painful loss of his dog, and arguing with his didactic Uncle Bill, a college professor who favors long, ponderous poems with strict rhyme and meter. Finally, we see his meeting with Miss Stretchberry's "fantastically funny" kittens, one of which he finds as a surprise Christmas gift under his tree,

The gift changes not only Jack's opinion about cats, but the kitten, whom he names Skitters McKitters, eases his embarrassment about his mother's use of sign language when she and the kitten visit the classroom at the end of the year. Here is Jack's new poem.

THE GIFT (Inspired by Willaim Carlos Williams)

So much depends upon
a black kitten
in a straw basket
at Christmas.

So much depends upon
a black kitten
dotted with white,
beside the photo
of my yellow dog.

And finally, by year's end,

LOVE THAT CAT (Inspired by Walter Dean Myers)
by Jack

Love that cat
like a bird loves to twitter.
I said I love that cat
like a bird loves to twitter.
Love to call her in the morning.
Love to call her
Hey, there, Skitter McKitter.
Love that cat.

Growing up is hard work, and as Sharon Creech shows, so much depends, sometimes, upon a teacher, a fat black cat who brings a lost kitten home, a mother who loves her boy, and a boy who finds that he can trust his love for them all.

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