Thursday, February 16, 2017

The poet's dog by Patricia MacLachlan


I felt quite poetic after reading The Poet's dog and so I listed these words to describe the events in The Poet's Dog.

Dogs speak words
But only poets
And children

This is the poem on the first page.

As with many books to fully enjoy this simple story of love and loss you do need to be prepared to suspend disbelief.

"I found the boy at dusk."  Patricia MacLachlan gently reveal her story narrator.  "I nosed his hand gently."   Teddy is a dog but he knows words because for years he lived with the poet Sylvan.  Teddy heard the words of Yeats, Shakespeare, James Joyce, Wordsworth and Natalie Babbitt. He listened to Charlotte's Web, The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, and The Ox-Cart man.

Teddy finds two children huddled in the snow. He takes them back to the house he shared with Sylvan. Over several days he gently cares for the children as the heavy snow falls force everyone to stay inside.  Eventually Ellie, a young friend and poet, who helped Sylvan through his last days, arrives.  The ending gives a beautiful sense of completion and affirms the circle of life.

Patricia MacLachlan writes in such a way that you will feel you are really in this remote place and truly experiencing the bitter cold. This is a book adult readers will love and it would be good to share quietly with a sensitive young reader. with only 88 pages the old adage applies "good things come in small packages".

You can hear an audio sample here.  After reading The Poet's dog you might look for Love that dog by Sharon Creech and any other books by Patricia MacLachlan.

Here is The Ox-Cart Man which Sylvan read to Teddy.

Ox Cart Man

Related Poem Content Details

In October of the year, 
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,   
counting the seed, counting   
the cellar’s portion out,   
and bags the rest on the cart’s floor. 

He packs wool sheared in April, honey 
in combs, linen, leather   
tanned from deerhide,   
and vinegar in a barrel 
hooped by hand at the forge’s fire. 

He walks by his ox’s head, ten days 
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,   
and the bag that carried potatoes, 
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose   
feathers, yarn. 

When the cart is empty he sells the cart.   
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,   
harness and yoke, and walks 
home, his pockets heavy 
with the year’s coin for salt and taxes, 

and at home by fire’s light in November cold   
stitches new harness 
for next year’s ox in the barn, 
and carves the yoke, and saws planks   
building the cart again.

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