When I first came to work at the bookstore one of my coworkers had been in the business for several years (but not at “our” store) and one author he liked was Sharon Creech. I would read a few of her books because of his recommendation and the new one that had just come out. But I realized she was an author that wrote books you “liked or not” that book but not necessarily a “like or not” the actual author kind of author. I found that books he liked, I did not, and the reverse was true. I did not find a “everyone liked this one book by her” but everyone seemed to like something from her.
When Love That Dog and Hate That Cat came out, I knew these books were not going to be for everyone. This is due to the above statement and they are set in a prose poetry format. Kids have been taught poetry “wrong” (IMHO), so I have found few kids that like reading poetry. But when we gave them the books, they usually were a hit. Why? Because they speak to the kid reader.
Readers can see themselves in Jack, the main character of both books. They can empathize with his loss of his dog (Love That Dog) and his hesitancy with poetry. They can understand not liking something because it has been “wrong” to them (Hate That Cat). They also can probably remember the first time they found the work that made THAT AUTHOR their favorite author. Of course, few have probably had the opportunity to meet that favorite author, like Jack has with meeting Walter Dean Myers. (Is it weird to be envious of a fictious character?)
In Love that Dog Jack is introduced to poetry, writing and even to a point, life and growing up. And in Hate That Cat Jack continues those themes and adds his relationship with his mother. I felt that the relationship Jack had with the dog and other pieces of Love That Dog were explored well. That you could feel and see what was happening. However, I felt that the connections and relationships were not as fully fleshed out in Hate That Cat. Some of my favorite poems (or images) come from the ones that deal with his mother and the descriptions he gives to her (SPOILER she is deaf), but there was not enough. He does deal with his dislike of a particular cat, however, decently.
At the end of both books, the poems that Jacks teacher talks about are presented (or at least a stanza or two that relates to what Jack talks about). The books, while presented in prose poetry, are written as a journal that only Jack and his teacher sees. A “back and forth” dialogue happens only through Jack’s point of view. This adds to the “child friendly” tone to the book. Ages (strong) 8 to 14 could read, but all ages could get something from it. It would work great in a poetry/English class. It might be a harder one-on-one read-aloud, but great for a quiet time reading.