The Poet's Dog

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The Poet's Dog
Age Range
Release Date
September 13, 2016
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From Newbery Medal winner Patricia MacLachlan comes a poignant story about two children, a poet, and a dog and how they help one another survive loss and recapture love.

Teddy is a gifted dog. Raised in a cabin by a poet named Sylvan, he grew up listening to sonnets read aloud and the comforting clicking of a keyboard. Although Teddy understands words, Sylvan always told him there are only two kinds of people in the world who can hear Teddy speak: poets and children.

Then one day Teddy learns that Sylvan was right. When Teddy finds Nickel and Flora trapped in a snowstorm, he tells them that he will bring them home—and they understand him. The children are afraid of the howling wind, but not of Teddy’s words. They follow him to a cabin in the woods, where the dog used to live with Sylvan . . . only now his owner is gone.

As they hole up in the cabin for shelter, Teddy is flooded with memories of Sylvan. What will Teddy do when his new friends go home? Can they help one another find what they have lost?

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Dogs and Snowstorms
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Teddy is an Irish wolfhound who has been raised by Sylvan, a poet who worked in his cabin in the woods. Sylvan read to Teddy and talked to him constantly, so now Teddy can converse in human speech. In the middle of a huge snowstorm, Teddy finds two children, Nickel and Flora. He brings them to the cabin, and the three hole up in the warmth to wait for the storm to pass. While doing so, Teddy shares his story with the children, surprised that they can understand him. Eventually, Teddy is able to summon the help of Ellie, who was Sylvan's friend. She manages to get the children returned to their home, and since Sylvan has passed away, Teddy stays with this new family.
Good Points
Like all of MacLachlan's work, this is a spare but beautifully written book about the importance of family, reading, and connecting to others. Each chapter is headed by delicate black and white drawings of trees in the snow, which gives a nice atmospheric quality to the book and makes us appreciate the coziness of the cabin.

Narrated by Teddy, the story moves quickly and doesn't need too much more explanation of Teddy's ability to communicate other than the simple fact that he was brought up among words by someone who loved them dearly.

Teddy is grieving the loss of Sylvan, but connecting with the children eases his pain-- Nickel walks through the woods with his hand on Teddy's back in the way that Sylvan did, and Flora feeds and takes care of him. While basking in the children's presence, Teddy thinks back to the last days in Sylvan's life and remembers both the good and the bad things. As Teddy himself laments (although dogs cannot cry), it is a poignant time.

Adults will love this as a tissue-worthy read aloud to join the ranks of books such as DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane , Patterson's Bridge to Terebithia, and Wiles' Each Little Bird that Sings.
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Beautiful story of friendship and grief
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Nickel and Flora think they are lost to a blizzard when Teddy saves them. Teddy is a dog who was raised by a poet, Sylvan. Sylvan told him poets and children can hear dogs speak, and when Teddy meets Nickel and Flora, he knows Sylvan was right. While the three find refuge in Teddy’s cabin where Sylvan used to live, they find friendship and comfort in unexpected places.

Though short in length, THE POET’S DOG by Patricia MacLachlan bursts with emotion and magical prose. Teddy, the dog, tells the story, beginning with his saving of Nickel and Flora, and with flashbacks to his time with his beloved companion, Sylvan. Teddy is filled with grief, heartache, and loneliness after losing Sylvan, and the flashbacks show how meaningful the bond between a poet and his dog can be. Though Nickel and Flora are both young, they understand the world in a way that is both vastly different than Teddy, who is a senior dog, and yet quite similar. The friendship that develops is heartwarming and sweet with poignant messages.

MacLachlan captures an atmosphere of loving warmth during a setting of a blizzard so intense it knocks the power out. The imagery of a cabin with no power in the middle of the woods could easily be very scary, but the author makes it seem like the most comforting shelter in the world with Teddy there and the three of them looking out for one another.

Teddy’s story proves that even in the harshest of winters, external ones and internal alike, friendship, comfort, and trust are all possible. THE POET’S DOG is a moving and short tale that readers won’t want to miss.
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