Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Poet’s Dog

HarperCollins 2016. 88 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9780062292629 (hardcover)
9780062292643 (paperback)
9780062292650 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel

Text Elements:

character, characterization, dialogue, figurative language, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This brief and poignant tale is narrated by Teddy, an Irish wolfhound mourning his recently deceased human, Sylvan—a poet who lived in the woods. When Teddy finds young Nickel and Flora caught in a snowstorm, he leads them back to his cabin: “Sylvan taught me about rescue. I would save them the way Sylvan saved me.”

Pared-down language relates the growing affection among the trio as they sit out the storm. “‘Can you build a fire?’ I asked him. ‘There’s wood and kindling on the hearth.’ He nodded. ‘I’m almost twelve.”’ Meanwhile, Teddy remembers life with the poet: “A thin, nervous girl, Ellie, reads a poem about her lost love. Sylvan taps his foot nervously. I know he hates it.”

The theme of communication is reflected in Teddy’s ability to be understood (by poetic souls) and the poet’s commitment to his craft: “Sometimes writers are not thoughtful of other writers. We want to be inspired. Cranky when we’re not.” Poems written by Sylvan’s students reflect the story’s sense of loss (“Gray Cat Gone Away”) as well as its gentle humour: “The Crazy Cows of Spring.”

In the end, Teddy’s loving nature transforms loneliness into connection, with friends both living and gone: “And as we walked up the hill, I felt Sylvan was walking alongside me. Flora was right. Sylvan had never left at all.”

  •  

    Sylvan says that only poets and children can hear the voice of Teddy the dog. What is the author's explanation for this? 

  •  

    Create a storyboard that depicts the key moments that Flora and Nickel experience with Teddy. For each panel, write a word that expresses the emotion the children are feeling as they move from being alone in the forest to bringing Teddy home.

  •  

    Nickel writes about his time in the cabin but he never reads what he writes. Put yourself in Nickel’s place, alone with your sister and a dog in the cabin, and write what he might have written in his journal.

  •  

    Discuss different types of storms and how to protect yourself from the elements.

  •  

    Discuss how Teddy, Flora and Nickel get through the storm. Could you care for yourself in a similar situation? Write a list of the applicable skills you have and those you would need to acquire.

  •  Create character maps for Nickel and Flora, Teddy, Sylvan and Ellie.
  •  

    Imagine the story from the parents’ point of view. Write a social media post to help find the children.

  •  

    If you had a poet dog or cat, what would you like to discuss? Observe how dialogues are written. Imagine a conversation with your pet. Write it in your reader-writer’s notebook using the dialogue style.

  •  

    The author says: “dogs speak words, but only poets and children hear.” With a partner, discuss what you think she means or any underlying ideas or messages.

  •  As you read, watch for events or situations that bring the children closer to Teddy. Do you find them believable?
  •  

    Using either Nickel or Flora’s voice, summarize the story in a couple of pages and retell it to a partner, using your text as cue cards. Include mention of how your chosen narrator feels during key moments.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Physical Education and Health
  • Social Sciences