Caroline Dotson's columns appear Wednesdays in the Craig Daily Press
and Saturdays in the Saturday Morning Press
"Hate That Cat" by Sharon Creech, a Newberry award-winning author, seems to be a sequel to the book "Love That Dog," (published in 2001), but the two books don't necessarily have to be read in order.
"Hate That Cat" is a collection of journal entries that Jack has written for his teacher, Miss Stretchberry. In the journal, he shares his thoughts, poems, and asks questions typical of a third grader.
Jack shares stories about a mean cat that attacked him while he was trying to save him from a tree, a cat that Jack hates, Sky (from "Love That Dog"), who recently died, and a new kitten whose purr helps Jack learn about his mother.
Miss Stretchberry teaches Jack and the class about similes, metaphors, alliterations and onomatopoeias. She emphasizes how helpful they are when writing poetry.
Through these writing exercises, the reader learns that Jack's mother is deaf.
Jack poses this question:
":What happens when you read
purr purr purr
or chocolate chalk?
Can you somehow
the purr purr purr
or the chocolate chalk?
Do you feel the sounds
Because of all Jack's questions, the teacher suggests that Jack write about his mother. Jack is reluctant at first. He slowly explains his mother's disability and how he is uncomfortable with her hands always moving, hands waving.
At the end of the book, Jack has begun to understand his mother better, and he has gained enough confidence to sign for his mother during a school assembly.
When I read through the book the first time, I didn't realize Jack was dealing with his mother's deafness. I only saw how Jack hated cats, loved dogs and the benefits of poetry.
But, as I re-read the story, I realized Jack was asking questions about hearing and feeling words as they are read. Jack was trying to understand how his mother copes with being deaf and how she relates to words.
Creech is an old hand at writing books for children.
In "Hate That Cat," she is able to address a real life issue and creatively turn it into a fun story. Her writing style puts a story into poetic form and creates a book that appeals to reluctant readers and to children of all ages.
Caroline Dotson can be reached at email@example.com.