Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Poet's Dog

The Poet's Dog

Patricia MacLachlan
For ages 6 and up
HarperCollins, 2016   ISBN: 978-0062292629

One wintery day, when a blizzard is howling around the trees, Teddy the dog is wandering in the woods when he comes across a boy and his little sister. Teddy knows that the children need help, and so he takes them to his home, a little cabin owned by the man who rescued him from the animal shelter.

The man, Sylvan, is a poet, and he read to Teddy, which is why Teddy now knows the world of words. Thanks to Sylvan, Teddy knows that there are two kinds of people who understand dog speech: poets and children; which is why Teddy is able to tell the children that he is taking them “Home.”

Sylvan has been gone for three days now and so the cabin is empty. Soon the boy, Nickle, has a fire burning in the fireplace, and Teddy finds out why the children were wandering around in the woods. Their mother’s car slid off the road, and she went to get help. After waiting and waiting, the children abandoned the car and got lost in the woods.

The dog who talks and the children take comfort in each other’s company as the storm rages outside. They know, thanks to the “weather box,” that the storm is expected to last for some days; no one will be able to search for the children until the worst of the blizzard is over. Flora cooks food, they read books, Nickle writes a journal of sorts, and they wait. Bit by bit Teddy tells the children about Sylvan and why he left.

This powerful and beautiful story is a true tribute to the connection that people can have with dogs, and it is a celebration of the power of words. It is truly astonishing how Patricia MacLachlan can say so much in a story that is so short. It is remarkable how the story, though written for young readers, has the power to move and enthrall adults as well, thanks in part to the beauty of the language.