"I'm a dog. I should tell you that right away." The narrator of The Poet's Dog is an Irish wolfhound named Teddy. Sylvan the poet used to read Teddy Charlotte's Web, Shakespeare and his favorite, Ox-Cart Man--so in time the dog grew to understand and speak English.
This short, spare novel by Newbery author Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall; Kindred Souls) begins in a blizzard, when Teddy comes upon an 11-year-old boy, Nicholas (Nickel), and his younger sister, Flora, left in a broken-down car by their mother, who went to seek help. The dog leads the children through the woods to the cabin where he lived with Sylvan until three days ago, when Sylvan died and was taken away. What follows is a simply spun, but emotionally engaging and richly layered story of a snowy retreat. As the storm rages outside, Flora invents meals that "looked terrible but surprised us by tasting good" and they gather pillows and blankets and an old green sleeping bag and sleep together in a heap in front of the fireplace: "The wind was like a wild song that pushed away the quiet."
Teddy is mourning Sylvan, but quickly grows to love the two children, and they become his new family. As the narrative weaves in and out of Teddy's memories of Sylvan's poetry classes, snippets of songs, poems and even a bit of literary criticism come into play. It's all so warm and cozy that Flora bursts into tears when the storm ends, and readers may feel the same way. Happily, this lovely, deeply satisfying book is about both endings and beginnings."