Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Poetry Friday -- Hate That Cat

The Bells*
by Edgar Allan Poe


Hear the sledges with the bells,
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

*first and second stanzas

This is one of the poems Miss Stretchberry uses with Jack's class in Hate That Cat, a book that made me cry.

I've tried to be upbeat and cavalier about the end of my eight-year run as a looping teacher. I did not choose to stop; the powers-that-be (the state's licensing of teachers) changed the way we do business in 5th grade at my school and looping no longer fit into the big picture. This book made a few fat tears run down my cheeks for what I've lost.

Hate That Cat is a testimonial to the power of looping. It's a new school year, and Miss Stretchberry is Jack's teacher again this year. He gets to start right where he left off last year with his riffs on "Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers. He doesn't waste the first four weeks in that "get to know you" dance with a new teacher. And then we get to watch as Miss Stretchberry moves Jack and his class into Poe and Eliot and Tennyson and more of William Carlos Williams. She laid the groundwork in her first year with Jack's class for a more formal study of poetry this year, and we watch over Jack's shoulder as he learns about and fiddles with alliteration, onomatopoeia, similes, metaphors, symbols, and sounds. My favorites of Jack's poems are the two that he writes "Inspired by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe" ("The Bells") -- "The Yips" and "The Purr."

Besides knowing Jack as a student, Miss Stretchberry knows Jack as a person (how deeply the loss of his dog affected him last year). You can see this in the way she slowly and gently nudges him out of his hate of "that" cat by feeding him with a steady diet of cat poems, rather than continually suggesting he write about it; she knows he'll get around to that, and he does.

Jack grew a lot as a writer in his Love That Dog year, but Jack makes incredible growth as a writer in this Hate That Cat year. Incredible, but not unbelievable. Any child (all right, all right, most children) in a classroom with a strong writing workshop make amazing progress as writers in just one year. Mostly because they write a lot, but also because they age and mature a year in that year. (Most of them.) If the children from a writing workshop classroom are lucky enough to have a writing workshop again the very next year, then the growth and progress become incredible, like Jack's. Creech has gotten this perfect in Hate That Cat -- she grew Jack as a writer in a plausible way, and she matured him as a person in a very satisfying way.

Walter Dean Myers makes another cameo appearance, along with an appearance by his son, Christopher Myers. It's fun to have the familiar poets back to hang out with the new ones Jack meets. Every time he meets a new poet he asks (alive?) and you know he's got a hankering for a repeat of the author visit in Love That Dog, but Sharon Creech and Miss Stretchberry move him along to new challenges -- novels in verse and the sounds of poetry translated into the motion of signing for a deaf audience.

Whether you read this for the poetry, the teaching, because you read everything by Sharon Creech, or just to see what's up with the cat, you're going to love this book. Watch for it this fall.

Hate That Cat
by Sharon Creech
on the shelf September, 2008
ARC compliments of Sally at Cover to Cover
(thanks for sharing!!!)

other reviews: Fuse #8, and welcome to my tweendom,

The Poetry Friday roundup is at A Wrung Sponge this week.


  1. Excellent! I had no idea this was coming out. Great news.

    But I'm sorry for your loss, too.

  2. Sounds like a remarkable book. Sorry to hear about the looping change. :(

  3. I can't WAIT, WAIT, WAIT for this book!

  4. i'm looking forward to this book. i'm thinking the Poe poem ought to be in my anthology for poems to share w/ 6th graders next year, and I so agree about looping. i've done it w/ lots of kids over the last five years, as a consequence of our small population of students and shifting configurations: not really on principle. three of my students next year will have been my students for 3 straight years and almost all of them i had as either 4th or 5th graders. but next, next year: all brand new to me kids. looping honors the relationship part of teaching which is so huge.

  5. Miss Stretchberry sounds like a teacher that needs to be added to your "books with great teachers" list (if she isn't on there already)!! I can't wait to get my hands on this book.....

  6. I'm so sorry about the loss of the looping. As a homeschooling mom, I'm all about the ongoing relationship and how much it aids learning! :-)

    Looking forward to this one by Creech.

  7. Thank you all for your condolences. NCTE's conference this November is entitled "Shift Happens." I guess that applies here, too.

    Abby, Miss Stretchberry's on the list -- number 28!!

  8. Funny how books come to you at the right time. This one came to you on the Saturday after the school year without looping. The power of books. Pass it along please:-)

  9. Anonymous5:20 PM

    "Shift happens." Small comfort! But I'm glad to learn of this book. Thanks for the great review.

  10. My son looped from 1st to 2nd and he was SO in love with his teacher. (Me, too.) And even now, in high school, he's angling to get the same teachers he loved again. Even the ones he didn't love he wants, because he's figured them out! LOL.

    Anyhow, I'm a big Sharon Creech fan, so I can't wait for this one. Great cover, too.

  11. Great review! I'm so jealous you found it before me in the back room! :)
    It will be on my "need to purchase" list in the fall, but if I could take a peek at it after Franki, I would love you forever!
    I'm sorry you were sad, but I know that there are many children who were very fortunate to have you in a looping situation!

  12. Oooh I can't wait to read this book! Great review. I like how you highlighted the teaching strategies and effect of writer's workshop. "she knows he'll get around to that, and he does" - a great teacher indeed!

    One thing I love about being a librarian is seeing the kids year after year and watching their progress as readers and writers. Sorry you are losing your looping.

  13. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Oh, snap! I had no idea this book was coming out. Can't wait to read it!

  14. Thank you Mary Lee for this great news! I had no idea Sharon Creech was coming up with this book! I can't wait to tell my class about this!

  15. Anonymous11:23 AM

    I cried when I read Love That Dog and almost did a jig when I learned there was a sequel. Miss Stretchberry is awesome, but what about Jack? Who wouldn't love a student like that?


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