Room 313

adventures in teaching creative writing

Jack and Larry REVIEW

[Spoiler: This book involves a dog and thus involves a dog’s ultimate death. This should come as no surprise for anyone over the age of eight. The way Larry dies is important to this review, so I’m going to reveal that information here.]

This sweet based-on-a-true-story novel in verse will entertain young fans of baseball and dogs alike. The Jack in the title is John Gladstone Graney, a Canadian who played major league baseball for Cleveland in the 1910s. Larry is the bull terrier who becomes the team’s mascot and the charge of Jack when the team’s manager says so. This book follows Graney’s quest for fame and glory with his team and the antics and support that Larry provides.

The poems are free verse, easy to read, titled, and make use of deliberate and sometimes seemingly random indentations. For example, on page 53, she writes:

jack_larry_1

After some of the poems, a gray box with additional information in prose appears like a parenthetical aside. These boxes worked okay for me, but they sometimes brought me out of the story. I wonder if they could have been converted into poems themselves or included in the back of the book as a Notes or Appendix section. One of the boxes featured an excerpt from a newspaper article, which could have been formatted to look like an actual newspaper article. I think this book could have made use of a more multi-genre approach or used a variety of poetic forms for greater depth.

The only photograph of Jack and Larry is on the cover of the book, which was somewhat disappointing. Whenever a book touches on history, I always find myself wanting more photographs. I wonder how many more are actually even available.

Like most books involving dogs, Larry dies. While wondering off through a city as was his custom, a stray dog attacks him. It’s incredible to me that Jack didn’t watch Larry and take better care of him. He just sets Larry loose to do his business and entertain himself. As a dog owner, I was shocked by this. Gregorich praises the bond and love between Jack and Larry, but I can’t see a responsible, loving dog owner letting his dog roam the streets of a strange (or familiar) city all by himself. This story definitely comes from a different era. Gregorich does not go into great detail about Larry’s wounds. She simply writes,

jack_larry_2

Jack and Larry is a good introduction for young readers to the novel in verse format. Fans of baseball will find this historical book interesting, but dog owners might be disappointed in some of Jack’s actions. Gregorich makes sure to point out that Cleveland made a poor decision in naming their team the Indians…

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…but she never acknowledges that Jack’s irresponsibility led to Larry’s untimely death.

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