by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
For this week’s Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week and posts, we are reprising Sharon Creech’s classic Love That Dog, which we featured last April, when the world felt like a very different place. We still want to help you celebrate National Poetry Month this April however you can—and share a timeless novel about finding your own voice and the incredible power of teachers to change lives.
I always have tremendous respect for the work teachers do every day, but now more than ever, I am awed and humbled by what teachers are coping with during the COVID-19 crisis—incredible challenges to help their students stay connected and continue learning in the midst of unprecedented disruption to everyone’s daily lives.
Our mission at Scholastic Book Clubs is to be there for teachers and students through thick and thin, providing the best books at affordable prices so that all children—of all ages and backgrounds with a wide range of interests and reading abilities—can learn to love books and see themselves as readers.
We had to close Scholastic Book Clubs for a few days to sort out and reroute class book orders that were caught up in shipping when schools closed—and to make sure our warehouse in Jefferson City, Missouri, was properly prepared to ensure our employees’ safety as they pick, pack, and ship book orders.
But I am so happy to announce that after a tremendous team effort, Scholastic Book Clubs (scholastic.com/bookclubs) has reopened and we are able to ship book orders to teachers’ homes if your schools, where you normally get your Book Boxes shipped, are closed.
(We also have another way to get books into the hands of children during this unprecedented crisis: the Scholastic Book Clubs Pop-Up Shop [scholastic.com/clubshop], where families can order and have books shipped directly to their homes—and earn Bonus Points for teachers when they enter their Class Code at checkout.)
While the crisis we are living through in 2020 is clearly like nothing we have ever been through before in this country, in one small way, this period reminds me of many years ago when we had such a positive response to our book orders that we were having trouble shipping Book Club Book Boxes in a timely way. The holidays were coming and our teacher customers were understandably upset. The shipping conveyer belts were backed up and our customer service reps couldn’t handle the call volume. Teachers ended up on hold with music for long wait times.
One very resourceful teacher refused to wait on the phone any longer, so she found my direct-dial office number in New York City. I answered the phone to a very, very, VERY loud voice on the other end demanding to know where her book order was. And she was not taking anything other than “YES! IT’S COMING THIS WEEK!” for an answer.
I figured out a way to get her Book Box shipped to her, and soon our shipping straightened itself out and our customer service reps could handle the business-as-usual calls they were used to getting. But I couldn’t shake the idea of how important Scholastic Book Clubs is to teachers—and the incredibly important role books play in children’s lives.
I also couldn’t stop thinking about that teacher who cared so much about getting her books to her students. I decided that anyone with that kind of dedication and determination needs to come work with us.
I found that teacher. Her name is Carol Levine, a second grade teacher in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. I convinced Carol to first consult and then come work with us full-time.
Today, many years later, Carol is still doing whatever it takes to make sure students everywhere get their books and that teachers have the support they need and deserve. She is working side by side with our team today to make sure we can be up and running to get your book orders out to you as soon as possible!
Our Book of the Week, Love That Dog, is beautifully written, accessible, and beloved by all children who pick it up; it celebrates the power of poetry and features an incredible teacher, Miss Stretchberry, whose dedication to her students reminds me of the thousands of teachers—like Carol—whom I know and work with every day. Miss Stretchberry reminds us all of the incredible power teachers have to change our relationships to reading and writing.
“People will love that dog, and this book.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In Love That Dog, Miss Stretchberry gently coaxes Jack to share his poems, and he goes from being reluctant and cynical to passionate and confident. Miss Stretchberry, respectfully and gingerly—but with that steadfast determination that is at the core of most of the amazing teachers I know—encourages Jack to explore his ideas and his feelings and his happy and sad memories—all of it—through poetry, helping him find and use his own voice.
The confidence, affirmation, and power Jack gets from Miss Stretchberry in Love That Dog triggered a lovely and important memory for my friend and colleague David Vozar:
“The story reminds me so vividly of Mrs. Serringa, who would put my art on the bulletin board, transforming it from something I didn’t think was very good to something I was very proud of. With Mrs. Serringa—and other teachers I had—believing in me, I learned to believe in myself.”
Teachers are my heroes. The professional skills and passion they bring to their students every day—whether in a physical classroom or a virtual one—is awe-inspiring.
I believe—as do many of the people who work at Scholastic—that teachers have the most important job on the planet. Teachers deserve our collective respect, appreciation, and continuous support. Partnering with families, teachers hold our children’s futures, as successful learners, readers—and citizens—in their hands.
Some of my best friends are teachers. My mother was a teacher. My grandmother was a teacher. Some of my favorite characters in children’s books are teachers, and they stand beside Miss Stretchberry as true literary role models: Mr. Falker (in Patricia Polacco’s Thank You, Mr. Falker), Ms. Frizzle (from the Magic School Bus series), Mr. Slinger (in Kevin Henkes’s Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse), Miss Binney (in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest), and Miss Honey (in Roald Dahl’s Matilda). And there are lots and lots more. (Please email me with your favorites at JNBlog@scholastic.com—I am keeping a list.)
At Scholastic Book Clubs, we will do everything in our power to help teachers get the resources—and the professional support—they need to do the very best job they can, teaching, inspiring, motivating, coaxing, cajoling, and mentoring their students every single day in their physical and virtual classrooms. Especially now, in these strange, uncertain times, we want to be there for you: in every teacher’s corner.
The photo below was taken just one year ago, before social distancing, when Scholastic Book Clubs Teacher Advisors came to our New York City offices for a two-day meeting. Today, they continue to work remotely with us—still taking their roles very seriously to help Scholastic help all teachers do the very best job they can every day.
I hope you enjoy Love That Dog and that it inspires you to write some poems of your own and reflect on the incredible work you do—and all the wonderful teachers in your own life. Please write to me at JNBlog@scholastic.com and tell me about them—all of us at Scholastic would love to hear teachers’ stories and learn about how we can best support them.
Happy reading, and and best wishes to stay healthy and safe!
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs