I received a letter from a teacher yesterday that made my day. It's wonderful when one of my books is appreciated by adults - but even more wonderful to know that children love it - because, after all, to quote the ole Hokey Pokey song: that's what it's all about.
I'm so glad that she shared this with me. Those kids are pretty darned lucky to have a teacher like this.
Her letter (appearing here with her permission):
Thank you for writing such a wonderful book! I stumbled upon How to Steal a Dog while perusing Borders. I was looking for a book that addressed poverty, but I knew my students loved "dog" books, so I picked it up. I bought one copy and thought I was going to use it for a read aloud, then I realized that it addressed poverty. A month prior, I received a grant to purchase books about poverty and How to Steal a Dog was perfect! I ended up ordering 25 copies.
I know a book is "good" when it can hold my students' attention on the last day of school. We were using the book as a class novel (they read it outloud, with partners, independently...), but time slipped away from us and we only had 2 days before school ended to finish the last few chapters. I had to take over and read the remainder of the book aloud. Another teacher walked by my room on the last day and was shocked when she saw all of my students sitting and only heard my voice from the classroom. Throughout the building there was the normal chaos the end of the year brings, but in my classroom, students were deep in thought worrying about Willy and Georgina and Carmella and of course about a new home for the family.
I teach in a school where 93% of the students live in poverty. Some have been homeless on occassions. I think the students understood how Georgina felt. They have been embarassed when others see them at the food bank. They have been angry when their mother doesn't have the $3.00 for a field trip. And they have been ashamed that they couldn't afford the "in" clothes and shoes. I applaud you for writing a book that doesn't portray the ideal life, where everyone lives in suburbia and the biggest problem is a divorce. Thank you as a teacher for writing literature that addresses real social issues!
I am going to use the book again next year, and for years to come. We had a lot of discussions as we read the book, and the students often wrote about how Georgina felt or they tried to explain why stealing is sometimes an "ok" thing to do. Do you have any other ideas or suggestions that I should try out next year? I have read your discussion guide, but am wondering if you have any other ideas, or insights that you would like to share.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
A grateful teacher,