44 pages 1 hour read

Sharon Creech

Hate That Cat

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2008

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Summary and Study Guide


Hate That Cat is a novel-in-verse by Sharon Creech, published in 2008. It is a sequel to Love That Dog (2001), another novel-in-verse by the same author. Creech is a two-time Newbery Medal winner, and she has been awarded the Carnegie Medal, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, and the Anne V. Zarrow Award, among others, for her contributions to children’s literature. Hate That Cat follows Jack for one school year as he navigates life’s challenges, such as coming to terms with the loss of a beloved pet and finding the courage to love another animal. Through a series of poems, Jack develops his own voice and healthy self-confidence as he learns about poetry’s emotional power.

This guide refers to the 2008 paperback edition, published by HarperCollins.

Plot Summary

Jack, the novel’s protagonist, is a student in Miss Stretchberry’s class for the second year in a row. Jack likes having Miss Stretchberry as a teacher as he feels she understands him. Miss Stretchberry teaches her students about poetry and encourages them to write it, which Jack enjoys. His first poem of the academic year introduces his dislike of cats. Also, Jack claims he cannot write any more poems about his dog, Sky, who was hit by a car and died last year. Despite this claim, Jack does write about Sky, using his poems to process his grief. His poems show how deeply the loss of his beloved dog still affects him.

Miss Stretchberry makes learning about poetic devices like onomatopoeia and alliteration fun, encouraging students to play with words and sounds. This prompts Jack to wonder what a person who is deaf might hear in their head when they read these words. As the class reads more poetry, Jack enjoys playing with new figures of speech, but he worries whether the writers are still alive—he is still coming to terms with Sky’s death and is uncomfortable with the idea of loss. Jack is deeply affected by poems that convey experience and feeling, and he is sometimes frustrated by his own attempts to produce similarly moving and effective writing.

When Miss Stretchberry’s cat has kittens, Jack’s father asks if he wants one, but Jack says no. He reasons that a cat might get hit by a car, run away, or get very sick and die. In fact, he says he doesn’t want any pets: Jack does not want to love and lose another pet because it is too painful. His poem, “THE BAD BLACK CAT,” helps to explain his prejudice against felines: In the poem, he explains that he tried to rescue a black cat from a tree, but the cat spat at him and scratched Jack’s face and neck. Soon after, Miss Stretchberry reads a poem written by Christopher Myers to the class, and it, too, is about a black cat, but not a mean one. When Jack reads this poem to his mother, who is deaf, he taps the rhythm of the poem with his fingers, and his mother proceeds to tap the rhythm with Jack. Afterward, she taps the same rhythm against her heart.

Jack gets a kitten for Christmas, and he immediately loves her. He names the kitten Skitter McKitter. However, Skitter goes missing one day, worrying Jack. Two weeks later, Jack hears the mean black cat mewing at the back door, and he finds that the hated cat has brought Skitter home. He is delighted that Skitter is back; she is injured, but happy to be home. Jack regrets his earlier hatred of the black cat and is grateful that it brought Skitter back to him.

Jack writes more poems about Skitter, and he writes about his mother, too. When his mother comes to the parents’ night at school, Miss Stretchberry says Jack can interpret for her. He feels enormously proud of himself for signing for his mother, especially in front of so many people, and he feels good that she is able to come and participate in a school event since he can interpret for her. In his final poem for the school year, he promises that he will pay attention to all the world’s sounds so that he can write them down for his mother, allowing her to feel them and hear them in her own way.