Notes from the Dog
"Sometimes having company is not all it's cracked up to be." Fifteen-year-old Finn is a loner, living with his dad and his amazing dog, Dylan. This summer he's hoping for a job where he doesn't have to talk to anyone except his pal Matthew. Then Johanna moves in next door. She's 10 years older, cool, funny, and she treats Finn as an equal. Dylan loves her, too. Johanna's dealing with breast cancer, and Matthew and Finn learn to care for her, emotionally and physically. When she hires Finn to create a garden, his gardening ideas backfire comically. But Johanna and the garden help Finn discover his talents for connecting with people.
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Reread the Dedication page. It is highly unusual for a piece of literature to be dedicated to "everyone who..." as is the inclusion of biblical scripture (quoted on this page). Be on the lookout for anything relating to cancer or "a time to..." connections as this might be symbolic and relate to the text's main theme. The video below will help in identifying themes while reading. (This annotation contains a video)
Left click a word with your mouse or press a word with your finger for a second to use the define feature or add your own annotations. (When a given definition does not seem to fit the context of the reading, then you will want to use the "search Wikipedia or Google this word" option within the "define" feature in order to explore other definitions.)
Watch this video on characterization in literature. Consider how the author has characterized the narrator in these first few pages of the narrative. (You may end the video at 2:12 as the rest does not pertain to your assignment.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAOW6IrmqBc (This annotation contains a video)
Which word best characterizes Finn?
Johanna has a very positive outlook on her cancer diagnosis. At this point, it's difficult to tell if she's in remission (recovery) or still actively fighting her cancer. What we can tell is that she appears to be living as though she is healthy and not suffering from disease.
How does the author use word choice to impact the meaning of this paragraph about the main character's mother? Cite specific examples from the text to support your response.
Reread this sentence as though Finn were about to ask his dog if he had actually written the note but then had a change in thought mid-sentence. recognize what the author was able to accomplish with a mere seven words between two hyphens. Fin seems to have had an entire internal monologue in that "pause" where he secretly began opening his mind to the slightest possibility that the words about him might be true.
Why did Finn jump at Johanna's voice?
Take a look at this video which illustrates the Elements of Plot Structure with the help of Disney's animated film, Aladdin. Keep this in mind as you read on. It seems that these two characters, who are opposites in many ways, are going to embark on a journey to do something new together. Which element of plot structure have we reached? (This annotation contains a video)
Why are the words in the highlighted selection all capitalized?
As you read this chapter, notice the tone with which Finn thinks and speaks. It sounds like listening to a real teenager! Watch this comparison of tone and mood below. (This annotation contains a video)
What do you suppose the author is alluding to here?
Which of the following does Johanna's character represent?
The author intentionally chose words that would affect both the image in our minds and possibly the tension in our bodies as we read. (Figurative language such as that used in this paragraph will be addressed later in the book.) He then achieves humor by following this with a single-simple-sentence paragraph.
Are you starting to get a sense that this garden is more like a life-changing experience than a weekend project?
Why does the narrator glare at Finn?
Which of the following would not be a logical inference made from reading the highlighted selection?
If we were to read this paragraph and none of the other text in this book, we might think that this paragraph was written in a third person point of view since there are no clues here that let us know that the narrator is a character in this story. The link below provides a closer look at point of view. (This annotation contains a video)
Analyze the highlighted thoughts of the narrator. Compare this to Ecclesiastes 3 (quoted on the page before Chapter 1). How do the two relate to the text?
This realization shows how profoundly Johanna is influencing the narrator.
The details at the beginning of the chapter illustrate a ________ tone.
How has the author's word choice helped develop the narrator's point of view regarding Matthew?
Can't you just feel the growing anxiety as you read through this paragraph, as though you were the nervous kid asking a group of burly construction workers to donate money to support breast health?
Grandpa's view on watching baseball on TV is ________.
"Hit up" means to be asked for something, usually money. This idiom is a form of figurative language whose meaning cannot be predicted by the literal meaning of he words. Watch the rap video below to learn about other types of figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)
Notes From the Dog: Quiz #1 Chapters 1-7
Analyze this paragraph and determine if the main character is showing signs of evolution. If so, cite specific examples. If not, provide evidence from the text to support that as well.
We can get a sense of the plot and setting by paying attention to the details about the garden. Obviously it takes time to grow, so any sign of growth, setback, and regrowth is a way of moving the plot forward.
The title of this book is Notes From the Dog and yet this is only the second note. Anything jumping out as to what the significance may be?
Examine the highlighted text. Why do you suppose the author chose to end the chapter this way?
Keep an eye open for any reference to death. What was bothering Matthew? Was the Tribute and Memorial Program reminding him of a lost loved one?
What can you conclude from the author's choice of words?
The author uses figurative language to compare his feet to dough. This helps the reader visualize his feet and adds humor to the reading.
What does this part of the scene sound like?
Indeed, the pink ribbon does symbolize Breast Cancer Awareness. In fact, October is the nationally recognized month for Breast Cancer Awareness in the US. (This annotation contains an image)
That's a great example of personification, another form of figurative language. Don't you get the sense that the rocks are alive by the way the author describes them multiplying on their own?
There is a sense of satisfaction at the opening of this chapter which quickly changes to hopelessness, and finally concludes with a tone of hope and relief. How does Chapter 12 contribute to the structure of plot development for this story?
Visions of Johanna, the Bob Dylan reference made at Finn and Johanna's introduction, portrays "Johanna" as the song writer's muse. Look up the definition of muse and consider how that term applies to our Johanna.
Which of the following gives you a sense that we are approaching the climax?
The author has just expressed an underlying message about life. Consider how this is connecting to the themes in the book.
Notes From the Dog: Quiz #2 Chapters 8-14
Johanna has made a permanent mark on these boys for the better.
Two critical events happened in this chapter which signifies that we are at or near the
A one page chapter is unusual. It must signify something important. What might the author be trying to communicate to us?
What can we conclude about Johanna's statement regarding family?
Finn certainly has changed his attitude, and this signifies growth in his character.
This brings to mind the term "in memoriam" which means "in memory of." It feels as though Johanna was giving the boys a gift to remember her by.
The overall tone at the end of this chapter is
One of the many interpretations of Bob Dylan's song, Visions of Johanna, says that "Johanna" is his muse, an inspiration to an artist. It also states that the artist is on a hopeless mission to find the ideal.
Defend the idea that Johanna was a muse for Finn as well as Finn was a muse for Johanna. Support your argument with examples from the text.
"Thank you" from survivors? From loved ones? Who would those thank you's be representing? Is this what a real Fight for a Cure race sounds like?
What detail is revealed during the race?
Can you vividly imagine the candlelight under the moonlight, both reflecting on the water and the warm glow on skin in the darkness? The couple dancing so tenderly in hues of purply-gray. You can hear the way they've blocked out everything but the love and courage and determination of the battle against her cancer.
What does Finn mean in the final sentence and what does the author intend for us to understand by concluding this way?
An epilogue is the element of a narrative where the reader finds out what happens to the characters well after the events of the final chapter.
Notes From the Dog: Quiz #3 Chapters 15-Epilogue