Book Review: Jack and Larry (Jack Graney and Larry, the Cleveland Baseball Dog)

Baseball and dogs (not hot dogs).

That’s a combination sure to get the notice of some young readers (OK, maybe hot dogs, too), and Barbara Gregorich’s freeform poetic/historical novel Jack and Larry: Jack Graney and Larry, the Cleveland Baseball Dog has a great hook: a famous old-time baseball player whose dog became the mascot of a sad sack team that finally started winning. Told in the style of one- or two-page poetry, the lens of this book is the early days of baseball, and Jack Graney was a star about to be born on the Cleveland baseball fields.

But his team struggled mightily for many seasons, and then along came Larry, a bull terrier won in a bet, whose enthusiasm and energy encouraged the team, and energized the fans, to strive harder and believe in the idea of the baseball team as a “pack” that works together, and not just a collection of individual talent. There were many moments of disappointment for Graney, particularly when Larry goes missing and ends up dying in a street dog fight late in the book, but the memory of Larry and the team chemistry does finally come together, as the Cleveland team wins a pennant race and then the World Series. (Graney went on to become a name in baseball radio).

So, the story is great. The poems? Eh. I know it’s unfair as a reader to do so, but I hold up Sharon Creech (Love that Dog) and Thanhha Lai (Inside Out and Back Again) as examples of this genre, where the poems themselves are like little literary leaves on a larger tree. Here, in my view, the poems were just fair, and serviceable for the narrative. I wasn’t blown away by the poems, although there were a few pieces towards the end of the book that I enjoyed, and found myself deep in their rhythms. Luckily, the narrative of the player and his dog, and baseball history, carried me right through.

I appreciate Gregorich for sharing the history of Graney, Larry and the Cleveland team, and I will be sharing this book with my students, hoping the topic itself will draw a few into poetry and history.

Peace (on the diamond),


  1. Thanks for the wonderful review, Kevin. I’m very happy that you liked the story of Jack and Larry and the difficult road to Cleveland’s first pennant. I’m even happier that you will be sharing “Jack and Larry” with your students.

    For your information, and theirs, I have slowly been posting all the old grainy newspaper photos I have of Jack Graney and Larry on my Facebook Jack and Larry page — — so if you or your students would like to see some of the photos I used in my research and in writing the book, you can go to the Facebook page. There is, for example, a photo of Larry leapfrogging over the backs of the players: it was taken at Comiskey Park. And there’s a photo of Larry leaping through Jack’s arms.

    Just yesterday I received a photo I had never seen before, from the grandson of Lee Fohl, who managed the Indians from 1915-1919. I just posted that photo on my Facebook Jack and Larry page.

    Again, thanks for the review. I’m so happy you liked the story.

    Peace (everywhere),
    Barbara Gregorich

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