Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday Book Review: The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

I do most of my reading-for-pleasure in the car. Even though I work at home and don’t have the commute most people have to deal with, it’s amazing how many books on CD a person can “read” in any given week. I read at least one a week as I do errands, drive to business meetings, and take recyclables to the dump. Those 10, 20, and 30 minute car rides add up. I thought I’d share some of my recent great finds with you.

Kathi Appelt’s latest, Newberry Honor winner The Underneath is a prime example of the adage: “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Illustrator David Small has created a cover that shows a sleepy hound-dog laying under a house or porch. Cuddled next to him, are two, gray, sweet-looking kittens. Don’t be fooled. Appelt’s book wasn’t also nominated for the National Book Award because it is “sweet.”

The Underneath is a book filled with tension. Ranger, the hound, belongs to the cruel Gar-Face. Gar-Face was an abused child who grew up to become an abusive man. Ranger let his master down, once, and for that has been tethered to the house with a 20 foot long chain. His whole world is the circumference of that 20 foot span. Ranger’s world includes the crawl space under Gar-Face’s house: the underneath.

To this microscopic world comes a pregnant calico cat. She gives birth to her kittens and Ranger helps to raise them. Does this still sound sweet? Not even close.

Appelt combines Native American story telling, creepy and seductive bayou creatures, anthropomorphized animals, and a unique narrative voice to tell a story that began thousands of years before and climaxes in the present. Pick up The Underneath and be ready to be amazed.

1 comment:

Diane Mayr said...

Ooo, this sounds good!