Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster, 2008
Pages:  320
Pages 320
Source:  My shelves
Genre:  Middle Grades Animals, Abuse

WARNING:  This story contains some very descriptive passages of abuse.  This is not for the younger child and only those who are mature enough to deal with these issues.


There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road.
A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest, and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them as alligator bait should he find them. But they are safe in the long as they stay in the Underneath.
Kittens, however, are notoriously curious creatures. And one kitten's one moment of curiosity sets off a chain of events that is astonishing, remarkable, and enormous in its meaning. For everyone who loves Sounder, Shiloh, and The Yearling, for everyone who loves the haunting beauty of writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers, Kathi Appelt spins a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love — and its opposite, hate — the fragility of happiness and the importance of making good on your promises.

My Review:
This is several stories rolled into one.    We have the story of a calico cat who finds a true friend in an old hound dog.  When her two kittens are born  there is more to worry about.  We have the story of Gar-Face the formerly abused boy who has grown into a disfigured man both physically and mentally.  He is abusive to his hound dog and takes great pleasure in killing animals.  Then we have the story of the Alligator King who Gar-Face is after and the Old Grandmother a shapeshifter who has lost her daughter and her grand-daughter.  As she learns,  evil has a price.  As she sits imprisoned she must decide if she will take the road of love or let hate continue to guide her.

I loved the mix of myth and nature and real life.  I felt so sorry for the animals and at the same time I felt sorry for Gar-Face who was a victim himself.  Kathi did an excellent job of making you use all of your senses.  This was a story I had to read from beginning to end.  It is on my list of books for students could choose to read this summer.  I will definitely recommend it to everyone.

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