by Kathy Appelt; Illustrations by David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Original Publication Date: May 2008,
10th Anniversary Edition, May 2018)
Fiction * Survival * Animals
Audience: Ages 10 to 14
Indiebound | WorldCat
Description from GoodReads:
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 Underneath...as 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.
Thoughts about this book:
I vividly remember when I first read this book. Some books I remember reading but do not recall a lot about them. Other books, I remember the emotional feeling that the book produced in me as I read it, even when I can't remember anything about the book. Other books stay with you. They haunt you and leave strong emotions and vivid images of the book. The Underneath was the latter. Even nine years later, it still haunts me and I can still recall so much of the book.
When I first picked this book up, it was months after it had been recognized as a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor. I was getting back into extensively reading children's literature. I read it for a book club. Honestly, I had a very strong and somewhat negative reaction to the book. Initially, the book made me uncomfortable. It made me think. I questioned whether it was appropriate for children.
Over the years, I have kept reading books and talking with teachers and librarians all over the country and my thoughts about books for children evolved. I read other books by Kathi Appelt and found that I grew to appreciate and understand her writing style. And despite how much I enjoyed her other books, The Underneath continued to be the book that stayed with me. It makes me think like no other book ever had. As a result, my feelings about this book did an about face.
As I revisited The Underneath for this 10th Anniversary post, I realize how much I have grown as a reader and as a teacher because of the books that I have read. Over the years, I have learned that children can often handle really challenging topics and heavy emotions. And I have learned that you shouldn't underestimate children's ability to grapple complex concepts. For all of this, I am thankful to Kathi Appelt and her beautiful book, The Underneath, and how it changed me as a reader.
If you haven't yet read, The Underneath, I hope you will pick up a copy of the book and give it a read.
For the 10th anniversary, check out the new book trailer created by Kathi's son and daughter-in-law at BoTra Productions:
Look for a copy of The Underneath at your local indie bookstore or public library!
About the author: Kathi Appelt is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the PEN USA Award. Her other novels include The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, a National Book Award finalist, and Maybe a Fox, one of the Bank Street Books Best Children’s Books of the Year. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, and to find curriculum materials and activity pages, visit her website at kathiappelt.com.
Fifteen lucky winners will receive an autographed paperback copy of The Underneath. In addition, one Grand Prize winner will win a classroom set of 20 copies of the book PLUS a 30-40 minute Skype visit for her/his school, classroom, or library with award-winning author Kathi Appelt. Enter here!