Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Underneath

I just finished The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. Beautiful, lyrical prose tells the story of an old hound dog, Ranger, chained to the house of his evil, evil master. Along comes a pregnant cat that gives birth to two kittens. It is a survival story interwoven with a Caddo legend (Caddo are the ancient people of the bayou and East Texas). The legend is similar to the selkie/seal/turtle/ etc. that is seen throughout the world: an animal takes the form of a human, but can not return to the animal form unless it is forever. Gar Face, the evil master reminded me of the hard-drinking pirates from Treasure Island, while the poetic language was reminiscent of The Wind in the Willows.

I highly recommend this book, but it is one for upper level elementary into middle school. I think it would work well as a read aloud so that difficult passages from the Caddo legend to the evil Gar Face can be discussed.

Kathi Appelt has written many picture books, poetry and nonfiction. I’m going to check out her other books. I know I’ve read some of her picture books, but they didn’t really stick with me. I loved her book, Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. It is about the librarians who delivered books to patrons during the depression in Appalachia. Yes, I loved it because it is about librarians!

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