Katie's Reviews > The Underneath

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
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Jan 09, 12

bookshelves: abuse, animals, children-s, fiction, newbery, honor

I feel that I should like this book – the reviews have been great, and it won a Newbery honor and a National Book Award. But I quite frankly did not like this book. First of all, the cover is very deceiving. Looking at the illustration of the sad-eyed hound dog and his two kitten companions, you’d think it would be the cute story of an unlikely animal family. While that is part of the story, the rest of the story is dark and depressing. The pregnant calico cat has been abandoned, driven out to the woods and left there by her owners. She finds the dog, Ranger, chained to the porch of a run down house. Ranger’s owner physically and emotionally abuses him, as he himself was abused as a child. There’s also a subplot about a thousand year old snake trapped in a jar that I’m just not even going to get into. The book jacket states that this is a “tale about the power of love.” More like a tale about child and animal abuse, abandonment, alcoholism, deceit and death. Most of the reviews praise the authors writing style, but I found it repetitive and boring. I felt impatient while I was reading it, like I was just waiting for it to be over. Perhaps children who like sad animal stories will like this tale, although it’s certainly not one that I would recommend. I think that the main audience for this book is adults who are interested in children’s literature. In fact, I did not find one review that was written by a child or young adult, which I think is telling.
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