Lisa's Reviews > Sounder

Sounder by William H. Armstrong
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Feb 21, 10

bookshelves: abuse, animals, coming-of-age, death, dogs, families, newbery, race, religion, values
Recommended to Lisa by: Newbery Class
Read in February, 2010

Sounder is a coon dog with an exceptional voice who belongs to the boy's sharecropping father. After the father steals a ham to feed his family Sounder is shot by the men who come to arrest him. Sounder crawls off to die or to heal, and the boy searches for him daily, never giving up hope that he's alive. Meanwhile the boys mother works harder to take care of the family and the boy helps and tends the 3 younger children. The mother tells stories and the boy longs to be able to read. Eventually Sounder returns injured, but faithful. The boy sets off on searches for his father who is doing hard labor for his crime. The boy eventually meets a kind teacher who invites the boy to live with him the part of the year that he's not needed at home to work the crops. One day when the boy is home his father returns. An explosion in a mine has injured him in ways that mirror Sounder's injuries. The father goes off to hunt with Sounder and sits down and dies. Sounder dies soon after.

None of the characters except Sounder is named. Armstrong writes with sparse emotion and with very little dialogue. The actions alone convey the long-suffering, patient spirits of the mother and son. The cruelty of the whites toward African-Americans arouses hatred in the boy, but the reader isn't privy to most of his thoughts. (It seems that this story would make a good graphic novel because of its strong reliance on action.)

This was a book that moved me greatly as a child and one that I would read yearly. Before re-reading it I couldn't remember much about it, and am intrigued now at its impact on me. I think perhaps it was one of the first books I read that depicted the horrors of racism and the effect of poverty. I wish I had a book report from my youth to give me insight into my thought processes then.


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