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The Underneath

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  10,007 ratings  ·  1,841 reviews
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
Hardcover, 313 pages
Published May 6th 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Carla Ann Omg, multiple times. Free flowing tears. No shame in being moved by the beautiful. :)
Jerry I don't think 4-8th grade boys would be into this. It is too emotionally adult for them. Possibly 8th grade girls if they are the bookish sensitive ty…moreI don't think 4-8th grade boys would be into this. It is too emotionally adult for them. Possibly 8th grade girls if they are the bookish sensitive type. There is cruelty and violence that is inappropriate for most children of current days. (Children of earlier generations could handle this because they were not raised like the snowflakes of today.)(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  10,007 ratings  ·  1,841 reviews

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Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I review lots of books. Oodles of caboodles of books. And a lot of the time my thoughts can basically be boiled down to very simple sentences. "Me like book. Book good." or conversely "Me no like book. Book bad." It takes a very special story to knock me out of this frame of mind. When you pick up a copy of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and you read the words, "A novel like this only comes around every few decades," on the back cover you're forgiven if you scoff a little. Uh-huh. Suuuuuure it d ...more
Nov 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Passive-aggressive gift givers ("I'm giving you a gift... but it sucks!")
There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for awhile, and then abandoned on the side of the road.

This is the breathtaking opening sentence of The Underneath - a sentence that has already been over-quoted and will probably lose its luster once it is revealed as The Great Deceptor. What follows this ingenious sentence, however, is not nearly as captivating.

Kathi Appelt's asinine debut novel is inexplicably receiving buzz as a contender for the Newbery Medal. Perhaps after
4.5 Stars

”Whenever there is a breeze in the old forest, you might, for a moment, realize that the trees are singing. There, on the wind, are the voices of sugarberry and juniper and maple, all telling you about this hound, this true-blue hound, tied to a post. They have been watching him all these years, listening to his song, and if he knew what the trees were singing, it might be about how he found a friend.”

This hound, Ranger, lives his life attached by a chain to the porch of the house w
Nov 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Monica Edinger
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow. What a book. What a story. What an amazing piece of writing.

Now I admit it took me a while to read this one. While I definitely enjoyed sad animal stories as a child, now, with the occasional exception, I avoid them. And so, when I received a gorgeously packaged ARC of Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, I admired it (as it is handsomely illustrated by David Small) , and then read the flap. “An abandoned calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up dog….” Nope. Not fo
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every reader on Earth
I am not a good enough writer to tell you why you must read The Underneath.

I read a lot of books and I like most of them, but honestly, there are few that set themselves apart as books both magical and haunting, so well-crafted that the prose makes my heart ache with longing to read more and more.

The story is a simple one-- a calico cat, abandoned in the woods when she is pregnant, discovers the shack of a violent, broken man, known as Gar Face, who is so evil he shot his own dog. That dog, Rang
Roxanne Hsu Feldman
I cannot give this a rating since I cannot decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, I think the author has succeeded brilliantly in creating a world, a mood, a sense of place, a unique tone, a great bunch of palpable characters, a mesmerizing tale. There is this rippling effect, formed with recurrences of phrases, that makes me feel I am in the middle of that mysterious swampy land and that the land itself engulfs me. There is the unflinching treatment of cruelty and evil embodied by Gar Fac ...more
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I gave this award winning book to my daughter a few years ago when she still found reading more of a chore than a joy. I thought, here's a warm fuzzy story about a dog and a cat who become friends; it's an award winner; it must be good; she'll love it. Well, she didn't make it through the first 20 pages before discarding it. I recently picked it up looking for a quick read and couldn't have been more surpised by what I found. I hadn't read more than a few chapters before I recognized it as somet ...more
Nov 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm not really sure how to explain my feelings about this book. While I recognize that the writing is compelling and builds a great deal of suspense, I was just annoyed throughout the book. I'm also not convinced that this will be an attractive book to kids, who are the targeted audience, as far as marketing efforts go. And of course, the book has been nominated for the National Book Award and has all sorts of rumblings for the Newbery. I can only say I hope it doesn't win the Newbery. It would ...more
This book had me crying on page one. It's a dark story about an abused dog, an abandoned cat, and her kittens who come together to try to forge a life under the porch of a creepy, damaged man who enjoys killing things. It's powerful and disturbing and there's an awful lot of death for a children's novel.

The story meanders back and forth between 1000 years ago and today. It has an interesting rhythm to it as the story builds to its ultimate climax. I loved the writing, I loved (most of) the chara
Michael Fitzgerald
Until the end (chapter 123 - one hundred and twenty-three!), this was at 2 stars. The pathetic and ridiculous "choose love" deus-ex-moccasin resolution pushed it over the edge.

Here is a book that is 311 pages, 124 "chapters" (many of them are a page or less, and chapter 94 is 8 lines) and yet it just repeats and repeats itself. Often we just get "poetic" sentence fragments, just words without any direction. Omit needless words - omit needless chapters - omit needless books.

Over and over (and o
Julia L.
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A novel for children, young people and yes, an old gal like me. I found this story to be almost poetic in its telling. It certainly is full of the cliches of poetry: music of nature, the sound of great symphonies heard in the wind of trees, the kettle-drum rage of a storm and the purity of death coming to take one away from the pain of living when it is necessary... in the shape of a glowing hummingbird.
Its short chapters seem to me to be purposfully written that way to carry us along quickly f
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Unafraid of Sadness..
In alternating chapters and using alternating perspectives, Kathi Appelt spins a heartbreaking tale in The Underneath, following various creatures caught up in a dance of cruelty and kindness, love and hate, community and solitude. Weaving in and around one another, the various story strands here include that of a tiny calico cat, pregnant and abandoned by her human family; the hound-dog Ranger, chained up for years by his abusive owner, who in his loneliness adopts the cat and warns her of the ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story of an unlikely trio is so incredibly sad. I did love the magic that was woven throughout. I read this for extra credit for one of my classes.
Jun 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-fiction, fantasy
I finished this book about 4 hours ago, and I'm still a bit bumfuzzled about how to respond to The Underneath. I need to be able to choose three-and-a-half stars.

I had read so much lofty praise that perhaps my expectations were too high. Don't get me wrong. I liked the book. I think I reacted to much of it as was expected: I loved the calico cat, Puck and Sabine, and the first line killed me (and I don't even like cats); I loathed Gar Face and Grandmother Moccasin, the Alligator King made me ver
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. I wasn't sure about all of the "magical" themes because I was planning to read it aloud to my 10-year-old and my eight-year-old. But we really enjoyed it. They were so enthralled by the story and the rhythm of the prose is really captivating. I think this book is best enjoyed when read aloud. So many children's books are written so awkwardly that they're just not fun to read aloud. So glad we tried this one and I'm planning to read other books of hers my girls! Warning animal lover ...more
May 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Wow. The Underneath is one of the best children's books I've read in a long time.
How'd she do that?

I'll be posting an interview of Kathi Appelt asking her just that.

Here's the link:

Please take a look at my interview of Kathi Appelt, author of THE UNDERNEATH, on the
Imaginary Blog.


Nov 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: unclear
Hmmm, couldn't decide whether to give this 1 star or 5. A lyrically written book however devastating the words may be. Rumor has it that this might win the Newbery this year (why I read it). I can't imagine ever giving this book to a kid. There's child abuse, animal abuse, animal death, betrayal, every bad thing a human could do to another human or animal. Hard to read if you are a dog/cat lover. Can't imagine who this book was written for....however well done the writing.
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Appelt, Kathi. 2008. The Underneath.

The Underneath is a novel that I would have avoided (at all costs) as a kid. I was a wimp. Big-time. Seeing the dog and two kittens on the cover? That would have made me suspicious or wary from the get go. Reading that it is for folks who love, "Sounder, Shiloh, and The Yearling" would have sealed the deal. I wouldn't have gone near this one. No way. No how.

As an adult, however, how can I help but fall in love with The Underneath? It's beautiful. It's simply b
It's good, if you're in the mood to be patient with poeticness. Contrary to what this seems like from the cover, you don't have to be an animal lover. Actually, if you are an animal lover, it might be too much for you--or if you're someone who gets very emotional about books.

Usually, when I read a book, I have a pretty secure feeling that even though terrible things might happen to the characters, it's all going to turn out all right in the end.

But when the worst happens early in the book, you j
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
It is hard to know where to begin in describing this book as it has some many different pieces, a survival story, a love story, a myth, told from many different perspectives. It is getting rave reviews and the writing is lyrical, the story line original and complex but also appealing. Who can resist a sweet old dog who has been badly treated or two kittens just learning how very cruel the world can be. Then there's the 1,000 year old snake with her memories of love and loss, her desire for reven ...more
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-reader
My daughter read this book in school and went on and on about it for weeks. And, like a good mother, I responded with, "uh huh, that's nice dear" while really thinking about other things.

Then I bought her a copy and decided to read it myself. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't believe my daughter liked it so much because she is an insane animal lover. Her whole world revolves around knowing and preserving every animal species alive today.

But this is a good story, and probably more realis
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Betsy by: Jen Sullivan
Fabulous Young Adult book. I will later post an excerpt about "memory being like a soft blanket..."

"Memory is a slippery thing. When something terrible happens to you, like the loss of someone you love, like the loss of a mother or a father, or perhaps a twin sister or an old hound, memory can turn into a soft blanket that hides you from the loss." Kathi Appelt
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rikke by: Gitte Winneche
God, this was beautiful. And heartbreaking. Equally suspenseful and delightful, it had me on edge right from beginning to end. It is poetical and atmospheric, and yet there's this impending sense of doom hovering above every word.

I had no idea how it would end. I just devoured every word.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was my favourite when I was younger, I remember reading it when I went to America for the first time.
Me reading this book: ???????
This just was not for me. I felt it was overly poetic and circular - the story lost me.
Maryn M.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The Underneath" is overall a very interesting and unique book, and I enjoyed reading it. The time period bounces around to different years, specifically to the years of important events that happens in the story. The books meaning to me is about friendship, responsibility, and trust, three very important things. In the story there is a lonely, abused hound dog that is chained to an old house, and his owner is a despicable vile man that lives inside the old tilting house located in the middle of ...more
Patti Richards
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Where to begin with this powerful story of pain, suffering, betrayal, love and redemption? The most obvious place is underneath the porch of the tilting house where Ranger lives with the calico cat and then cares for her two kittens, Sabine and Puck. But that’s not where the story begins or takes the reader; it goes way back to a time when shape shifting animals take on human forms for love and ancient people still hear the voices of the trees. This powerful telling made me stop after just a few ...more
Davis Smith
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh my. Oh my, oh my. I'm in love. Judging by the huge list of glowing reviews in the front flap, I had mixed expectations diving in. But boy, oh boy, was I wrong. Boy, oh boy. The story is written in a poetic fashion, but you know what? It doesn't really seem like it's trying too hard to be poetic. I got the impression that the author didn't sit at the keyboard and think for 2 hours about what she was going to write to make it good. She just let her thoughts flow, and whenever she thought of a p ...more
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Lives in College Station, TX with husband Ken and four adorable cats.

Two sons, both musicians.

Serves on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program.

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