Friday, July 11, 2008

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

I’m not afraid of animal stories that might make me cry. I’ve read and reread (with tears streaming down my face) Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Little Britches, and Each Little Bird That Sings.

The Underneath came along at a time when my heart was a little wobbly with pet emotions – our ancient (20 year-old) cat passed away while we were in Europe, and we were in the midst of adopting a rescue cat who had been chewed on by a dog and shot with BBs.

And yet, The Underneath did not make me cry. I was drawn in immediately by the animal characters and completely repulsed by the human characters. I was captivated by the language. (This book is a poem. A long prose poem. I think it would make an amazing read aloud.) I followed the weaving of all of the stories mesmerized, as if in a dream. As the tension in the story built, I read urgently. I raced to the end, and yet when I finished I wanted nothing more than to read it again. Immediately.

There is no easy way to tell what this book is about. Good and evil, hate and love, the piney woods of East Texas, ancient trees and ancient spirits, hummingbirds, life and death. You just have to read it. You must read it. What are you waiting for? Read it!

Reviews with plot summaries and glowing praise abound. This is a book that’s Going Places. Be sure not to miss Kimberly Willis Holt’s conversations with Kathi Appelt here (part one) and here (part two).

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