Friday, July 11, 2008
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
It is not every year that readers get a book as wonderful as THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt. I knew after the first few pages that this was a book that I was lucky to be reading. I have had the same feeling when I read WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech and THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. And I think I felt this way, years and years ago when I read THE SECRET GARDEN. Other people seem to be having the same reaction to this book—feeling the same way when they read a book that has been a lifetime favorite.
I even remember the talk around these books being similar to the talk I am hearing now about THE UNDERNEATH. Lots of my children’s lit friends are telling me that I need to read this book but they don't really say much about it. "It is just worth reading." You can’t really explain the book without actually reading it.
There is lots to this book to love and I am sure that it must be the talk of the current Newbery Committee. Kathi Appelt has woven together a brilliant story and she has crafted in a way that it is more than a story. The writing is powerful. She is able to weave several stories together in a way that tells an even bigger story.
This book is so much more than what the blurb on the front tells us. It is so much more than a dog book. So much more than a book about love and hate. It is so much more than a book about wisdom and innocence.
I am pretty sure that these characters will stay with me forever and that I will read this book again sometime soon. I think there are layers of meaning that I missed the first time through—I kind of thought about them quickly but was too invested in the plot to focus too much on the depth that Appelt has created with this story.
I am anxious to see how kids will respond to this book. I am thinking 5th grade is perfect. Maybe 4th or 6th. I have a few past students in mind who may read this and fall in love with it like I did. If I were teaching 4th or 5th grade next year, I would probably read this one aloud for sure. But I would save it for later in the year, once kids understand the possibilities in books, once they have learned to talk together about books. It would definitely be on my read aloud list but I would have to make sure to read it when they were ready for the depth and the emotion.
I’ve heard this book described as “dark”. I didn’t think so. I found some unpleasant things—some hate and some hateful characters, but the story is a hopeful one and one that I think will be around for a very long time.
This book is a MUST READ! Really, as you read it, you feel so lucky to have found such an amazing story!