Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Underneath

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by David Small
When fate separates them, an old hound dog and two foster kittens survive the dangers of the bayou to find one another. Seeking shelter, a homeless pregnant cat responds to the "bluesy" baying of a hound named Ranger who lives chained under the porch of a shack in the woods of the East Texas bayou. He happily shares the Underneath with the cat and her two kittens, Sabine and Puck. The kittens are safe from Ranger's evil master Gar Face as long as they remain hidden, but Puck ventures out "straight into the terrible hands of Gar Face," who does his best to drown both the curious kitten and his mother. Somehow Puck escapes after promising his dying mother he will find Sabine and free Ranger, but he's on his own in a bayou teeming with mysterious creatures.

1 comment:

Jennifer Mattson/Booklist said...

...a rare example of youth fantasy with strong American underpinnings, Appelt’s novel folds in specific traditions of the Caddo peoples of east Texas, and casts the bayous as a kind of enchanted forest laden with spirits and benign, organic presences. Some readers may struggle with Appelt’s repeated phrases and poetic fragments, and wish the connections and conflicts in the story came to a faster boil. But most children will be pulled forward by the vulnerable pets’ survival adventure and by Small’s occasional, down-to-earth drawings, created with fluid lines that are a perfect match for the book’s saturated setting and Appelt’s ebbing, flowing lyricism.