If you've read The Underneath you know how difficult it must be for me to put in words how I feel about this story. Can you wholeheartedly hand this book to another, gushing about how good it is without also giving a bit of a warning? A warning about all the sadness the reader will be exposed to, enveloped in. I think you can, if you are careful with your audience.
I do not believe in censoring or shielding young readers from heavy stories. Because some of our young readers have even heavier lives, and to pretend otherwise simply isn't fair.
Kathi recommends her book is best suited to readers in grades 4-8, and I agree 100% with this. The parallel stories in this book nudge me to think that older readers will take a bit more away from it. And the story certainly begs to be discussed. In fact, reading this in solitude was difficult. Many people around me have heard about The Underneath because I couldn't keep all my thoughts inside while reading, I needed to process through talking.
The story does not dash along at a breakneck pace. Readers that need constant action and motion will need to work hard at sitting put and waiting, much like a character or two in the book. With chapters commonly under 1/2 to 3 pages long, it doesn't drag, either.
So, who are those sweet animals on the cover? The old hound dog, Ranger. The two gray kittens, Sabine and Puck. What is their story? And whose porch do they call The Underneath? Gar Face. Do not cross Gar Face. He is the most damaged soul I've ever come across in a middle grade novel.
If the cats and dog were humans this story would be too much. But they are cats and a dog. And you should read this story. Appelt's writing is masterful, which is what saves you in the midst of the sorrow, her beautiful way of stringing words together.
In celebration of 10 wonderful years, a new trailer and a contest have been released. Enjoy and share!
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