Title: The Underneath
Author: Kathi Appelt, Drawings by David Small
Genre: Young Adult
Date Finished: 19 August 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars
First, a little disclaimer. This book is categorized as a Juvenile book which surprised me. I have actually categorized it under Young Adult. This book is not for sensitive readers. I suppose a more mature elementary age child could handle this book but generally I think it should be aimed at an older, more mature audience. The book is graphic in depictions of animal abuse and there is a lot of death, both of humans and animals. This is not a cuddly, feel good book about a dog and some cats as the cover might lead you to believe.
Now, with all that said, I have to say that this in a beautifully written and moving story. I was memorized by the narrative style of this book right from the first page. The fact that I got caught up in a book about a snake, an alligator, some cats, an old hound dog and some magic thrown in tells you this is a good book. These are not subjects that generally appeal to me, but this folktale like book just drew me in.
The Underneath is the story of Ranger, an old hound dog who has been chained for years to an old run down shack by his owner, Gar Face. It is the story of a pregnant calico cat who finds Ranger. Together they teach her kittens the importance of staying in the safety of underneath, away from the sight of the dangerous Gar Face.
The Underneath is also the story of an old snake called Grandmother by her reptilian cousins. It is the story of Grandmother's magical daughter, Night Song, who sheds her snake skin and leavers Grandmother when she falls in love with another magical creature. It is the story of what Grandmother does when faced with the loss of her beloved daughter.
The power of promises and the power of love weave their way through the narrative of The Underneath. All of these stories unfolded slowly but brilliantly and left me feeling nervous throughout. I was on tenterhooks waiting to discover how the stories would merge and what would become of the cast of characters, both animal and human.