BOOK REVIEWS

The Underneath Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-05-26 
Review Score: 3 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings
ISBN:1416950591
LANGUAGE: English

"Where to begin with this powerful story of pain, suffering, betrayal, love and redemption? The most obvious place is underneath the porch of the tilting house where Ranger lives with the calico cat and then cares for her two kittens, Sabine and Puck. But that’s not where the story begins or takes the reader; it goes way back to a time when shape shifting animals take on human forms for love and ancient people still hear the voices of the trees. This powerful telling made me stop after just a few chapters each time I sat down to read it. Often, I found myself just sitting and thinking in order to put all the pieces together before going on. Sometimes the words, sentences, pages and scenes were just too beautiful and sorrowful to absorb more than a little at a time.

A 2009 Newberry Honor Book, The Underneath, is so much more than just a book for children. In fact, many times I felt like it was more for adults in its sentence structure, flashback style and themes. Although the driving force of the story is a lonely, faithful dog and his cat family, the many different layers to the telling might make it well above a midgrade comprehension level. The vocabulary is well matched to the reading level, although some unfamiliar words will require a pause and a visit to the dictionary for some at the lower end of this book’s spectrum.

I absolutely loved the voice of the storyteller in the novel. It made me feel like I was sitting at the feet of a very old, very wise woman, who knew the stories of her people well, and told them as if she were carving the memories into the listeners. Overall a powerful, wonderful read for older readers and even adults, but a little intense for the youngest midgrade readers.
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" This book was my favourite when I was younger, I remember reading it when I went to America for the first time. " said.

" Me reading this book: ???????This just was not for me. I felt it was overly poetic and circular - the story lost me. " said.

" God, this was beautiful. And heartbreaking. Equally suspenseful and delightful, it had me on edge right from beginning to end. It is poetical and atmospheric, and yet there's this impending sense of doom hovering above every word.I had no idea how it would end. I just devoured every word. " said.

" Pros: short chapters, talking animals in dire situations feeling their feelings.Cons: overlong, overwrought, four different time periods separated by decades and millennia, repetition, repetition, a surprise ending that is not so much as surprise as implausible given what has been built up the whole book. " said.

" Fabulous Young Adult book. I will later post an excerpt about "memory being like a soft blanket...""Memory is a slippery thing. When something terrible happens to you, like the loss of someone you love, like the loss of a mother or a father, or perhaps a twin sister or an old hound, memory can turn into a soft blanket that hides you from the loss." Kathi Appelt " said.

"I found Appelt's comma-infused writing repetitive and very distracting. The writing, it was so full, round, globular, and it distracted. Distracted, it did. Yes. Very distracted, I was.

Aside from that (which actually had me cursing aloud at more than one spot) I found the story to be very Newbery-like. With that many tragedies and the plethora of dead/evil parents, how can the committee resist? It's a shoe-in.

I can see that the story was essentially sweet and ended in a hopeful fashion, but I was not particularly moved by it.

I think maybe I need a break from fiction, I'm sensing a trend wherein I become crankier as each book goes by.
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"My daughter read this book in school and went on and on about it for weeks. And, like a good mother, I responded with, "uh huh, that's nice dear" while really thinking about other things.

Then I bought her a copy and decided to read it myself. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn't believe my daughter liked it so much because she is an insane animal lover. Her whole world revolves around knowing and preserving every animal species alive today.

But this is a good story, and probably more realistic than we'd like to admit (well, except for the plotting alligator). It was powerfully sad, and although I loved it, it will be awhile before I have the emotional stamina to read it again.
" said.

August 2019 New Book:

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