by Kathi Appelt
Read by Gabra Zackman.
Appelt, Kathi. 2008.THE UNDERNEATH. Ill. by David Small. Read by Gabra Zackman. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Audio. ISBN 0-7435-7208-4.
THE UNDERNEATH, by Kathi Appelt, is an awesome book that has left me reflecting upon days after reading. The novel mixes real life situations with fantasy about survival. A calico cat hears the howling blues of a hound dog and follows his bellowing until she discovers Ranger, the hound dog, chained underneath a porch in the swampy forest country of east Texas. She quickly discovers Ranger's owner, Gar Face, is abusive. When the calico delivers two babies underneath the porch, she warns them never to go out from the underneath. As predicted, one day one of the kittens is curious and ventures out, only to be discovered by Gar Face. Other characters and their stories are played out at the same time as the main plot and eventually come together in an interesting twist.
The animals and trees in THE UNDERNEATH are personified in their actions, feelings, talking, and the fact that they hope, hold grudges, etc. "For trees, who see so much sorrow, so much anger, so much desperation, know love for the rare wonder of it, so they are champions of it and will do whatever they can to help it along." Moreover, the reader definitely feels a kinship with the protagonist, Ranger, rooting for his freedom from the abusive owner, fearing for his safety, and feeling the pain of the blows he endures. Likewise, Ranger's sadness causes the reader to sympathize with him, hoping for him to triumph over Gar Face. Likewise,the irony that the man is a better meal for the alligator than the dog or the cat satisfies the reader's need for justice.
The majority of the plot is believable, logical and internally consistent. Fantasy definitely come into play with the snake's family, transformed into humans and back. "Here is a woman who has stepped out of her human skin donned her serpent body...But here is a woman who did not know that once she returned to her serpent shape and slid into the water, she could not ever go back to the world of humans." Although the plot is original and creative, in places the reader is reminded of other famous stories. For instance, the snake scenario reminds me of the bible story in which the baby was going to be sawed in two so the the real mother and phony mother could each have half. The real mother wouldn't allow it because she loved the baby too much. The snake was being selfish, much like a phony mother. As well, the story is full of journeys, such as the kitten trying to find its way home; with tasks to accomplish, such as that kitten trying to break the chain and fulfill its mom's last command. There were many obstacles to overcome and numerous villains to vanquish.
The setting is crucial to the story, accommodating the particular animals and lifestyle of Gar Face. The description is very detailed and it is easy to visualize the events. The details play a very integral part of the story. The theme reflects universal truths that transcend time and place. In the end, the mother snake chose love and she is the one who freed Ranger by biting the chain. She offered hope in the end.
The style has a clear and consistent point of view that encourages the reader to believe in the fantasy world.
I especially enjoyed listening to THE UNDERNEATH on audio. The reader had a pleasant voice with an accent appropriate for the story. The story was written so that at time certain phrases were repeated, making it more theatrical in places.
Horn Book (March/April, 2009)
This haunting story of one dog's and two kittens' journey toward freedom is a unique amalgam of repetition, rhythm, and sustained foreboding. Zackman's narration is appropriately melodious, each syllable carefully pronounced and the interpretations of Alligator King and Grandmother Snake kept realistic, not melodramatic. Eschewing musical enhancements and elaborate voices, this recording features simplicity and clarity as it pulls the listener in to learn what will happen to Ranger, the hound dog who sings the blues, and whether the 1000-year-old lamina (half human, half serpent) will finally win revenge for the loss of her daughter, Hummingbird. A tale of sacrifice and enduring love that will reward careful listeners.
Publishers Weekly (July 28, 2008)
On the page, Applet's first novel, about abused animals and set in a Deep South swamp, reads like it might be spoken with a pronounced twang. Zackman's interpretation, however, is so mellifluous that it sounds like a lullaby. That smooth delivery strikes a discordant note with the material, a story that braids three dark narrative strands: the vodka-swilling Gar Face's battle with the 100-foot-long Alligator King; Gar Face's abuse, chained hound dog's ill-fated shepherding of a mother cat and her kittens; and the thousand-year imprisonment of Grandmother Moccasin, a serpent so selfish she resents her daughter falling in love. The even-keel delivery also makes it hard to keep track as the story shifts among the myriad points of view, which include those of the villain, a family of shape-shifters, various animals and sentient trees. Appelt's stylistic choice to use repetition as a construct--"This cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate..."--makes for a monotonous audio experience, and her use of words such as "goldy" (to describe sunshine) makes this disquieting book sound precious. Ages 9-12. Simultaneous release with the S&S/Atheneum hardcover. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Grades 6-8 Audiovisual List Lamplighter Award Nominees 2010-2010 - Audiovisual List
New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Young Adult - Audiovisual List
King (Coretta Scott) Honor Books Past
Newberry Honor Books - 2009
Newberry Honor Books Past
Judy Freeman's BER List for 2008-2009: What's New in Children's Literature: 100+ Favorite 2008 Children's Books for Grades PreK-6
Judy Freeman's Winners List, May 2009: 100+ Top-Rated 2008 Children's Books for Grades PreK-6
Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Grades 6-8
Read other books about dogs/animals, and about survival
Max the Missing Puppy by Holly Webb
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien, illustrated by Zena Bernstein
The Escape (Animorphs, Book # 15) by K. A. Applegate
Research animal rights
Research and/or visit the local pound
Interview the "dog catcher" and/or veterinarian
A STEP FROM HEAVEN
by An Na
Na,An. 2001. A STEP FROM HEAVEN. Asheville, NC: Front Street. ISBN 1-886910-58-8.
The characters in A STEP FROM HEAVEN, by An Na, are easy to relate to because they have feelings that are universal to all humans. I especially related to Young Ju because I had a similar experience when I was a little girl. When my grandmother died, everyone said she went to heaven. So my idea of heaven was a funeral home in Quanah, Texas. This thought led me to wonder if this might be a common misunderstanding for young children when a loved one dies. Young Ju questions, "We are not in the sky with God?" This profound realization is painful for Young Ju, "I do not understand why they are showing happy teeth... This is not heaven." The reader can feel her sorrow.
The plot is captures the struggles that immigrants face in our country. The characters seem real with problems that so many will be able to relate to in their own lives, the feeling that one is less important in a family, dealing with mental illness in a family, friendship, changes in life, etc. Likewise, the setting is vital in the plot because the change in coming to America is important to changes made in the characters.
Although this novel may be a little difficult to read because of the names of the characters and their speech patterns, it is a fabulous story that lingers on the mind of the reader. Because of the subject content and the fact that it is more complicated to read, this book is definitely more for teens and young adults.
Na convincingly conveys the growing maturity of her perceptive narrator who initially (and seamlessly) laces her tale with Korean words, their meaning evident from the context. And by its conclusion, readers can see a strong, admirable young woman with a future full of hope. Equally bright are the prospects of this author; readers will eagerly await her next step. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The Horn Book
Young Ju's voice is convincingly articulated… Throughout the novel, images of reaching and dreaming poignantly convey the young narrator's desire to survive her father's brutality and its devastating effect on her family… An epilogue reveals that Young Ju's inspiration all along has been her mother, who, powerless in many respects, exerted power in other ways, working hard to make a better life for her children.
Starred Review, Booklist
This isn't a quick read, especially at the beginning when the child is trying to decipher American words and customs, but the coming-of-age drama will grab teens and make them think of their own conflicts between home and outside. As in the best writing, the particulars make the story universal.
2002 MICHAEL L. PRINTZ AWARD
2001 National Book Award Finalist
2002 Children's Book Award in YA Fiction – International Reading Association
2005 California Collections Selection
2005 Asian American Booklist, Grades 9 and Up, Read Across America, National Education Association
2001 - 2003 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, Text in Children and Young Adult Fiction – Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
2004 Reading List – Women's Division Reading Program Committee, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
2003 - 2004 Gateway Readers Award Nominee, Missouri Association of School Libraries
2003 - 2004 William Allen White Children's Book Award master list
2002 Notable Books for a Global Society – International Reading Association
2002 Notable Children's Book – American Library Association
2002 Best Book for Young Adults – American Library Association
2002 Children's Books of Distinction Award – Riverbank Review
2002 Fanfare Book – The Horn Book Honor List
2002 Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award
2002 CCBC Choices
2002 Children's Literature Choice List
2002 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Master List
2002 Amelia Bloomer Project List
2002 White Ravens – International Youth Library of Munich
2002 Notable Books for the Language Arts – NCTE
2002 Notable Books for a Global Society, Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest group of the IRA
2001 Editor's Choice – Booklist
2001 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
2001 Best Books – School Library Journal
2001 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book Shortlist
2001 Best Children's Books – Publishers Weekly
2001 Best Book – teenreads.com
2001 Book Links Lasting Connections
2001 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children
2001 Top 10 Youth First Novels – Booklist
Jimenez, F. (2002). Breaking through. Houghton Mifflin. young adult
Taus-Bolstad, S. (2005). Koreans in America. Lerner. grades 4-8 nonfiction
Martin, J. (2005). Immigrants in America - The Korean Americans. Lucent. grades 9-12 nonfiction
Visit Ellis Island (in person or virtually) http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/
Research Korea and its customs
BABYMOUSE. 1, QUEEN OF THE WORLD!
by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm
Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm. 2005. BABYMOUSE. 1, QUEEN OF THE WORLD! New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 0-375-93229-1.
BABYMOUSE. 1, QUEEN OF THE WORLD! is about a girl mouse who fantasizes about being the queen of the world, idolizing the popular, pretty girl in school. Babymouse compromises herself in school work and with her best friend. After finally getting an invitation to the Felicia's slumber party, she discovers that the "cool girls" aren't so cool and that she is already queen of her world.
The characters in the story are all different kinds of animals, very much like the population of schools today. It is very easy to relate and identify with the characters because everyone has experienced jealousy and wanting the unknown at some time. "But everybody knew who the real queen was...Felicia Furrypaws. Babymouse would've settled for being assistant queen." We can also relate to her ply with the curly whiskers. Girls are seldom happy with their own hair.
The plot is relateable, with very valid ideas. The characters are fantastical with all different kinds of animals talking and being friends. Babymouse learns an important lesson in life that friends are more important than fame and that the grass really isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. At the party she was bored and didn't enjoy doing the same things as the others. After dumping popcorn on Felicia's head, Babymouse exclaims, "I have somewhere more important to be."
The setting is vital to the story, because it allows Babymouse to go through social events both at school and away. Although the description of the setting isn't detailed, it isn't needed for the understanding of the story.
Being a graphic novel, the story is written like a comic book with pictures and captions. The font is in all caps and pictures are black, white, and pink. The pages are very busy and thus particularly appealing for those who need a lot of action. It was easy to read and had a much different feel than a non-graphic novel.
Booklist (December 1, 2005 (Vol. 102, No. 7))
cpg1252 Gr. 4-6. The Holms spruce up some well-trod ground with breathless pacing and clever flights of Babymouse's imagination, and their manic, pink-toned illustrations of Babymouse and her cohorts vigorously reflect the internal life of any million-ideas-a-minute middle-school student.
Horn Book (January/February, 2006)
New readers will appreciate the familiar situations, humorous asides, and easy-to-digest plots. The graphic format is easy to follow, especially since Babymouse's rich inner life is painted pink while the real world is depicted in a less flashy black-and-white. Babymouse is here to stay, and fans of Fashion Kitty and Captain Underpants will now add her to their collection of well-thumbed volumes to read over and over again. [Review includes these titles: Babymouse: Our Hero! and Babymouse: Queen of the World]
Kirkus Review (November 15, 2005)
In a graphic novelette illustrated in minimal, two-color style, the Holms introduce a small, klutzy mouse with a very big imagination. Babymouse compensates for the lack of glamour, excitement and adventure in her everyday life by mentally casting herself as Queen, as a space explorer, as star of "Babymouse vs. the Squid," and more at the drop of a hat-all while fretting that she hasn't been invited to nemesis Felicia Furrypaws' slumber party. But, finally trading her book report for an invitation, she discovers that the party's a mean and gossipy bore-so it's off to steady friend Wilson the Weasel's for cupcakes and a horror movie. Young readers will happily fall in line to follow Babymouse through both ordinary pratfalls
School Library Journal (June 1, 2011)
Gr 2-5-Give Babymouse, with her black-and-white-and-pink peppered palette, to anyone who thinks that comics are enjoyed primarily by boys. A plucky, resilient mouse (read middle-grade girl), Babymouse negotiates issues of friendship, popularity, and sense of self. The format and indeterminate age of our heroine makes for broad appeal with a wide range of readers. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
2006 - Gryphon Award
2006 - ALA Notable Children's Book
2006 - New York Book Show Awards
Read other books Babymouse series books
Read other graphic novels
Create a double bubble map comparing and contrasting characteristics of Babymouse and Felicia
Write a poem about Babymouse