Monday, September 7, 2009

"The Underneath" by Kathi Appelt

A pregnant cat, abandoned deep in bayou country, finds a sense of safety and belonging when she decides to live in the crawl space under a cabin with a hound dog who lured her there with his lonesome song. The family is soon complete with two kittens, and Ranger, the dog who has been permanently chained to his position, immediately turns aside his loneliness to love and care for his new family. The cats are quickly taught to stay hidden quietly and carefully in the Underneath, for to come out into the sunshine could mean an encounter with the Monster who lives above them - a damaged recluse known as Gar-Face.

The unlimited monstrosity of Gar-Face becomes apparent when the animals' guard becomes lax and tragedy strikes. The animals are left with not much more than their unshakable motivations to once more find their sense of love and security complete once again within the bonds of their family, but to achieve their longing, they must all risk the ultimate sacrifice.

The lyrical nature of Appelt's writing is perfectly suited to the mysterious and secretive nature of the bayou in which the story takes place. The story of love, security, and freedom, battling with the presence of evil and death, is perfectly set and expressed in the story of these animals who have chosen to engage in that battle for each others' sakes. This 2009 Newbery Honor and National Book Award Finalist is well worth the reading, however, if you are a sucker for animals like I am, keep that tissue box handy!

FIVE out of FIVE stars.

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