The Underneath

by Kathi Appelt
Overall: 2 out of 5 stars

This book is very well-written but was not my cup of tea, hence the two stars. So much so that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I did not finish it. One of my coworkers was trying very hard to convince me to stay with it since it’s one of her favorite children’s books. It starts out as the story of a dog and cat who become friends and live underneath an old house in the Louisiana Bayou. However, it quickly becomes frightening since the house (and the dog) belong to a very mean man who drinks a lot and mistreats both animals, plus the kittens the cat gives birth to. I don’t think of myself as overly sensitive, but I just could not handle the cruelty in this book, so I decided to put it away. What rang in my head was a sweet, naive second-grader I once knew who made a beeline for this book because “it’s about a puppy and a kitty!” I couldn’t shake the image of her reading this and being upset, which upset me even more. There is a secondary storyline that I think eventually delves into fantasy and possibly even magical realism (admittedly one of my least favorite genres, so take that with a grain of salt) involving Grandmother Moccasin (snake) and the Alligator King. (I found this out when I asked my coworker to ruin the ending for me so I could determine if I wanted to keep going, which I decided was not worth it for me.) I had this book on CD and I actually thought the narrator did a good job, though my coworker didn’t like her at all. I do feel that I know enough about the content of the book to speak to parents who ask about it and want to be talked out of it, or refer them to my coworker if they want to be talked into it!

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