Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

I finished The Underneath today!! I began this book as a read-aloud for my 6-year-old daughter because of the cute dog and kittens on the front cover. J and I, soon concluded it was not a good story for her.Gar Face's character scared her, she did not like the Grandmother Moccasin sections and it simply confused her as to how any of the stories were connected. She liked Ranger's tale and how the cats all became part of one family. I decided to keep reading on my own. I am still struggling with how I feel about the book. I thought some of the images were beautiful. I love Ranger's story and I honestly wanted the book to just stick with that relationship. I didn't think the three stories merged enough to make it work. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate Dicamillo is, for me, a great example of various stories merging to make one great tale. Gar Face did not have any redeeming qualities and yes, he gets it in the end but it all just ties together in one quick knot. I thought the writing was repetitive and went on to long (i would have cut out a few chapters). As a school librarian my main concern is who to recommend this book to; what age group; what teacher for read-aloud. I am left wondering. Many students would love the animal aspect but be very put-off by Gar Face's treatment of animals and his swilling of every known spirit available to him. The snake, Night Song and Hawk Man thread is complicated and students have trouble traveling back and forth, back and forth so frequently. Was this bookmeant for elementary students? I am glad I read it and parts of it will stick with me; I have especially enjoyed reading the variety of comments about this book from other bloggers. There seems to be no definitive answer on this book and perhaps that is what makes an interesting tale.


Janssen said...

This was one of those books that just baffled me. I am really surprised at how immensely popular it is because, like you said, it just doesn't fit one audience very well.

I started listening to it on CD and then finally just had to give it up and finish in book form because it was too slow on CD.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I think this is like Janssen's discussion from some time back about children's lit being awarded and published by adults who do not always have a very good finger on the pulse of what actual children might like. There are books that are popular; and there are books that children SHOULD read. And very rarely there are both.

I have been reading the Little House books with my 7 year old and he loves them. We just ordered the first of the boxcar children through amazon. He is not a great reader, but he has come a long way and I feel like his maturity (content-wise)has outstripped his decoding ability. I'm hoping that he'll be able to read Boxcar children to me. I'm hoping.

This question is both for Janssen and Peaceful Reader. You are both librarians--here is my question. I'm working on a fairy tale retelling right now. The fairy tale is a bit obscure and I haven't seen it done before (that doesn't mean much as I don't read like I used to); I also think I have a good/interesting/unique approach going to characterization and viewpoint. My question is: do kids really like these retellings? Or is it a grown up thing? My perception is that Goose Girl is immensely popular, but I don't think I've actually talked to any kids that have read it. All of the teens I know lately are so Twilight obsessed that they only want to read about vamps. Just askin.

Peaceful Reader said...

I think fairy tale retellings can be very popular and (if done well, of course) can create interest in the original as well.