The Underneath

by Kathi Appelt

~~ SPOILERS ~~

Wish I’d liked this one better. It’s very dismal. Two overlapping stories- one about an abandoned cat that takes shelter under a dilapidated porch with an old hound dog. The dog has been chained there for years by an abusive man who alternately starves and beats him. This miserable man escaped a brutal childhood (treated badly by one parent, abandoned by the other), and lived for decades alone near a dark bayou- his one ambition seems to be bagging an enormous ancient alligator. To prove something to himself. So the cat has kittens, and they are warned to stay hidden under the house where it’s safe, or the man might use them for alligator bait. But of course growing kittens eventually have to explore and push at boundaries. And then bad things start to happen, one after the other. I’ll be frank- one of the animals dies.  A kitten finds himself lost and struggling to return home, and meanwhle an ancient malevolent half-human, half-serpent being lurks, waiting to wreak some revenge. That’s the other storyline.

I liked the parts about the cats, and the poor dog, even though so many dark trials happened to them. (Kinda like the foxes). I didn’t at all like Gar Face and the alligator- though they felt important to the story. The thousand-years-ago telling of the lamia being and how she lost her daughter and why she seethed with anger for so many years, felt more like a fable. And of course they all weave together in the end- I knew all these ‘bad guys’ would cause calamity to each other- I didn’t expect one of them to suddenly be moved with emotion upon seeing the bond of caring the kittens had, and have a complete change of heart. It felt too abrupt.

The pictures (few) are great. The prose is somewhat tiresome. Very short chapters (most just half a page, if that), very repetitive language, and enough inaccuracies (I’m pretty sure beautyberry and sumac are shrubs not trees) that it bothered me. Also descriptive phrases like “the goldy sun” and “greenly” something got on my nerves after a while. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t know if I’ll be interested in reading any more by this author.

Borrowed from the public library. Completed on 4/17/24.

Rating: 3/5
320 pages, 2008

2 Responses

  1. I was curious if this was maybe a really old book (which would explain a lot of the issues) so I looked it up. A line from one of the reviews gave me a laugh. “overly florid prose (think Hemingway geared toward kids)”.

    It’s interesting how intensely split the reviews on Goodreads are. Everything is either 5 or 1 star, “best book ever!” or “worst book ever!”, no popular “meh, it was fine” kind of reviews.

    Anyway, I think this is a big pass for me for multiple reasons. I’m usually avoid books with animal abuse as much as I can.

    1. Yep. Apparently some people really like the style. Or the message. The more I think about it, I suppose the man’s miserable personality was the reaction to his awful upbringing, but yet the kittens and dog by contrast, even though treated badly, stayed decent and caring and supporting of each other. And the ancient snake-woman felt abandoned and betrayed and sat on her grudge for (literally) centuries, so that was another example of how bad feeling could fester…

      But I totally agree, avoid this one if you can’t stand reading about cruelty to animals. It’s so much, I really question why this is shelved in juvenile fiction, I think a lot of children would have problems handling this book. Or be really upset by it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2024
January 2024 (21)February 2024 (22)March 2024 (45)April 2024 (38)May 2024 (27)
2023
January 2023 (27)February 2023 (23)March 2023 (25)April 2023 (11)May 2023 (17)June 2023 (11)July 2023 (23)August 2023 (23)September 2023 (14)October 2023 (14)November 2023 (26)December 2023 (14)
2022
January 2022 (12)February 2022 (7)March 2022 (13)April 2022 (16)May 2022 (13)June 2022 (21)July 2022 (15)August 2022 (27)September 2022 (10)October 2022 (17)November 2022 (16)December 2022 (23)
2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (11)November 2021 (14)December 2021 (12)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950