The Underneath by Kathi Appelt has pretty much been on Newbery lists since it came out. Positive reviews abound on this book. People are raving about it. It already has a shiny silver medal for the National Book Award and looks to collect another one in January if the hype is to be believed. Fuse #8 counted 5 listings for The Underneath on Mock Newbery lists. Other bloggers used phrases such as:
"...rich and complex and gorgeous." - Educating Alice
"...reads like a ballad sung." - Sarah Miller
"...all at once tragic, consuming, passionate, full of love, hopeful and alternately beautiful and ugly." -The Reading Zone
"...this is a book I was lucky to be reading." -A Year of Reading
Perhaps for all of these reasons, I avoided reviewing this book because...ok...I'll say it...I didn't like it. There, it's out and I feel better for it! I agree that Kathi Appelt uses beautiful language that reads almost like poetry. I agree that she successfully weaves several story lines into one major story line. The story is tragic, beautiful, and extremely sad, so much so, that I'm not sure a lot of KID readers are going to get it.
As I read books, I am constantly thinking of which KIDS will like them and how will I present them so KIDS will be interested. I couldn't come up with a way that would make this book appealing to KIDS, so I wasn't fond of it.
Interesting to me as I sat down to write this and began looking at what others have said about it, I was struck by a couple of things. I think the cover of The Underneath is a bit decieving. Yes, it hints at sadness in the animals' eyes, but to me it still gives the impression of a more gentle tale than it really is. The other was that, when I viewed the trailer for the book, it doesn't really hint at the level of sadness and pain within the book.
In the end, do I think this book will win a Newbery of some sort? Yes. Does it deserve to? Probably, based on the writing alone, yes. Will it be a KID friendly winner? I don't think so.