Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking for Newbery - Day 4

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:

" 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.


  1. I totally agree with you... I loved The Underneath, but I can't think of a single kid at my library that I would hand it to.

  2. While i loved "The Underneath" and think it is deserving of the Newbery, as it is certainly a distinguished contribution to children's literature, I have also been wondering how students will react to the novel. My third graders have yet to vote for "The Underneath" for our read alouds so I have so far been unable to read it to my class (maybe they'll give it the nod in when we get back to school, or after it medals on the 26th). Has anyone out there read to their students yet? What were their reactions?

  3. I agree with you too. I started reading it and thought it was absolutely beautifully written. About halfway through I couldn't stand the sadness any more. I didn't even finish it.


  4. Hey Bill I am so happy there are other people besides us that did not like it. Do you remember how I came to you and told you it made me so sad and I didn't like it! Keep reading for the kids-that is what your TREMENNDOUS at doing :)