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The Underneath

The Underneath

Read by: Gabra Zackman
For Ages: 10 - 14
  • reading group guide
  • bestseller
  • 10awards
There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road.

An abandoned calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the achingly lonely howl of a chained up, abused hound dog deep in the bayou. She dares to find him in the forest and the hound dares to befriend this cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate. They are an unlikely pair, about to become an unlikely family. Ranger urges the cat to hide underneath the porch, to raise Sabine and Puck there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use her or her kittens as alligator bait should he find them. But, they are safe in the underneath...as long as they stay in the underneath.

Kittens, however, are notoriously curious creatures. And one kitten's one moment of curiosity sets off a chain of events that is astonishing, remarkable, and enormous in its meaning. In the tradition of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Flannery O'Connor, and Carson McCullers, Kathi Appelt spins a harrowing yet keenly sweet tale about the power of love (and its opposite, hate), the fragility of happiness -- and the importance of making good on your promises.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743572095 | 
  • May 2008 | 
  • Grades 5 - 9 | 
  • Lexile 830L
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Reading Group Guide

PRE-READING ACTIVITY
1. The action in the book takes place in the marshy swampland and deep forests of Texas's bayou region. Research bayous and their ecosystems and prepare a report. In what parts of the world do bayous exist? What kinds of plants and animals live in bayous? How are bayous similar to and different from other ecological environments -- for example, what do bayous have in common with the Florida Everglades, and how do the two areas differ?
2. Long before the Europeans settled along the Gulf Coast, a varied group of Native Americans live in the piney woods of East Texas and Louisiana. They were collectively known as the Caddo. It was from the Caddo language that the name for the state of Texas came about. The name meant "friend." In fact, the Caddo were known as a friendly people. Even though Hawk Man and his family weren't Caddo themselves, they might have been welcome in a Caddo village, just as the later Europeans were welcomed. Research the Caddo. There are hardly any left in their original homeland, and they have mostly settled in Oklahoma and Mexico. Why did they leave? What were some of the things that they were famous for? How did they learn to survive in the marshy swamps of their native territory?
DISCUSSION TOPICS
1. Grandmother Moccasin and her daughter Night Song are lamia, half-serpent and half-human. Hawk Man is also an "animal of enchantment" [page 61], having been a bird before turning into a man. If you see more

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About the Author

Kathi Appelt
Photograph courtesy of the author

Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award-winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Keeper, and many picture books. She has two grown children and lives in Texas with her husband. Visit her at KathiAppelt.com.

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