Reviews for Underneath

AudioFile Reviews 2008 August/September
A thousand years ago a snake was imprisoned in a jar. In the bayou, a tree grew around it, and the snake's hate grew. Twenty-five years ago lightning struck but did not fell the tree. A drunken father struck and disfigured his son, who ran away and began a life nurtured by hate. Today, a calico cat finds refuge under the man's porch, befriended by his abused hound. Kathi Appelt's first novel defies categorizing. It is a ballad whose music is heard in Gabra Zackman's perfect cadence. She transports the listener back a thousand years to begin the snake's story and interweaves today's tale of an angry, hate-filled man; an abused but loyal hound; and a calico cat and her kittens, making the magic real. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #2
This haunting story of one dog's and two kittens' journey toward freedom is a unique amalgam of repetition, rhythm, and sustained foreboding. Zackman's narration is appropriately melodious, each syllable carefully pronounced and the interpretations of Alligator King and Grandmother Snake kept realistic, not melodramatic. Eschewing musical enhancements and elaborate voices, this recording features simplicity and clarity as it pulls the listener in to learn what will happen to Ranger, the hound dog who sings the blues, and whether the 1000-year-old lamia (half human, half serpent) will finally win revenge for the loss of her daughter, Hummingbird. A tale of sacrifice and enduring love that will reward careful listeners.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 July #4

On the page, Appelt's first novel, about abused animals and set in a Deep South swamp, reads like it might be spoken with a pronounced twang. Zackman's interpretation, however, is so mellifluous that it sounds like a lullaby. That smooth delivery strikes a discordant note with the material, a story that braids three dark narrative strands: the vodka-swilling Gar Face's battle with the 100-foot-long Alligator King; Gar Face's abused, chained hound dog's ill-fated shepherding of a mother cat and her kittens; and the thousand-year imprisonment of Grandmother Moccasin, a serpent so selfish she resents her daughter falling in love. The even-keel delivery also makes it hard to keep track as the story shifts among the myriad points of view, which include those of the villain, a family of shape-shifters, various animals and sentient trees. Appelt's stylistic choice to use repetition as a construct--"This cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate..."--makes for a monotonous audio experience, and her use of words such as "goldy" (to describe sunshine) makes this disquieting book sound precious. Ages 9-12. Simultaneous release with the S&S/Atheneum hardcover. (May)

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