2008 National Book Award Finalist,
Young People's Literature

Kathi Appelt

The Underneath


Kathi Appelt reading at the 2008 National Book Award Finalists Reading


Haunting in tone and resonance, The Underneath weaves a heartrending and magical tale that speaks to love and hope, loneliness and loss, ancestral forgiveness and a deep abiding reverence for the natural world that surrounds us, the ethereal world that entices our imagination and the real world that may bruise us, haunt us, but eventually set us free.


Kathi Appelt has written several picture books, poems, and short stories, most of which she admits come directly from her own life because that’s what she knows best. Her debut novel, The Underneath, was described by Newbery Medalist, Cynthia Kadohata as “enchanting as a hummingbird, as magical as the clouds.” Kathi is a member of the faculty at Vermont College's Master of Fine Arts program and occasionally teaches creative writing at Texas A&M University. She has two grown children, and lives in Texas with her husband and four cats.

Photo © Chandler Arden.


(from the publisher)

A calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up hound deep in the backwaters of 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 her kittens there because Gar-Face, the man living inside the house, will surely use them 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. For everyone who loves Sounder, Shiloh, and The Yearling, for everyone who loves the haunting beauty of writers such as 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.


Kathi's official website


The space underneath the tilting house was native land for Puck and Sabine, the only home they’d ever known. To Puck and Sabine, it was where they snuggled up with their mama and Ranger . . . it was also a land of constantentertainment. . . . Here was the old boot. . . . Here were the battered wooden fish crates, shoved there long ago and left to rot. . . . All places for kittens to hide and climb and tumble. This area beneath the tilting house, the Underneath, was not so large that the calico mother and the redbone hound could not keep a constant eye on them. They both knew that Gar Face would not take kindly to kittens. And they told them, “Do not leave the safety of the Underneath! Do not, under any circumstances, go out into the Open.” It was a serious rule.