Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sounder: A Sound Review

So after such a terrible experience with Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I am now on a mission to find other suitable books for boys. I figured that I would make myself feel better by reading a book that I knew would, if not be personally enjoyable, at least have lived up to some kind of standard. Thus I found myself at the Newberry Award Winners shelf. As it made the most sense to start at the beginning, I did just that- almost. The first one on the shelf is Lloyd Alexander's The High King- which I own and is the fifth in the series.

So we moved on to Sounder, by William H. Armstrong, written in 1972. I found Sounder to be quite an enjoyable book. It is written in a very soft, slow tone- very clearly southern a la To Kill A Mockingbird, but, you know, for kids. The content is totally different. A sharecropper steals a ham to feed his starving family. Two days later he is arrested and his big coon dog, Sounder, is shot trying to chase the police wagon. Sounder wanders off into the woods, presumably to die. The boy- who's name is never mentioned, witnesses all of this, and searches and searches for the dog, for weeks. Once the dog is found, mangled and barkless, the boy goes in search of his father, a journey which takes years- though he always comes home in the summer to work the fields. One year he comes across a kindly school teacher who offers to teach him to read in exchange for his handiwork.

I'm still not entirely sure why the book is titled Sounder. And while I do think that it is indeed a wonderful book, geared toward boys, I do not see it being appreciated today. It is very slow in a very fast paced world and while some would see that as a lovely respite, boys like my 13 year old brother would get really bored, really fast. They really should try though.

PS: This year's Newberry Award winner is When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead
The Caldecott Award winner is The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney
The Michael L. Printz Award winner (the YA award) is Going Bovine, by Libba Bray

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