Review Detail

Kids Fiction 2549
Sad and Powerful
(Updated: August 13, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
This short novel is a terribly sad but very powerful story. It’s the story of a boy, a dog and the horrible tragedy that affects the boy’s family. The boy is the son of an African American sharecropper, a poor farmer who works the land that belongs to another man. At night, the man hunts with Sounder, a mighty mutt of a hunting dog who his children, especially the boy, love dearly. One night, the man goes out without a lantern or the hunting dog, and a wonderful ham appears on the table the next morning. Events spiral down from there, becoming darker as white men come to the house and arrest the man. The scene where the man is arrested feels almost surreal, as if it’s so horrible it couldn’t possibly be happening. Sounder is almost killed when he tries to run after his master, and the boy is devastated and numb by what has happened.

The rest of the book is a coming of age tale, one that is bittersweet and very realistic. The boy faces racism, sorrow, despondency, hatred and his own dark feelings and learns to overcome them all as he grows up. I like how none of the characters in the book have names besides the dog, Sounder. It makes it feel like the story is a legend, that who the story happened to doesn’t matter: it’s the fact that the events of the story happened at all that matters. The story feels real and mythical all at the same at time because the names were left one, but I think this ambiguity only makes the book better.

It is a great story for looking into human nature and seeing various aspects of it. The boy goes through many deep, serious emotions and has to deal with a lot of pain, suffering and injustice in his life, but there are also bright spots, like the love of his family and his chance to learn to read. I think middle-school and high school students would benefit from reading this book the most.
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