Sunday, March 20, 2011

15. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Here is part of an interview from the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog with David Small, who illustrated this well-written children's novel: 

David’s most recent illustrated work is The Underneath, Kathi Appelt’s impressive debut novel (published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in May and reviewed here at 7-Imp). The novel—which tells the story of an old hound, a calico cat, two kittens, the muddy Bayou Tartine of East Texas, a man named Gar-Face, an Alligator King, and an ancient, mystical creature trapped inside a large jar at the base of a tree, buried centuries ago—is a wonder, at turns magical and mysterious, and Appelt’s prose mesmerizing.

We asked David what it was like to read the novel for the first time and if he could talk a bit about creating the illustrations for it.

“I was amazed by the twists and turns of the story,” he said, “by the range of characters, both animal and human, and by the tone of mournful, nostalgic poetry in the prose. My biggest problem illustrating it was in keeping those kittens from looking too adorable. (This was not the Disney version.) Also, what to do with Gar Face’s horrible face? I decided the best thing to do was not to show it, which led me to use some camera angles I might not have considered otherwise.”

The illustrations are amazing and you can read the entire interview here.

At first, I didn't love this book.  The sentences are quite choppy and the story jumps from character to charcter and between different time periods.  But there is a poetry to the narrative that is quite magical and you soon get drawn in.  It's very sad, suspenseful and has a beautiful ending.  I recommend it.  Rating:  4.25

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