Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Book Summary

Ranger is an old dog, chained in a space underneath a tilting house. The calico cat and her kittens love Ranger, but they know to avoid the evil human who lumbers in and out of the tilted house. A giant alligator lurks in the bayou. His friend, a long-forgotten creature, nurses her vengeance. All of their stories intertwine, as the characters struggle with loss and survive with hope. Some seek love and companionship, others seek victory. This is a story about the seeking.

The Underneath book cover
The Underneath

Book Review

If it breaks your heart to read about terrible things happening to innocent characters, do not read this book. Do not. If you can read past the pain, you will find a lyrically written story about the beauty in love, hope, and loyalty. And you will very likely need a box of tissues.

There is also a chance that older readers may dismiss the book as being too childish at first glance--books with talking animals might seem better left to the elementary set. However, this story is rich with universal themes and should not disappoint.

left quotation mark

He didn't know that he needed to not be so solitary until at last he wasn't. So many needs in one old dog."
p. 30

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Loyalty and Betrayal
  • What Makes a Family
  • Revenge, Mistakes, Forgiveness
  • Hope
  • Love
  • Responses to Tragedy and Loss

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions coming soon**

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