Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Southern Story of Hope

A landmark in children's literature, winner of the 1970 Newbery Medal, and the basis of an acclaimed film, Sounder traces the keen sorrow and the abiding faith of a poor African-American boy in the 19th-century South. The boy's father is a sharecropper, struggling to feed his family in hard times. Night after night, he and his great coon dog, Sounder, return to the cabin empty-handed. Then, one morning, almost like a miracle, a sweet-smelling ham is cooking in the family's kitchen. At last the family will have a good meal. But that night, an angry sheriff and his deputies come, and the boy's life will never be the same.
William H. Armstrong wrote a book in 1969 about a nameless family told to him by an old man. “It is the black man’s story, not mind. It was not from Aesop, the Old Testament, or Homer. It was history – his history.” He said in the author’s note at the beginning of Sounder.

I’ve read many books in my life but I’ll always have a special affinity for books with dogs as the main characters which is why I picked up Sounder in the first place. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the dog was mainly a symbol of faith and had a minor part in the story. I was a kid when I first read this for the first time and re-reading it now, I understood it better... although I still don’t know exactly what to think about it!

There was more violence than most people will care for but that’s actually what made the book seem so real. Even if this is a Newbery winner (and therefore a part of
The Newbery Challenge as well as the Four-Legged Friend Challenge), it may not be appropriate for small children but most young adults and adults who are still young at heart seem to enjoy this classic, bittersweet story.

~ Sounder has been adapted to the screen in 1972 and again as a sort of sequel by the Disney Company in 2003.

For more information about Sounder check out the article on
Wikipedia and the Glencoe Study Guide (PDF)


  1. Thank you for the great review! I've seen the movie, although I don't recall ever having read the book. :-( The book definitely sounds like it deserves the praise it's received.

  2. I still haven't recovered from the emotional trauma of reading this book when I was a kid. Admittedly I'm very sensitive about certain issues, and the fate of the dog is one of them! (Don't even get me started about Where the Red Fern Grows!) :-)



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