Author: William H. Armstrong
Major Themes: Sharecropping, Dog, Animal Stories
Synopsis: When his father was taken away to prison and the dog nearly killed, the boy learned about loyalty and love.
I have heard of Sounder for a long time, but somehow I never read the book until I found a copy at a secondhand shop a couple of months ago. When I picked the book up one evening, I was soon quite engrossed in the story and finished it before I went to bed. It is a very sad story, but wonderful in some ways, too.
The boy lived with his father and mother and younger brothers and sisters in a sharecropper’s cabin, far from any other people. They had a dog, Sounder, who was very precious to all of them and helped to provide for the family. This winter, though, was very hard for all of them and the little family was hungry. Then, one day, the father came home with food. However, a couple of days later, the white people came and took him away to prison, nearly killing Sounder in the process when he tried to protect his master. What would the family do now?
The boy helped his mother plant and care for the crops. He did everything he could to keep them going, and every winter he spent months walking around the state, searching for his father. He never found him—but he found something immeasurably better. Meanwhile, the crippled dog waited patiently at home. Would the family ever be whole again? Would the loneliness ever be eased?
This is a story about racism and how innocent people suffer. It is also a story of love, the love of a family for each other, the love of a boy for a dog, the love of a dog for a man, and of loyalty. Sounder is a story you won’t soon forget. I found the author’s choice of terminology interesting. The humans are never named in this story. The only character who is ever named is the dog. I wonder if this was to represent the way white people thought about black people—without individuality.
WARNING: A dog is shot in chapter 2.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15