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February 6, 2008


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Author: William H. Armstrong

Page Length: 116

Reading Level: 6th

Genre: Realistic / Historical Fiction


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: This book is about an African-American family of unnamed characters. They live in poverty in a cabin on the far edge of a southern town during the 19th century. I loved the description of the under-belly of the cabin on page 42 when it stated, “it smelled stale and dead, like old carcasses and snakes”.  Present in the family are a father, mother, and several male and female siblings. The main character is referred to as “boy”. Another prominent character is a dog name Sounder. Sounder is coon dog that travels with the boy’s father as they attempt to hunt for food. Often times the father will return to the cabin empty-handed.


Quite rapidly the story changes from a simple tale about a poor family living in the south with their dog, to an account of a father who is caught stealing a ham for the family. As the father is being hauled away for this crime, Sounder gets caught in the commotion. Sounder is wounded and trails off into solitude leaving droppings of blood and a piece of his ear. This book lends itself well to a lesson on imagery.


The family is devastated that their father is being taken to jail only for the crime of trying to provide his family with a descent meal. We later find out that his punishment for stealing is years of working in labor camps. In addition to the loss of the father, Sounder’s absence is greatly felt by the boy. Day after day, the boy searches for Sounder in hopes that he will be re-united with the beloved dog. The boy spends the rest of his time attending to jobs in the field, searching for his father in labor camps, and dreaming of being able to read. Various references are made to the boy attempting to read town signs and store signs and newspapers out of the trash can. I really enjoyed the examples cited in this story about the excitement of a boy yearning to read.


Later on in the novel, Sounder returns. It is apparent though that he was badly wounded. He has one eye, the side of his face is badly altered, and he limps. Sounder’s spirit that was one present at the beginning of the book is now much more subdued.


Towards the end of the book, the boy meets a teacher who offers to help him with his studies. The boy begins to attend school while still helping out his family with work.


The story wraps up quickly with the return and death of the father, Sounder’s death, and the boy’s reflection on his continuing studies and life.


MOVIE CONNECTION: There is a movie of the same name (1972, 2003)




REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton

January 14, 2008

Probably Still Nick Swansen

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Probably Still Nick Swansen

Author: Virginia Euwer Wolff

Page Length: 151

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Realistic Fiction


REVIEW: Nick spends his school days in Room 19 with the rest of the special ed. kids, except for his good friend Shana who just had her “going up” party for graduating to regular classes.


Nick is a character I fell in love with right from the beginning. He knows some things that being in special ed. means. He knows he can’t drive even though he is sixteen and he knows some kids won’t talk to you much even if you do know everything about amphibians. What Nick isn’t sure about is if he should go to the prom but he asks Shana and she says yes.


When Shana doesn’t show though you get a glimpse at how complicated Nick is. His sister’s death several years earlier and an accident that hurts his dog along with the disappointment about the prom lead to some difficult times for Nick. He wants to hide from the world, but realizes he has to face all of these issues in order to find peace. Nick gains a sense of self-awareness and we are left with a happy ending.




REVIEWED BY: Sherry Hall


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