Book Review: 'SOUNDER', by William H. Armstrong.
A Puffin Books reissue of a story first published in 1969, and adapted into a major film in 1972. 'Sounder' is an award-winning tale of "poverty, prejudice, hope and survival". It is a story about an African-American boy living with his sharecropper family. The book is named after the family coon dog, a hound with the loudest bark around and a keen nose for hunting. Unfortunately, the father finds himself driven to steal food to feed his hungry family. It isn't long before the racist sheriff and his deputy arrive to forcefully arrest him. Injured in the scuffle, Sounder goes missing. It is weeks before he returns, but he is no longer the booming dog that he once was.
The story is predominantly written as seen through the eyes of the boy. Rich in description and emotion, it is nevertheless filled with ambiguity. The only character name used in the book is that of the dog. All the other characters are referred to by their relationship or role in the story. Additionally, it doesn't state the specific time or place the story is set. The writer has possibly written the story this way to make it universally relatable. Either way, it is a powerful story as meaningful now as when it was first written.
The reissue enables the story to be discovered by a whole new generation of readers. It should be noted that it will be challenging read for very young readers, as much due to the tone and content, as the language. However, the reissue has included a glossary to aid in negotiating most of the archaic terms. There are also quizzes, fact pages and additional helpful information.