Book Review: Sounder by William H. Armstrong (Tween Fiction)

Life as a 19th century African-American sharecropper in the South is tough. Food is scarce, money is scarcer, and each day is a struggle. One day, however, the boy’s father comes home with a large ham. And life seems to be a little bit better.

Until the sheriff and his deputies show up and haul off the boy’s father for stealing.

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Sounder is a beautifully-written story that explores racism, tragedy, and coming of age. It’s the winner of the 1970 Newberry Medal for good reason. In reading it aloud to my children, however, I found that I tended to skip parts in an effort to shield them from descriptions of violence. I particularly disliked the couple of instances when the boy imagines injuring others who have wronged him.

Still, this book is sure to spark meaningful discussions about poverty and racial injustice. And it’s an excellent tale of perseverance, hope and courage. I do suggest parents of more sensitive children either pre-read this novel or read it aloud with their children.

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