Overview

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.

Angry and humiliated when his sharecropper father is jailed for stealing food for his family, a young black boy grows in courage and understanding by learning to read and through his relationship with his devoted dog ...

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Sounder

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Overview

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.

Angry and humiliated when his sharecropper father is jailed for stealing food for his family, a young black boy grows in courage and understanding by learning to read and through his relationship with his devoted dog Sounder.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Book Review
The author writes in details that glow alive.
Commonweal
The writing is simple, timeless and extraordinarily moving. An outstanding book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062105561
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 42,945
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

William H. Armstrong grew up in Lexington, Virginia. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and did graduate work at the University of Virginia. He taught ancient history and study techniques at the Kent School for fifty-two years. Author of more than a dozen books for adults and children, he won the John Newbery Medal for Sounder in 1970 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Hampden-Sydney College in 1986.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The tall man stood at the edge of the porcb. The roof sagged from the two rough posts which held it, almost closing the gap between his head and the rafters. The dim light from the cabin window cast long equal shadows from man and posts. A boy stood nearby shivering in the cold October wind. He ran his fingers back and forth over the broad crown of the head of a coon dog named Sounder.

"Where did you first get Sounder?" the boy asked.

"I never got him. He came to me along the road when he wasn't more'n a pup."

The father turned to the cabin door. It was ajar. Three small children, none as high as the level of the latch, were peering out into the dark. "We just want to pet Sounder,"the three all said at once.

"It's too cold. Shut the door."

"Sounder and me must be about the same age," the boy said, tugging gently at one of the coon dog's ears, and then the other. He felt the importance of the years-as a child measures age-which separated him from the younger children. He was old enough to stand out in the cold and run his fingers over Sounder's head.

No dim lights from other cabins punctuated the night. The white man who owned the vast endless fields had scattered the cabins of his Negro sharecroppers far apart, like flyspecks on a whitewashed ceiling. Sometimes on Sundays the boy walked with his parents to set awhile at one of the distant cabins. Sometimes they went to the meetin' house. And there was school too. But it was far away at the edge of town. Its term began after harvest and ended before planting time. Two successive Octobers the boy had started, walking the eight miles morning and eve-ning. But aftera few weeks when cold winds and winter sickness came, his mother had said, "Give it up, child.

It's too long and too cold."And the boy, remembering how he was always laughed at for getting to school so late, had agreed. Besides, he thought, next year he would be bigger and could walk faster and get to school before it started and wouldn't be laughed at. And when he wasn't dead tired from walking home from school, his father would let him hunt with Sounder. Having both school and Sounder would be mighty good, but if he couldn't have school, he could always have Sounder.

"There ain't no dog like Sounder," the boy said. But his father did not take up the conversation. The boy wished he would. His father stood silent and motionless. He was looking past the rim of half-light that came from the cabin window and pushed back the darkness in a circle that lost itself around the ends of the cabin. The man seemed to be listening. But no sounds came to the boy.

Sounder was well named. When he treed a coon or possum in a persimmon tree or on a wild grape vine, his voice would roll across the flatlands. It wavered through the foothills, louder than any other dog's in the whole countryside.

What the boy saw in Sounder would have been totally missed by an outsider. The dog was not much to look at -- a mixture of Georgia redbone hound and bulldog. His ears, nose, and color were those of a redbone. The great square jaws and head, his muscular neck and broad chest showed his bulldog blood. When a possum or coon was shaken from a tree, like a flash Sounder would clamp and set his jaw-vise just behind the animal's head. Then he would spread his front paws, lock his shoulder joints, and let the bulging neck muscles fly from left to right. And that was all. The limp body, with not a torn spot or a tooth puncture in the skin, would be laid at his master's feet. His master's calloused hand would rub the great neck, and he'd say "Good Sounder, good Sounder."In the winter when there were no crops and no pay, fifty cents for a possum and two dollars for a coonhide bought flour and overall jackets with blanket linings.

But there was no price that could be put on Sounder's voice. It came out of the great chest cavity and broad jaws as though it had bounced off the walls of a cave. It mellowed into half-echo before it touched the air. The mists of the flatlands strained out whatever coarseness was left over from his bulldog heritage, and only flutelike redbone mellowness came to the listener. But it was louder and clearer than any purebred redbone. The trail barks seemed to be spaced with the precision of a juggler. Each bark bounced from slope to slope in the foothills like a rubber ball. But it was not an ordinary bark.

It filled up the night and made music as though the branches of all the trees were being pulled across silver strings. while Sounder trailed the path the hunted had taken in search of food, the high excited voice was quiet. The warmer the trail grew, the longer the silences, for, by nature, the coon dog would try to surprise his quarry and catch him on the ground, if possible. But the great voice box of Sounder would have burst if he had tried to trail too long in silence. After a last, long-sustained stillness which allowed the great dog to close in on his quarry, the voice would burst forth so fast it overflowed itself and became a melody.

A stranger hearing Sounder's treed bark suddenly fill the night might have thought there were six dogs at the foot of one tree. But all over the countryside, neighbors, leaning against slanting porch posts or standing in open cabin doorways and listening, knew that it was Sounder.

"If the wind does not rise, I'll let you go hunting with me tonight." The father spoke quietly as he glanced down at boy and dog. "Animals don't like to move much when it's windy."

"Why?" the boy asked.

"There are too many noises, and they, can't hear a killer slipping up on them. So they stay in their dens, especially possums, because they can't smell much."

The father left the porch and went to the woodpile at the edge of the rim of light. The boy followed, and each gathered, a chunk-stick for the cabin stove. At the door, the father took down a lantern that hung on the wall beside a possum sack and shook it. "There's plenty of coal oil, "he said.

The boy closed the door quickly. He had heard leaves rattling across the frozen ground. He hoped his father didn't hear it. But he knew the door wouldn't shut it out. His father could sense the rising wind, and besides, it would shake the loose windowpanes.

Sounder. Copyright © by William Armstrong. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Sounder

Chapter One

The tall man stood at the edge of the porcb. The roof sagged from the two rough posts which held it, almost closing the gap between his head and the rafters. The dim light from the cabin window cast long equal shadows from man and posts. A boy stood nearby shivering in the cold October wind. He ran his fingers back and forth over the broad crown of the head of a coon dog named Sounder.

"Where did you first get Sounder?" the boy asked.

"I never got him. He came to me along the road when he wasn't more'n a pup."

The father turned to the cabin door. It was ajar. Three small children, none as high as the level of the latch, were peering out into the dark. "We just want to pet Sounder,"the three all said at once.

"It's too cold. Shut the door."

"Sounder and me must be about the same age," the boy said, tugging gently at one of the coon dog's ears, and then the other. He felt the importance of the years-as a child measures age-which separated him from the younger children. He was old enough to stand out in the cold and run his fingers over Sounder's head.

No dim lights from other cabins punctuated the night. The white man who owned the vast endless fields had scattered the cabins of his Negro sharecroppers far apart, like flyspecks on a whitewashed ceiling. Sometimes on Sundays the boy walked with his parents to set awhile at one of the distant cabins. Sometimes they went to the meetin' house. And there was school too. But it was far away at the edge of town. Its term began after harvest and ended before planting time. Two successive Octobers the boy had started, walking the eight miles morning and eve-ning. But after a few weeks when cold winds and winter sickness came, his mother had said, "Give it up, child.

It's too long and too cold."And the boy, remembering how he was always laughed at for getting to school so late, had agreed. Besides, he thought, next year he would be bigger and could walk faster and get to school before it started and wouldn't be laughed at. And when he wasn't dead tired from walking home from school, his father would let him hunt with Sounder. Having both school and Sounder would be mighty good, but if he couldn't have school, he could always have Sounder.

"There ain't no dog like Sounder," the boy said. But his father did not take up the conversation. The boy wished he would. His father stood silent and motionless. He was looking past the rim of half-light that came from the cabin window and pushed back the darkness in a circle that lost itself around the ends of the cabin. The man seemed to be listening. But no sounds came to the boy.

Sounder was well named. When he treed a coon or possum in a persimmon tree or on a wild grape vine, his voice would roll across the flatlands. It wavered through the foothills, louder than any other dog's in the whole countryside.

What the boy saw in Sounder would have been totally missed by an outsider. The dog was not much to look at -- a mixture of Georgia redbone hound and bulldog. His ears, nose, and color were those of a redbone. The great square jaws and head, his muscular neck and broad chest showed his bulldog blood. When a possum or coon was shaken from a tree, like a flash Sounder would clamp and set his jaw-vise just behind the animal's head. Then he would spread his front paws, lock his shoulder joints, and let the bulging neck muscles fly from left to right. And that was all. The limp body, with not a torn spot or a tooth puncture in the skin, would be laid at his master's feet. His master's calloused hand would rub the great neck, and he'd say "Good Sounder, good Sounder."In the winter when there were no crops and no pay, fifty cents for a possum and two dollars for a coonhide bought flour and overall jackets with blanket linings.

But there was no price that could be put on Sounder's voice. It came out of the great chest cavity and broad jaws as though it had bounced off the walls of a cave. It mellowed into half-echo before it touched the air. The mists of the flatlands strained out whatever coarseness was left over from his bulldog heritage, and only flutelike redbone mellowness came to the listener. But it was louder and clearer than any purebred redbone. The trail barks seemed to be spaced with the precision of a juggler. Each bark bounced from slope to slope in the foothills like a rubber ball. But it was not an ordinary bark.

It filled up the night and made music as though the branches of all the trees were being pulled across silver strings. while Sounder trailed the path the hunted had taken in search of food, the high excited voice was quiet. The warmer the trail grew, the longer the silences, for, by nature, the coon dog would try to surprise his quarry and catch him on the ground, if possible. But the great voice box of Sounder would have burst if he had tried to trail too long in silence. After a last, long-sustained stillness which allowed the great dog to close in on his quarry, the voice would burst forth so fast it overflowed itself and became a melody.

A stranger hearing Sounder's treed bark suddenly fill the night might have thought there were six dogs at the foot of one tree. But all over the countryside, neighbors, leaning against slanting porch posts or standing in open cabin doorways and listening, knew that it was Sounder.

"If the wind does not rise, I'll let you go hunting with me tonight." The father spoke quietly as he glanced down at boy and dog. "Animals don't like to move much when it's windy."

"Why?" the boy asked.

"There are too many noises, and they, can't hear a killer slipping up on them. So they stay in their dens, especially possums, because they can't smell much."

The father left the porch and went to the woodpile at the edge of the rim of light. The boy followed, and each gathered, a chunk-stick for the cabin stove. At the door, the father took down a lantern that hung on the wall beside a possum sack and shook it. "There's plenty of coal oil, "he said.

The boy closed the door quickly. He had heard leaves rattling across the frozen ground. He hoped his father didn't hear it. But he knew the door wouldn't shut it out. His father could sense the rising wind, and besides, it would shake the loose windowpanes.

Sounder. Copyright © by William Armstrong. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 168 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(87)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(12)

1 Star

(12)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 168 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Sounder was an okay book.

    It was a great educational book, i read it last year in english class. It wouldn't really be a book I would choose for free reading, although I love how none of the people in the family have names. They represent all African Americans of the post slave period, and now. And it was great that a black man wrote the book because somehow, I feel that if a white person had wrote this book, we would not have the full perspective of the feelings a black boy in that period of time. I also love how the boy tries so hard to go to school and always persues his father when he was taken by the police. I feel it was more realistic because when the sherrif came to the cabin, a white man would have just gotten a warning, but the father of the boy's family was taken away, just for stealing a ham. Over all a good read, interesting and historical. It really shows the tough times that they had to suffer through.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 12, 2009

    The Pig That Started It All

    Sounder was an excellent book, and I thought it was one of the best books I have ever read. This book was both exciting and sorrowful. The book earns one, no two thumbs up. The way the author explains the boy's feelings throughout the book was awesome. <BR/><BR/> The book was about a boy and his family, (who remain nameless). The family also has a dog named Sounder, who has the loudest and deepest bark then all the other dogs. One night the boy's father goes out and steals a pig. The next day the have a giant feast. Then three white men come and arrest the boy's father. While they are taking him away, Sounder got lose and tried to jump on the wagon where his master was, but gets shot in the proses. He didn't die, but he was badly injured. Sounder disappears for a while, but when he finally does come back, he had half a shoulder, one of his eyes missing, and he couldn't bark. For years, the boy goes looking for his father, but can never find him. One day, while walking home, the boy finds a book in the trash, and tries to read it, but can't. He meets a school teacher, and takes him home and shows the boy his favorite book in the book the boy had found. When the boy gets home he tells his mother everything. The next day, the boy's father comes home and tells the family that he was hurt in a dynamite explosion. All in all, the ending of the book is very shocking and unexpected. <BR/><BR/> This book was really good. I loved it so much, that I read a couple chapters twice. The only thing I didn't like, was that everyone was nameless throughout the entire book. I sometimes forgot who was speaking. but, still this book was great. i highly recommend this book to readers who love reading about events from long ago.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2009

    Really good book

    The book was a page turner. It had a lot of detail which kept you wondering what was going to happen next. I think that the order the events were in had some to do with it. I think everyone would enjoy reading this book because it is full of suspense and it can teach you a life lesson. That depends on how much you get into the story.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2012

    I Love Sounder

    The book Sounder took me back in time. It showed me how life was back then from an African American slave's point of view. Sounder is a book full of exitment, but with some sadness to make he story more realistic and to show you how hard life was fr African American slaves.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2013

    Here's a little bit about the book "Sounder"... It was

    Here's a little bit about the book &quot;Sounder&quot;...
    It was first published in the 1960's and the story is about a black family living in the South. It tells of that family's hard times, a great coon dog named Sounder, and how they all pull together and survive what has been thrown their way in life.

    Lovely piece of literature. I'd recommend it for anyone to read (teens, adults, or boys and girls 10 &amp; up). I love the author's writing style... how the names of the people are never revealed--you only know Sounder's name. It seems to keep the other characters in a slight obscurity, as if there is a shadow over their face and you cannot see the person... but yet, you know everything about them. I like how the author did that for this book.

    Superb, and excellent! I will be sure to read &quot;Sounder&quot; again someday.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2012

    I read the book in school.I love the brave Sounder.Read SOUNDER.

    I read the book in school.I love the brave Sounder.Read SOUNDER.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    ehhhh.. idk?

    I have to read this book for 7th grade so far i think its pretty boring so i really do not recommend it

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    Sounder

    Sounder is a very good book ! They don't really tell you the boy's name . That is why i rated it only 4 stars! It also has a very sad ending! If you don't like sad books i do not think you should read it.

    Summary:
    It is about a boy's family who r share cropers . The boy has a dog named Sounder , a coon dog.You have to read it to find out the rest!

    Warning: SAD ENDING!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2009

    sounder

    moving...son loved it

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    I have to read this.........

    I have to read sounder this summer for seventh grade....I hope it doenst bore me to much...

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    It was Okay....

    I wouldn't want to read this book again. the first 4 chapters were very boring. i would not recomend this book to any one.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2007

    Terrible

    I had this book on my book shelf, so I figured I would read it. That was a mistake. I usually like books with dogs in it, but this one was not good at all. I feel that the point of view was bad, seeing how we never learn the characters names.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2007

    Poor hound

    I do not believe the author ever owned a hound. This was not a very satisfactory story. Great opportunity lost.....

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2007

    It is a great story.

    This book was a great story about friendship and love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    Sounder

    Must read !

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

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  • Posted March 31, 2014

    It is just a great book.

    It is just a great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    Book

    YEAH!!!!!! It is the cool book i read in my life

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2014

    Doesn't Even Deserve a Newberry Medal ((Slight Spoiler))

    It was absolutly terrible, in my oppinion. For one, the character's names and character information were never revealed. It was just the boy, the mother, the father, and the children. You didn't know the age of the boy. You didn't know the children's gender, or their age. The boy, when his father and dog died, didn't show any greif or sorrow for their decease. He just told him mom he found the dad in the meadow. No tears. When he assumed the dog would die before he got back from school, he had no sorrow, either. He just told the mother to drag it to the hole. No tears. Again. It was a absolutly awful, dull book. Never read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Sounder is a very good book, and the dog, Sounder, is a very loy

    Sounder is a very good book, and the dog, Sounder, is a very loyal pooch, or mutt. A boy came across him one day on the road and brought him home. Now, Sounder is the family pet and goes raccoon hunting with the boy's dad. Sounder gets shot in the first part of the book but he survives.  He goes into the forest for three months. The plot is sad and encouraging.  The father steals a ham from the butcher's place in the town and the father goes to jail. His mother makes the dad a cake and sends the boy out to deliverer it, but when the boy gets there the prison guard tells him [in a mean voice] that it will open soon. When he gets inside the guard smashes the cake into slop. The boy saw his dad. The boy talked shortly with his dad. The boy gives the smashed up cake to his dad, and then the guard tells the boy, &quot;It's closing time.&quot;  The boy's father gets moved around a lot. Because he works to try and get out of jail, and the boy searches for the father a lot. When the boy goes to a barbed wire fence, a guard throws a piece of iron at the boy's hand and there’s blood on his hand. The guard tells the boy that there was a dynamite blast that went wrong and killed twelve people. The boy goes to a schoolhouse and meets a teacher that helps the boy.  That's all I'm going to tell you right now but you can find out what happens in the rest of the book. 

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