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4.0 170
by William H. Armstrong, James Barkley (Illustrator)

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The Powerful Newbery Award-Winning Classic

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. The boy's father is a sharecropper, struggling to feed his family in hard times. Night after night,


The Powerful Newbery Award-Winning Classic

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. The boy's father is a sharecropper, struggling to feed his family in hard times. Night after night, he and his great coon dog, Sounder, return to the cabin empty-handed. Then, one morning, almost like a miracle, a sweet-smelling ham is cooking in the family's kitchen. At last the family will have a good meal. But that night, an angry sheriff and his deputies come, and the boy's life will never be the same.

Editorial Reviews

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

Product Details

Publication date:
LRS Large Print Cornerstone Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
9.25(w) x 7.75(h) x (d)
Age Range:
11 - 17 Years

Related Subjects

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.

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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Sounder 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 170 reviews.
booksRawesome More than 1 year ago
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.
3rummeaj More than 1 year ago
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.

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.

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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
Here's a little bit about the book "Sounder"... 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 & 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 "Sounder" again someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Labradorlover0SM More than 1 year ago
I read the book in school.I love the brave Sounder.Read SOUNDER.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You have read fairytales, fiction stories, and nonfiction stories that I'm sure are pretty good. Although, when you read this realistic fiction you wont believe how good it is. Sounder is a heartwarming story unlike any other. Its about curiosity, action, and adventure. I am going to tell you about the importance of this story. I will begin with the setting. The road is one of the important parts of this story. It's where the dog, Sounder, gets shot by the sheriff. The next place is the boy's house. The boy' house is where the father gets arrested by the sheriff for stealing the ham. The jail is also an important place in the story. The jail is where the boy visits his father and is being told never to visit him again. The jail was a cave. The jail was cold, dark, and scary like a cave. The last place is the teacher's house. The teacher's house is where the boy lives on and off to go to school. The boy sees shelves filled with books, two stoves, and a beautiful garden at the teacher’s house. Now I will tell you about the important characters in this story. I will begin with ,Sounder. Sounder is the light to the boy and the father’s world. Always there for them. Is a very important part in this story. Never leaving them no matter what. Sounder is loved by the boy and the father. After Sounder is shot by the sheriff he disappears in the forest not knowing where he is. What happened to him? Is he dead? Is he alive? Find out if you read the book. The next character is ,the boy. The boy is really important in this book, because he is the one that has to do all of the work since his father has been arrested. The boy is loving and wonders where Sounder has gone, and what will happen to his father? The father loves his family and will do anything for them. After he is put in jail for taking the ham, he is no longer there for his family. The last character is the teacher. By doing the teacher’s chores, the teacher let the boy stay for free and go to school. He is nice and helped the boy clean up when the boy was wounded. The last thing I'm going to tell you is the plot. We first start with the conflict. The conflict is when the father is being arrested for stealing the ham. He is arrested by the sheriff, and is taken away. Next is the rising action. The first part of the rising action is Sounder getting shot by the sheriff when he was trying to save his master, the father. The second part of the rising action is when the boy puts Sounder's ear under his pillow to make a wish and hope that Sounder is okay. The last part of the rising action is when the teacher asks the boy to go to school and live with him on and off. The climax is when the father comes back from the jail wounded and hurting. The last one is the resolution. The resolution is both a happy and sad ending. It may surprise you, but it is really good. That was the important setting, character, and plot of this book. I hope you read it because it is a really good book. Thank you for reading my description of this book. If you read this book I hope you like it as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sounder is a fictional book with great detail, and it uses a little harsh language.  The book isn’t too long, but it isn’t too short either. There are eight chapters that have an ocean full of detail.  William H. Armstrong wrote the book.  James Barkley did the illustrations.  The book won the Newbery Award for literature.   The setting is very interesting. There are about six important settings.  The first important setting is the house.  You read about the house right off the bat.  The next setting you read about is the forest. The forest is where the father hunts with Sounder. Now you read about the road and town. The town is important because the family is always making trips to the jail in the town.  Now, the jail is important because the boy visits his father in jail. Sounder has some interesting characters, including the father, the dog Sounder, the mother, the boy, the teacher, and the red-faced man.  The first is the father. The father is a tall man that loves manual labor.  Next you will read about Sounder.  Sounder, a brave and loyal dog, will protect his master wherever he goes.  When an intruder comes all the family hears is hear is “bark, bark, bark.”  The mother, a worried woman, hums when she gets nervous.  Next, you will read about the boy. The boy is a curious young man that loves adventure. The red-faced man is very rude.  The reason he is rude is because the mother made a cake for the father and the man ruined it by squashing it with his hands.  The next character is the teacher.  The teacher is important because he gives the boy a place to stay while the boy is going to school.  The teacher’s house is paradise to the boy because of all the books. As you can see this book has amazing detail, and I hope you consider reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a great story about friendship and love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im in third grade and we read it in my guided reading group and it was a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book at all! I am extermly sumrised that it ot an award, because it didn't deserve it. Thst book was sad, hsve not plot and was terrible
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want to respond write "the deffinition of loy"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must read !
aalaurian More than 1 year ago
It is just a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YEAH!!!!!! It is the cool book i read in my life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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, "It's closing time."  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. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a great book to read. I definetly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome. Also sad when _____________ gets shot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best auther hides all his charecters names like he does. He also plors ou the book before he wrote it so everyoone interested you just need a few hours because you are going to want to read it all at once!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible book. Read 7 pgs and i ditched it. FYI the boys name is not revealed. I flipped through entire book and he wz called the boy AT ALL TIMES. AWFUL read. Check out cat_swim156's other reviews!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will never fover get!
MissVee More than 1 year ago
I was very open and explained the history of the era so he could understand the use of certain vernacular.