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by William H. Armstrong Illustrated by James Barkley

Winner of the Newbery Medal and an acknowledged landmark in children's literature, Sounder traces the keen sorrow and 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 day, he succeeds in bringing something home. Unfortunately, the joy is short-lived: an angry sheriff and his deputies come and take the boy's father away to jail for stealing a hog. Sounder, shot in the fracas, disappears.

Angry and humiliated, the boy has no choice but to begin a difficult transition to adulthood. He learns to read, and with that skill comes the beginning of greater understanding. Sounder eventually returns — emaciated, battered, but still devoted — and so does the boy's hope. Though nothing can change the hard realities of the past, he gradually finds the courage he needs to rely on his own resources and walk bravely toward the future.

As resonant now as when it was first written, Armstrong's powerful, beautifully told story will strike a chord with readers and stay with them for years to come.

10, 11, 12
Interest Level
Grades 5 - 7
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading
Number of Pages
Classics, Historical Fiction

About the Author and Illustrator

William H. Armstrong 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.
James Barkley

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