About the Book
Life is filled with hard times and hunger for a young boy and his family surviving in the South during the 19th century. Each night the boy and his father hunt with their great 'coon dog, Sounder, but return empty-handed. One day the young boy wakes up to the smell of ham cooking in the kitchen, but the sweetness of the meal can not mask the angry voices and guns of a sheriff and his deputies who burst into their home and change the boy's life forever. There is little that can separate a boy and his dog, but this time, not even Sounder can protect the family from harm.
Awards: Newbery Award
Reading Level: 4.9
Students will learn about how a historical period affects the characters and narrative.
- On the board write: If we were to write a book about our school, where would each scene take place? Students may answer by detailing classrooms, favorite hangouts, neighborhood streets, etc.
- Ask students to pick one of the "settings" from above and describe it in detail. Encourage students to describe it using their five senses. Share descriptions. (e.g., my classroom smells like chalk, sounds like laughter.)
- Define setting for students as where and when the story takes place. Ask students how the setting of the school would differ before the civil rights era (e.g., separate drinking fountains for black and white students, segregation). How might the setting be different during the Vietnam War (e.g., protest signs, hippies)? Explain to students that part of what influences and creates the setting of a story is the historical period in which the story takes place. For some books, the setting (where and when) dominates the narrative and is integral for the story.
- Ask students to identify the setting in Sounder.
- Tell students that they are going to learn about how the historical setting of Sounder influences the storyline and the characters. For an example, read students this paragraph: "The white man who owned the vast endless fields had scattered the cabins of his Negro sharecroppers far apart, like flyspecks on a white washed ceiling."
Ask students what they can tell about the social and political events going on at this time.
- As a class, students will create a triple-entry chart (see below). Put students in groups and have them locate one specific detail from the book that they would like to investigate. Give each group three large index cards where they will fill in the following:
- Detail about the setting: Students should search through the book to find details about the social or political setting of this story. (INDEX CARD 1)
- How this affects the characters' lives: Students should describe how they think the family was affected by the social and political setting. (INDEX CARD 2)
- Historical fact: Students should locate primary resources (pictures, maps, drawings, advertisements, etc.) that will give the class a better understanding of the social and political setting of the story. Students can include a one- or two-sentence description of any sort of visual that they locate. (INDEX CARD 3)
- Set up a chart on a whiteboard or piece of chart paper with the following columns:
Detail About Setting Effect on Characters' Lives Historical Fact
- Each group of students should paste their index cards on the class chart and present their findings.
- If space is limited in the classroom, you can have students paste their research in a book format.
Create a visual representation of the farm.
Other Books About Children and Dogs
- Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Eleven-year-old Marty encounters an ethical dilemma about whether to return an abused dog back to its owner.
- Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Gipson provides a wonderful glimpse into the powerful bond between a boy and his dog as the young man takes his first steps towards adulthood.
Other Books by William H. Armstrong
- The MacLeod Place
- The Mills of God
- Joanna's Miracle
- My Animals
- Warrior in Two Camps: Ely S. Parker, Union General and Seneca Chief
- Hadassah: Esther the Orphan Queen
- Through Troubled Waters
- A Pocket Guide to Correct Study Tips
- Study Tactics
- The Education of Abraham Lincoln
- Sour Land
Student will understand the relationships between literature and its historical period, culture, and society.