by William Howard Armstrong

Paperback, 1993



Call number




Scholastic (1993), Edition: First Edition, 116 pages


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 with the help of the devoted dog Sounder.

User reviews

LibraryThing member debnance
My favorite Newbery so far. A story I want every child, every adult to read. A father (no proper nouns are ever used except for the name of the dog, Sounder) and his family are hungry. The weather makes hunting impossible. The father makes a decision to steal a ham for his children. But he is soon
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caught. When the men come to take the father to jail, they take a shot at Sounder and Sounder disappears. The father is sent to jail and then to work on a chain gang. For much of the book, the fate of neither Sounder nor the father is clear.
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LibraryThing member jrozean0128
This is a story of a boy and a dog. The boys father often goes hunting with the dog. One day the father is arrested and sent to jail. The dog fights the police and is wounded. The father eventually returns. The dog and the father eventually die, but their memory lives on through the boy.
LibraryThing member mrpeinado
Excellent book for ages 10 and up about a boy and his dog and more...Learn about southern history, sharecroppers, justice, chain gangs and yes a boy and his dog.
LibraryThing member rgambre
The book is back in the 19th century. It's about an young african american boy and his family who is living in proverty in the south. Sounder is the family dog who goes out everyday with the dad to hunt for food. Oneday the dad came home with ham and the family actually had a decent meal for once,
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but a few days later their is a knock at the door it's the sheriff claiming that the dad stole the ham and they took him to jail. In the process sounder was shot and the boy became very upset but he didn't believe sounder was dead so he continued to look for for sounder. He grapples resentful feeling towards his father and the fateof his family as they struggle to survive.
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LibraryThing member stephanieml3
This is about a boy who has a dog named Sounder. The boy feels very much alone because he has no neighbors and it is too far to walk to school. He is also lonely becuse he can not read to pass away the time. So Sounder is the boys best friend. The family is poor so the father goes out to
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steal to feed his family. When his father is taken to jail Sounder gets hurt trying to protect him.

Personal Reaction:
I don't know if I liked this book or not.I thought it was a hard story to read and it was very sad. The best part of the story for me was the way the author described Sounders distinct bark that "filled up the night and made music as though the branches of all the trees were being pulled across silver strings.

1. Discussions on feelings
2. Discussion on a man and his best friend
3. Whose dog has the most distinctive bark and why
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LibraryThing member beserene
Reading this as an adult, I realize that this is one of those "a dog and his boy" books that is not really about the dog at all. If I had read it as a child, I think I would have fallen into despair, because even in other books where -- SPOILER ALERT -- the dog dies, there is at least some
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redemptive, hopeful moment, as with the fern in Where the Red Fern Grows (which still makes me cry). The matter-of-fact realism of Armstrong's window into the situation of black sharecroppers in our not-so-distant past provides no light of hope; the reader, looking back, must bring her own to the book, and that is a difficult task. This is a short book, ostensibly for children, and it has beautiful moments, but read it only when you are prepared to feel real sadness.
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LibraryThing member callista83
Here's a little synopsis:

"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
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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."

I enjoyed this book. I had a hard time getting into it at the beginning but I quickly got into it after that. My only regret is that the book is really short, only 116 small pages and I wish the story had been longer. It was really interesting to read about what life was like for African-Americans in the south at this time. It was also interesting to see how they talked. Words like follard instead of followed. The story was well written and I could see an 19th-century southern boy telling the story as it is written.

By far my favourite quote is this:

"The boy had once heard that some people had so many books they only read
each book once. But the boy was sure there were not that many books in the
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LibraryThing member ctpress
I was expecting a heartwarming story about a black boy and his dog. What I got instead was a story of loneliness and longing. A boy longing for his dog and his father.
A story set in a harsh racist world - a world of poverty and heart wrenching despair as pictured in the mother. The boy first loses
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his father, as he is sent to prison for stealing a ham. Then the dog runs away after being wounded after a shooting.

The boy struggle to rise above his environment with determination and faith, with his love for old bible stories, his aspiration to learn how to read, so his world can be expanded.

I wanted to hear more about this kid as he grows up. What would become of him. Excellent narration by Avery Brooks.
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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This one is kind of odd because it's the sort of book that really takes some analysis, which doesn't match up with its reading level. At the end everything is tied together- it's a story about a moment and memory that never leaves you. It's a story of growing up and accepting that the moment is
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past. None of the characters have names except for Sounder, making everyone an image- less distinct than the dog. Everything happens in patterns except a few specific incidents. It's interesting that it's hinted that the boy's father found the ham in the garbage just as the boy found the book there. A very deep book without much story- I'd actually put this more at a high school level than middle school or elementary school.
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LibraryThing member bhsilvers
my favorite book EVER!!!
LibraryThing member mrsarey
A unique novel, where the characters have no names except for the dog, Sounder. It is a moving story of life in the early 20th century for blacks in rural America.
LibraryThing member ShannaThomp08
I rated this book four stars because it is a book that I feel my students can learn a lot of life lessons from. I feel that they will also learn about a very important time period in our history when people were not treated fairly because they were a different color. These two reason are just to
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name a few of why I would place them in my classroom. In the book it tells of a story of how a young boy(story does not give him a name) that struggles with so much. He has to overcome being poor, death, and the ulimate problem of learning how to read when it is illegal for him to. After reading this novel I was reminded of how grateful I should be to have the oppourunity to be able to do things that at one point of time I probably would not have gotten the chance to do.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I'm not sure what I think about this book, now that I've come to the end. I've tried to think what the author was saying - what the connections are between Sounder and the father and the boy. I'm not really sure. Certainly, there is the idea of injury - the way the world can break a man (or a dog).
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And Sounder seems to represent something amazing - he's the best hunter, he has the best call, he is loyal to one man alone. That amazing something seems to be wrapped up in the father too. The son keeps hunting for him, and sees in him someone who never kneels, who could kill a cruel guard with his bare hands, just like Sounder does with his prey. Yet both the dog and the man are broken by the world, and the boy finds a different way to meet the world - not by force, but with education. I wouldn't say I enjoyed this book - but like many great books, it made me think.
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LibraryThing member DebbieMcCauley
Sounder is a loyal family coon dog, half bulldog and half hound who I feel is symbolic of loyalty and love. It is during the great depression and the father in a black sharecropping family is arrested for stealing a ham to feed his starving family. Sounder is shot and maimed trying to protect him.
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William Armstrong tells this story through David Lee, the eldest son who spends years searching jails and chain gangs for his father. David longs to own a book and to learn to read which is made difficult as school is an eight mile walk away and he must take on his father’s responsibilities while he is absent. Along his journey he finds indifference and deliberate meanness along with great kindness and understanding. A great read that shows us the world through a family living in extreme poverty with all the hardships that we, in our own comfortable existences, have no real concept of until it is brought to life for us as in this story.
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LibraryThing member kdangleis
Sounder, a Newberry Medal winner, by William H. Armstrong, is about an African American boy growing up in a sharecropper’s family. The boy, his parents and younger siblings have no names, only the dog, Sounder, is given a name in the story. Poor does not even begin to describe this family’s
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economic status, and as a result, the father is jailed for stealing ham and sausage from the local smokehouse. In the process of the arrest, the children are exposed to the abuse of their father by the sheriff and his men, as well as the shooting of their dog Sounder. The boy is devastated by the prospect of his dog being dead, but doesn’t give up hope that he may come home alive. While his mother struggles to make ends meet by shelling and drying walnuts to sell, two pounds each night, the boy searches for his dog, wishes he could learn to read and go to school like the other kids, and fights the terrible loneliness he feels. Months pass and Sounder returns in terrible condition. The boy also begins searching for his father, against his mother’s advice. While the boy searches, he teaches himself to read and comes upon a kind teacher who offers him a place to live while he studies at his school. The boy’s mother agrees and he begins his education. This story is set in the early 1800s in the south. However, the perseverance the boy displays is a timeless example of how someone can keep living and becoming a better person despite the circumstances they been born into. While the racial issues have changed for African Americans since the 19th century, one cannot help the circumstances in which they are born today- i.e. an abusive family; an addicted parent; a poverty stricken family; etc, and so any child reading this story would be able to sympathize and relate to the boy’s plight. Armstrong does not sugar-coat the mistreatment of African Americans by whites in the time this story takes place, helping readers visualize the realistic conditions this race endured, and still do endure in parts of the country today. The violence the boy sees and endures because of his black skin is a stinging reality of what he and others endured during this time in history. The author creates admiration for the character, as he not only endures this treatment, but turns the other cheek, and does not fight back. He instead rises above his circumstances keeping his faith and bettering himself as a person. His dream of reading becomes a reality because of this endurance.
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LibraryThing member Naisy
A sobering look at life for a poverty stricken, African-American family in the 19th century. Even though the characters remain nameless, Armstrong does an incredible job of developing them.
LibraryThing member NemaGuoladdle
The book starts out with how the dog came to be with a black family. Also the character of the dog like how his baying yelp can be heard for distances when he trees a racoon or possum. The story is also about the relationship the dog has with a young, black boy. The is set back during the
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depression it seems because life is real hard. For instance, some times there isn't always food to eat. The story demonstrates life for a young black boy and what he goes through growing up in those times, along with his dog. The illustrations were in black and white drawings and I thought were very good. It made the book seem more real.

I remember reading this book back in Junior High School and I really liked it. It made me think of the times of hearing my own father talk of his childhood during the depression times, too. He was born during that time and remembers days of going hungry and just barely making it some times as a child. He said it teaches you a lot about life.

I definitely would use this book for history, social studies, government, and in English with a book report. I feel the morals and virtues that this book teaches is definitely needed in this day and age. Even the movie is real good and comes very close to the reading of this book, and I would also consider showing the movie as a project to the children as well.
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LibraryThing member MissJordanMae
This book is about an African American boy and his best friend and dog, Sounder. He is growing up in poverty, during the Depression, in a family of sharecroppers. When his father is arrested for stealing dinner for his family, Sounder jumps to his defense, and is injured in the process. After the
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dog returns home, the boy goes in search of his father.

This is a powerful and moving story, which was beautifully written. I also like how there are a few pictures sporadically placed throughout the book, keeping a young reader’s attention, yet leaving most of the imagery to the imagination.

I would read this book to my class during a history lesson over the nineteenth-century South. We could discuss the hardships that African American faced during this time. Another idea is to have the students write a paragraph about what loyal friend gives them strength, whether it be a pet or a person.
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LibraryThing member ecugary
Sounder is the story of man's best friend and a little boy. Set in the Great Depression, the story begins when a poor black man steals food for his family. When caught, the man suffers greatly at the hands of law enforcement and Sounder, man's best friend, comes to the rescue. After beign shot the
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man's son has to deal with the arrest and abuse of his father as well as the prospect that his dog is gone. Sounder was shot during the attempted rescue.

This story is an old one. I remember reading it as a young boy. I think all students should. It's a great story and gives a voice to the best ideas we want our children to admire and attain.

Students could read this book and then discuss how the story might have been different in today's society. Students can gain an understanding of what about the time frame made the story turn out the way it did?
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LibraryThing member KristenCollins
Sounder is half coon dog and half bulldog. His family is a poor African-American family. Sounder is very loyal to his master. One day the father gets tired of seeing his family go hungry and takes so food. For a few days the boy is so excited to eat so well. Sausage in the mornings and ham in the
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evenings. Then one day the police come and arrest the boys father. The cops throw the father in the back of the wagon and Sounder follows them growling and barking his loud and powerful bark. The sheriff shoots Sounder. Sounder disappears and the boy goes looking for him but cannot find him for months. The boy goes into town searching for his father, trying to get information from anyone he can only to come home empty handed each time. Then one night the boy hears a whine at the door and goes out to find a mangaled Sounder. The boy continues to look for his father and while in town finds a school teacher who asks him to come to his school and keep up the grounds and clean and in exchange he will give him room and teach him. The boys mother agrees to let him go and he continues to come home as frequently as he can to help is mother. The boys father finally gets to come home years after he was arrested. He is not home long before one night he goes out to hunt and the boy is awakened by Sounder warning him there is trouble but the boy is too late. They bury his father and the boy tells his mother that Sounder is heartbroken and has nothing else to live for now that his master is gone and it won’t be long before Sounder dies himself. The boy was right.

This book was so touching. I really enjoyed the read. We all should be so lucky to have a Sounder.

This book could be used in history class as it tells a pretty accurate portrayal of life during that time. I also think it would be a great story to add to Black History month books.
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LibraryThing member ljhliesl
My antepenultimate Newbery (last up are the first one, 1922's Story of Mankind, and 1935's Dobry, whatever that is). Even though Sounder is from 1970 and therefore in the 1968-1973 string of The Best Newberys Ever*, I have spent the past 30 years of my life avoiding it because it involves, I was
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sure, canine mortality.

*Or not the Best Ever, since Summer of the Swans lowers the bar from the High King's, Julie Edwards Miyax Kapugen's, Mrs. Frisby's, and Mrs. Frankweiler's level. And the '94-'02 string is longer and, with a gulp of disloyalty to my youth, even better.

And, in fact, it does. But not just any old canine (or cervine, vulpine, equine, or spheniscine**) mortality. No, it has to be protracted. At least Argus had his nice dung heap where no one bothered him.

** I went first with "penguine" (which I wished to include even though no Newbery medalist deals with penguin mortality) before looking up "spheniscine." I hope I have not jinxed any literary penguins to death by so doing. And I put in "cervine" even though The Yearling didn't get a Newbery. And "vulpine" even though Byars's Midnight Fox didn't get even an Honor. Which I shouldn't mind considering how I just harshed on her Swans.)

I am really glad I didn't read this as a child. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was hard enough with a similar setting -- sharecropping, Jim Crow, cotton, poverty -- but at least the Logans' dog doesn't die.

Sounder is the only character in this book with a name. When I first began to suspect the namelessness, I thought that it was going to be an even harder read: in Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the father and son also have no names. Though a hard enough read, its characters don't need names if you've read The Odyssey: the Odysseus, Telemachus, Penelope, and Mentor (and Argus) characters are obvious. So that's another reason not to read Sounder when you're 10: you haven't read The Odyssesy yet.

Here's a novelty: this book's Odysseus does in fact commit his offense. Morally, he might not be guilty, since he stole to feed his family, but at least he isn't framed, as T.J. Avery and Tom Robinson are.

I should not write reviews when I'm hopped up on caffeine. And I am not going to read Old Yeller. I understand why Atticus has to shoot Tim Johnson but that dog isn't his own pet.
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LibraryThing member briannad84
My older brother first read Sounder in the fifth grade and I remember I was infatuated with it even though I didn't reach the fifth grade for about another three years! I read it that summer and it has a feeling that just stays with you. I can read it now at 26, and it will still bring back those
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memories. It's a very beautifully written book. But I'm very curious to know more about the man the author mentions at the very beginning. Was it all based on an actual person and his family??
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LibraryThing member MarcusH
A classic tale of growing up in the South amidst poverty, prejudice, and family drama. A Newbery Award winning novel that most youngsters have to read at some point during their education. If you have a student reading it, read it with them.
LibraryThing member Lizzybeth23
A classic, gotta love it. :)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
Some how I missed this Newbery-Award-winner when I was young, but I’m glad I finally had the chance to read it. The novel tells the story of a young boy growing up during the Great Depression in the south. His family is poor, but they work hard to make ends meet. They have to deal with local
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prejudice and make do with the little they have.

When the father is arrested and sent off to a work camp, his son searches for him. During his travels he meets a teacher who sparks a thirst for knowledge in him and opens up future opportunities for learning. There is a harsh ending, but it leaves room for hope, which is important.
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Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1972)
Newbery Medal (Medal Winner — 1970)
Vermont Golden Dome Book Award (Nominee — 1970-1971)


Original language


Original publication date



0439217873 / 9780439217873

Other editions

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