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A brown dog sits in front of a foggy forest. A Black man in 19th century clothing stands on one side of the dog, and his son on the other.


A young boy is growing up and his family is poor and hungry. His father and their dog, Sounder, hunt each night, but the food is scarce. When his father resorts to stealing food for his family, he is caught and sent to jail. The boy relies on his faith to bring his father home, and his desire to learn gives him hope for a better life. Set in the 19th-century South, Newbery Medal winner Sounder is a classic story about family, survival, and hope.

Student Activities for Sounder



Sounder Summary

A Black sharecropper and his dog, Sounder, go hunting each night so that the family can be fed. When hunting no longer brings in enough food, the sharecropper steals ham and is caught. When the sheriff arrives to take him away, Sounder chases them, gets shot, and runs away. The boy goes after Sounder, but only finds a trail of blood and part of Sounder’s ear.

With their father in jail, the family must survive on the money that mother makes shelling walnuts. The boy continues searching for Sounder, but he must also take care of his younger siblings. His dreams of learning to read and going to school are set aside, as he is now the man of the house. When mother makes a cake for father at Christmas, the boy brings it to the jail and visits his father. His father suggests that Sounder is most likely still alive and tells his son this must be his last visit.

The next day, Sounder returns, but he is in very poor shape. He can only use three of his legs, and half of his face has been mangled from being shot. The family takes care of the dog, and he becomes stronger each day. Meanwhile, they learn that their father has been convicted and forced into hard labor. While looking for his father one day, a guard whacks the boy’s fingers with a piece of iron. Hurt and bleeding, the boy goes to a nearby schoolhouse to tend to his wounds. There, he meets a kind teacher. The teacher tends to his injuries, and the boy tells him of his family’s situation. The teacher offers to help by teaching him and allowing the boy to live with him. Mother agrees and the boy stays with the teacher for part of the year, while working in the fields during the summer.

One day, while at home helping his mother, the boy sees his father walking down the long road to the cabin. He is thin, battered, and was terribly injured in a dynamite blast, but he is home. As dog and master reunite and heal, they go hunting together one last time. When Sounder returns without his master, the boy discovers that his father has died. His body was tired. Shortly after father’s death, Sounder dies as well. The boy is happy that they have both found peace and are in a better place. The boy continues to learn to read and write, and has hope for a future.

Sounder is a story about loyalty, struggle, and family. It is a classic story that is loved by both children and adults, and is a wonderful addition to any classroom library.


Essential Questions for Sounder

  1. Why do none of the characters except for Sounder have a name?
  2. How does the boy feel about his parents?
  3. What are some of the challenges that the boy and his family face?
  4. What is the main theme of the story?


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