Jennie Fitzkee from A Teacher’s Reflections blog has been introducing me to some wonderful children’s books written by USA authors. It has been interesting for me to discover how many amazing USA authors I have never heard of and how many of my American friends don’t know UK authors who I thought had international fame. I am most grateful to Jennie for her wonderful posts and, when she mentioned that she did not know What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge, a talented US author, I felt compelled to share my review of this book which had such a great influence on my own creative life.
You can find Jennie here:
The What Katy Did books were among my favourite reads when I was in primary school (about 11 years old). I still have my original copies of these books and I recently decided to re-read them. I was delighted to discover that these books still filled me with as much joy and inspiration as they did when a read them as a girl.
Katy is a tall, lanky girl, the oldest of six children, who lost their mother at young ages and who are being raised by their delightful father, Dr Carr, a medical practitioner, and their aunt. The Carr family live in the fictional town of Burnet in the USA. At the beginning of the book, we are introduced to a fit and healthy Katy, whose mind is always brimming with lots of amazing and fun ideas to entertain herself, her best friend, Cecy and her younger siblings. Katy has good intentions to set a good example to her brothers and sisters, but being fun loving and rather scatter brained, she often comes unstuck and leads them into trouble.
Katy specifically appealed to me as a young reader because she is a writer of stories to entertain her family. She keeps the episodes of her latest on-going story hidden in strange places all over the house. Katy is depicted as being extremely active and a leader. She creates games that lead her school mates, on one occasion, and her friends and siblings, on another occasion, into trouble. Katy also has a big heart and is always finding new and rather unsuitable friends whom she embraces with great passion and enthusiasm. Katy will do anything for her friends, even if it gets her into trouble.
Nothing every stays the same, however, and Katy meets with an accident that results in her becoming bed-bound. The book takes us through a period of Katy’s varying emotions from an expectation that she will soon recover, to self pity and depression when she realises that she will be invalided for a lengthily period. Fortunately for Katy, she has a wonderful cousin, Helen, who is a permanent invalid, and, with Cousin Helen’s help, Katy is able to find a way to be useful to her family again and rediscover the joy of life, living and studying, even if it is from her bedroom.
This book is packed with imagination and wonder and I remember “borrowing” a number of Katy’s ideas for my own personal use. I have written poems for family members, made mini Christmas trees as gifts for moms and grannies and even made my mom two books, one when I was a girl, filled with contributions from her four daughters, and one as a adult, with contributions from her grandchildren. I believe that this series of books was a significant contributor to me discovering innovative ways of introducing creativity into my own life and the lives of my siblings and parents.
As an adult, I appreciated the leadership lesson and the fact that people who have strong leadership qualities can lead other people astray. Having these qualities actually means that you have a responsibility to learn to use them wisely and not lead others off the cliff.
Every child should read this book.