Susan Coolidge, What Katy Did
Published 2007 by ACC Distribution (first published 1872), 159p
I was reading this novel when I started thinking if children would really understand and enjoy it. The classic literature tends to faint in favor of modern novels and stories, which somehow is quite understandable. But we still need the classics.
What I would do when recommending this book to a young reader is presenting first the strong reasons why we still need to read this kind of books (about which I am going to write soon) and then try to find aspects from the story that apply to nowadays kids’ lives. I cannot say I have enjoyed the novel very much but it was a good exercise for my brain although it took me four days to read it.
The book was published in 1872 and it is the story of a girl, Katy Carr, who is twelve and lives in Burnet, a small town, with her father, her two brothers and three sisters and Aunt Izzie, her father’s sister. Katy’s mother has died a few years before the story begins. The father is a very kind man but a very busy doctor who works all day so the children are supervised by their aunt who is a small woman with good intentions but no control.
Katy is the leader, she is a bright, funny girl, with an extraordinary imagination but “Katy tore her dress every day, hated sewing, and didn’t care a button about being good.” She dreams that one day she will be really beautiful and do something to make her famous so that everybody would want to meet her. Katy likes building castles, inventing games, finding the paradise in nature and writing stories. On the other hand she also forgets to learn her lessons or to tie her laces and she loses things. She even quarrels with her siblings.
When Katy meets Cousin Helen, who could not walk because of an accident, she finds in her beauty and her kindness an impulse to change and become better-behaved. Unfortunately, the plan is not respected and the next day Katy pushes her sister on the stairs. Remorseful, she goes on the swing, falls and injures her spine. She will be invalid for four years.
Katy’s illness will be her journey to maturity. She becomes a tidy person, very responsible, the heart of the house.
What Katy Did is a moralistic book but all characters are very well built and there are many hilarious situations, which make it worth reading if you find the good mood.