What Katy Did (by Susan Coolidge)

I first came across Susan Coolidge when I was six, and was given a nice hardback copy of this book as a school prize for something. I probably read it almost immediately, as I was a voracious reader even at that age, and certainly re-read it at least two or three times during my childhood and teenage years.

However, I don't recall the last time I read 'What Katy Did' or the sequels which I bought later in paperback editions. The books have been borrowed many times. It was only about a year ago that I learned about two further sequels to the series, and I was delighted when I learned that, as they're out of copyright, they are freely available for the Kindle. I downloaded them, and the three 'Katy' books too - and decided to read them all in e-book form.

This, the first book in the series, is about 14-year-old Katy Carr and her five younger siblings, who live with their busy doctor father and his rather frazzled and frequently cross sister, Aunt Izzy. Katy is good-hearted but frequently heedless, and hates being told what to do. The family are reasonably well-off, with a few maids and plenty of land, and have a great friend in Cecy, their next-door neighbour, who is involved in most of their games.

The first half of the story lets us into the lives and personalities of the children, particularly Clover, Katy's good-natured helpmate and the rather envious Elsie, who longs to be part of Katy's inner circle. We see Katy getting into mischief at home and at school, and continually wishing to be a better person... but equally being irritated by her aunt, and impatient with Elsie.

Their father's cousin Helen, a life-long invalid, comes to stay and exerts a good influence over the children despite being rather too good to be true. Then, when Katy has a horrible accident, Helen helps her move out of her initial depression and anger. This part of the book is a little cringeworthy; I skimmed some of it, but it wasn't too long. The last part of the book, as I remembered, was very encouraging.

Of course there's a moral to the story, as there was to most children's books of the era. Katy suffers through disobedience (although the author does admit that Aunt Izzy would have done better to explain her dictums) and matures through discipline and suffering. Yet the writing is good enough, and the characters sufficiently lively that it's still a good read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed perusing again.

Recommended as a classic to confident readers of about six and upwards, although probably intended for young teenagers originally.

Note - the Amazon link points to a paperback edition of What Katy Did, but it's long out of copyright and is freely available for the Kindle.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th August 2012

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