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What Katy Did
by Susan Coolidge
Read by Susan O'Malley

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What Katy Did
by Susan Coolidge
Read by Susan O'Malley
Blackstone Audiobooks, (1997)
ISBN: 0-7861-1150-X
Genre: Children's Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 7, 2001

What Katy Did is a heartwarming, and at times, heart wrenching story of a little girl, who wants to grow up to be beautiful and to do something so special that it will make her famous. But before she can achieve her goal, she meets with a tragic accident that leaves her partially paralyzed. How Katy deals with the accident, and how it matures her, is the main focus of this story. In this story you also get to witness the carefree antics of the Carr children as they play, go to school, and interact with each other and their next door neighbor, Cecy Hall. Katy's triumph over adversity, her enduring spirit, and her faith in God will serve as a legacy to anyone who listens to (or reads) this book.

The unabridged audio recording of this book opens with a biographical sketch of the book's author, Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, who wrote under the penname Susan Coolidge. Coolidge was a contemporary of Louisa May Alcott. Already a respected writer, Coolidge was convinced by her publisher to try her hand at writing a children's story. In part this was due to the success of Little Women and the public demand for more wholesome children's stories. What Katy Did is the result of her effort. Katy was so well received that Coolidge eventually wrote five novels about Katy and the other Carr children.

Katy is the oldest of the six Carr children. Her siblings are Clover, Elsie, Dorry, Joanna, and the youngest Phil. Her Papa is a physician and her mother died shortly after the birth the youngest child, four years before the opening of this novel. When the novel begins, Katy is twelve years old. They are being cared for by Aunt Izzie, their father's sister, who moved in to care for the children after their mother's death. Aunt Izzie is a straight laced, no-nonsense type of woman who finds it difficult to manage the rambunctious Carr children. It is their unwillingness to obey her that leads to Katy's unfortunate accident.

The story will seem, to modern ears, a bit sentimental. And, to a degree, the story line may seem a bit harsh. For example, after Katy's accident, her cousin Helen, who was herself crippled in an accident, teaches Katy all about the School of Pain. To be a good student Katy must study various lessons, including the lessons of patience, cheerfulness, making the best of things, helpfulness, and neatness. Although in great pain from her injury, Katy learns to always appear cheerful and to bare the pain in silence so as to act as a source of encouragement and strength for others. The author makes Katy suffer for a long time, but in the end she is better for it and so are those around her.

The narrator of this story, Susan O'Malley, has a sweet, friendly voice that enhances this charming, family-oriented story. Not only does it offer younger readers a lesson in 'being' good and the value of family, but it also offers them a glimpse into a bygone day. The story is well suited for children in the 9-12 year age bracket, although it will find many enthrusiatic readers in all age catagories. This story was originally published in 1872, and it holds the same appeal as 'old-timey' children's classics such as Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Pollyanna.

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What Katy Did is also available in a Hardcover - standard print edition.

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