Book name: What Katy Did at School
Author: Susan Coolidge
Publisher: Roberts Brothers
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Genre: vintage children’s fiction, school stories
Publication Date: 1873
Star Rating: 5/5
Susan Coolidge’s 'What Katy Did' books are enduringly popular even a century and a half after their original publication. They have never been out of print and continue to charm generation after generation of young readers.
What Katy Did at School is the sequel to What Katy Did and the middle book in the 'What Katy Did' trilogy, which ends with What Katy Did Next.
What Katy Did at School opens just after Katy has been able to come downstairs for Cousin Helen’s visit. What a thrill for everyone it was to see Katy able to walk again, even just a few steps.
She continues to improve and is soon able to walk as normal and live an active life again after so many years in bed with her spinal injury.
However, Katy’s father, Dr Carr, is concerned that she has lost too much of her childhood. She is prematurely adult and far too serious, in his opinion, and needs to be a young girl again.
Dr Carr consults Cousin Olivia, who recommends sending Katy and her sister Clover to the boarding school where her own daughter, Lilly, is a pupil.
The boarding school is back east, a considerable journey by lake boat and train from Burnett (which is based on Cleveland, Ohio). This means that Katy and Clover will not be able to return for holidays, but will be away for a whole year.
Both girls are daunted, but also a little excited, by the prospect of going away to school.
Packing and making arrangements for a housekeeper to replace Katy take up most of their time until their boat sails. Dr Carr travels with them to Hillsover, but Katy and Clover are increasingly distressed at the thought of saying goodbye to him.
Lilly Page proves to be snobby and unfriendly, but Rose Red, a nickname for one of the other pupils, could not be more friendly. Soon, Katy and Clover are immersed in school life and making friends.
Susan Coolidge strikes just the right balance between describing the delights of being away at school and absolute honesty about homesickness.
When Katy is unjustly accused of a wrong the distance between her and her family seems too much to bear. The separation is bridged by gifts and letters from home.
The Christmas box scene, where the girls receive boxes of presents and flowers from home, is vivid and moving. It’s one of my favourite all-time Christmas scenes in any children’s book.
Like many middle books in a trilogy, What Katy Did at School functions as a link between the opening and closing volumes. Here the reader sees Katy take the first steps towards adulthood and the European travel that is the centre of What Katy Did Next. She leaves the simple pursuits of her childhood behind and welcomes the adulthood to come.
The original What Katy Did book is delightful for its childlike charm. Simple pleasures like going to Paradise for a picnic or chasing other schoolgirls in a bitter inter-school feud lie at its heart.
However, Katy is older now and her experiences in What Katy Did at School must necessarily be different. How else can she be ready to fall in love during the last book in the trilogy?
I’m a fan of school stories and I just love the 'What Katy Did' trilogy, so What Katy Did at School is one of my favourite vintage children’s books.
What Katy Did at School is full of delightful detail of boarding-school experiences. It is a final illustration of Katy and Clover’s innocence before both, in subsequent books, go on to fall in love and marry.
I hope you enjoyed my review of What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge.
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