Book Title: Katy
Book Author: Jaqueline Wilson
Genre: Realism, Childrens’ Lit, Disabled Lit,
First Published: August 2015
Star Rating: ★★★★★
Welcome to Berg’s Book Club—where your host is a polar bear teddy! Today, I will review the book, Katy by Jacqueline Wilson. This book was inspired by Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did.
The book, Katy, is full of emotion and realistic. You can really get into Katy’s world, her feelings and her struggles. Wilson tells a story of anger, frustration, self-hate, acceptance and self-love in a creative and well-crafted way.
Katy Book Review
I love this book, it is probably my favourite Jaqueline Wilson book which is why it was the first review on this bog. The representation of the disabled protagonist is stunning, realistic and believable. I believe this book is a marvellous way to introduce a child to physical disabilities. It can also help them to understand and accept that there is nothing wrong with having a disability. I believe that disabled kids will identify with this and find comfort in a character who may not be too different than themselves.
Wilson is a brilliant children’s writer and, like many successful writers, she has a range of stunning to unimpressive books. My least favourite book of Wilson’s is the book, Midnight, which I reviewed after this one. But, Jacqueline Wilson’s Katy hooked me from the start.
About Katy and What Katy did
Unlike most of her other work, Katy is not an original story. It is a story heavily inspired and based on a novel by Susan Coolidge, What Katy Did. If you read both books, you are able to compare attitudes around disability from 150 years ago to now.
The difference between the two books is how the protagonist adapts and accepts life as a disabled individual. In What Katy Did, the protagonist hoped that being good and well behaved will eventually cure her of her disability. In What Katy Did, Katy recovers from her disability, only by fulfilling this duty.
Katy by Jacqueline Wilson tells a similar story, except it challenges the Victorian stereotypes and views towards disability. If you have read Heidi, or the Secret Garden then you will know which stereotypes I am referring to. You can read more about the difference between the two stories in my case study review.
In Jacqueline Wilson’s Katy, it is not like that.
The doctors and Katy’s dad tell Katy that it is very unlikely she will walk again. Therefore, Katy knows not to get her hopes up. This develops a strong and determined character.
Being disabled myself, this is a major importance to me. I’ve read other Victorian and Edwardian books where disabled characters recover because they did a good deed. You can look at Heidi or The Secret Garden and find the same situation.
Wilson is more realistic. She wants her audience to understand that the world does not work this way. Y
I was practically crippled and they expected me to be pathetic and saintly like the little invalids in victorian books. – (Wilson, 2015, p. 177).
Katy by Jacqueline Wilson Synopsis
Katy Carr is a lively, daredevil oldest sister in a big family. She loves messing around outdoors, climbing on the garage roof, or up a tree, cycling, skateboarding, swinging…. But her life changes in dramatic and unexpected ways after a serious accident.
The Plot of Katy
The Plot of Katy is very similar to What Katy Did. Katy is forbidden from meeting up with her crush at the skateboard park due to her behaviour. However, she attempts to go by herself and gets lost. T
his causes her to be grounded and left home alone, which ultimately leads to her accident and a permanent injury that prevents her from walking again. The plot focuses on three things. How well Katy adapts, how her friends treat her and how she copes.
With her new friends, Helen and Dexter and the support of her family, Katy starts her journey as a disabled individual. She also learns that not all friends will change their attitude towards her. There’s even a little cute pre-teen romance.
The plot is relatively simple and easy to follow, helped by the first person narrative; particularly if you are a young reader. I think the plot encourages young children to think about disability and to make them aware that just because someone is disabled does not mean they should be excluded.
This is clear in the many P.E scenes in the book where the P.E teacher purposely encourages Katy to join in with the other students by inventing a game that can be played by both wheelchair users and able-bodied students. My favourite collection of scenes.
I found the way Wilson tackled the development of Katy as a disabled individual—one learning to adapt and accept herself—interesting and well done. Most of the character development is based on Katy, but the things Katy does and says develop the other characters too.
Katy goes through many emotions. There are many changes in her life. A stepmother, a disability and friends that treat her as if she is a different person. Add the stress of school and hormones and you have one angry, grieving teenager. All this emotion makes her blind to the sacrifice and feelings of her stepmother.
When Katy finds the courage to return to school, she finds support in her P.E teacher and learns that she is able to still take part in sport. This is what helps her on her journey to self-acceptance.
It is at her school where Katy starts to change. She starts to learn more about herself, her disability and that the things she is able to do, others struggle with.
Another favourite scene of mine is when the PE teacher embarrasses another student by showing her how hard it is to use a chair.
Izzie gives up her job to look after Katy and tries to encourage her to enjoy something again by trying to find things she can do (like making purses). She feels guilty about Katy’s accident as she blames herself for leaving Katy home alone, these feelings empathised when Katy snaps at her, blaming her for the accident too.
Looking after Katy 24/7 proves to be stressful for Izzie, especially as Katy refuses to cooperate. She contacts a family friend, Helen—who is also disabled—and asks her to speak to Katy. Immediately, there is a contrast between Katy and Helen, which adds to the narrative and to the characters
When Helen stays with the Carr’s, Katy realises that Helen is still independent despite her disability and has tricks that help make her life easier.
However, after spending time with Helen, Katy realises that while Helen does occasionally need help, she is able to do things and still be independent by inventing tricks and techniques that make the task easier and this intrigues Katy.
It is Helen who gives Katy the courage to go back to school and who pushes her onto the path of self-acceptance.
I highly recommend Katy by Jacqueline Wilson.
This book is great as it represents an individual with a disability as someone who is more than their disability. The character has to come to terms with who she is.
The whole experience makes it so that she is wiser than she was before her accident, more appreciative but also, in many ways, the same. Katy realises that she is the same person, still cheeky and sporty—just she now does things differently.
The characters are great, all of them unique and varied in their own way and each of them grows as Katy adapts and grows herself.
Jacqueline Wilson has outdone herself and managed to beautifully represent a disabled character in her books. Whats more, she does it with a positive attitude. None of this nonsense about belief and faith and fresh air giving a cure. I would recommend it to any parent who wants their child to understand and become aware of different conditions.
Thanks for reading this review.
Did you like this review? Have you read the book or one that treats disabled characters in the same way? Let me know in comments.