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Literature / What Katy Did

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A series of novels written by Susan Coolidge in the 1800s about the life of Katy Carr and her family.

The books are:

  1. What Katy Did - Katy is a girl on the cusp of adolescence. She has all kinds of plans for what she wants to do when she grows up and ways she can be a good person and a credit to her family, but when it comes to implementing them in her day to day life she generally just gets into trouble. After an accident leaves her bed-ridden, Katy is forced to rethink her ambitions and her relationship with her family.
  2. What Katy Did At School - A convalescent Katy is told by her father that her accident has made her grow up too fast. She and her sister are sent away to boarding school for a chance to continue their education and just spend some time being normal teenagers.
  3. What Katy Did Next - After doing a favor for a neighbour, Katy is given the chance to go on a grand tour of Europe. She's happy just to be seeing the places she spent her childhood reading about and then a dashing young naval captain shows up...
  4. Clover - Phil, the youngest Carr child, falls ill and it's decided that he should go to Colorado to recover. As Katy is now married, Clover is the one to accompany him and finds herself falling in love with both the location and a certain young man there.
  5. In the High Valley - Siblings Imogen and Lionel Young move out to Colorado from England, and find themselves living alongside Clover and Elsie, who have since settled down there with families of their own.

In 2015, Jacqueline Wilson wrote a modernised version of What Katy Did called Katy.

These novels provide examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Clover is sometimes called Clovy. Phil is also sometimes called Philly.
  • All Women Are Prudes: Katy, possibly due to being home-schooled since her accident, is very disapproving of the Hillsover girl students' interest in boys, though it's all perfectly innocent. She even implores Clover not to sit facing the window while some boys are playing outside, even though the blinds are shut. Meanwhile Rose Red and Clover just find it amusing.
    Katy: I declare I've a great mind to get up a society to put down flirting.
  • An Aesop: Downplayed. Katy would have never fallen from the swing and become paralyzed if she hadn't disobeyed Aunt Izzie's order to not use the swing. However, it is suggested that Aunt Izzie is also at fault for not explaining that the swing was unsafe and expecting the children to obey without question.
  • …And That Little Girl Was Me: Cousin Helen is telling Katy a story about a young girl who was also left disabled at a young age and struggled to cope with it, but accidentally names herself partway through. Helen acknowledges that she didn't mean to reveal the story was about her quite so soon.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Elsie is this to Clover and Katy, who consider her too little for them to want to play with her and get annoyed with her constantly trailing after them.
  • Author Avatar: Susan Coolidge based Katy off herself as a child and vaguely wrote the Carr family based on her own younger siblings.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Pre-accident Katy is not fond of her pernickety Aunt Izzie; however when Imogen Clark likens her to a 'horrid old woman' from her stories, Katy is very angered and tells Imogen that she's very rude to say so.
  • Because I Said So: Aunt Izzie is very fond of telling the children why they can or cannot do something without giving a reason for it. It's how she was raised herself. The author even suggests that aunt Izzie should take some of the blame for Katy's accident, as she had only told the children not to use the swing, rather than explaining that the swing was broken.
  • Betty and Veronica: The still somewhat childish and impulsive Clarence and the kinder more thoughtful Geoffry both express interest in Clover.
  • Big Eater:
    • Dorry. His journal only seems to consist of what he ate during the day.
    • Lilly is fond of waffles and devours plate after plate of them much to Katy and Clover's surprise.
  • Boarding School: In What Katy Did at School, Katy and Clover attend a boarding school called Hillsover.
  • Bookworm: Katy is this to the extent that her schoolfriends actually hide their books when she comes over to play, otherwise she'll sit down and read and ignore them completely until it's time to go home.
  • Bookends: What Katy Did starts with the author musing about katydids and how they reminded her of a Katy she once knew, and What Katy Did At School ends with the author back in that field listening to the katydids.
  • Bottle Episode: The second half of What Katy Did almost entirely takes place in Katy's bedroom throughout the years she spends bedridden.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Katy never is the same after her fall from the swing. While the narrative suggests that it's for the better, Katy loses the excitable spark that made her stand out after spending four years bedbound and never really gets it back.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The author herself narrates the start of What Katy Did and the end of What Katy Did At School, stating that the sound of the katydids reminds her of a Katy that she used to know.
  • Brick Joke: In What Katy Did at School Rose Red is able to prevent a 'stout' lady from taking a seat next to her in the carriage by claiming that she's prone to fits. She later uses this again in What Katy Did Next at Mary Silver's wedding, when three larger ladies attempt to sit next to her.
  • Brother–Sister Team:
    • Johnnie and Dorry.
    • Clover and Phil have their moments in Clover.
  • Character Death:
    • Aunt Izzie dies after a quick illness halfway through What Katy Did.
    • Rose Red's beloved grandmother dies somewhere between What Katy Did Next and In The High Valley.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The pretty vase belonging to Cousin Helen is greatly admired by Katy and eventually given to her as a gift. With that, Katy resolves to become a better person, just like her cousin. It's the very next day that a series of events leads to Katy having her accident, which all starts when she accidentally breaks that beautiful vase in a fit of anger.
  • Chinese Laborer: In Clover and In the High Valley, Clarence Page, Geoff Templestowe and their wives hire a Chinese cook, Choo Loo. While the Christian protagonists don't quite agree with his use of joss sticks, and "the ways and means of his mysteriously conducted kitchen", he is a "capital cook", and the ladies appreciate the way he likes to decorate the food he serves.
    Lionel Young (when setting up residence with his sister): I wish we could have the luck to happen on his brother or nephew for ourselves.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Katy in the first three books, and arguably Clover and Elsie at the same time.
  • Consummate Liar: Imogen Clark, a school friend of Katy's who tells many tall tales about herself (including one about being kidnapped by a brigand). Katy is initially infatuated with her but grows disillusioned.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The sheer number of times the characters run into one another throughout the world
    • Katy isn't surprised to run into Mrs Page and Lilly in Nice, and they happen to be staying at the same boarding house.
    • Clarence just happens to be living in the same area of Colorado that Clover and Phil stay in during Clover.
    • Imogen ends up meeting Mrs Page and Lilly entirely by chance shortly before she leaves England and then meets Mrs Ashe and Amy on the ship to America.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Dr. Carr punishes the three younger children for eating forbidden gooseberries by making them swallow a spoonful of salts.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In a rather sweet way; Rose Red is somehow able to smuggle a voyages worth of gifts onto The Spartacus and also coaxes the stewardess into delivering a present to Katy each day. She even adds an extra gift should the voyage take a day longer than expected.
  • Daddy's Girl: Katy is very close to her father, but all the Carr girls could qualify for this one.
  • Death by Childbirth: It's implied Mrs. Carr died giving birth to Phil.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Aunt Izzie in What Katy Did really warms up to the children and Katy throughout the story.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Rose Red trying to sneak into Katy and Clover's adjoining bedroom through the drawer space embedded in the wall during 'quiet time'. Especially when she gets stuck and the noise alerts Miss Nipson.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Dorry and Johnnie end up marrying siblings Imogen and Lionel Young.
  • Empathic Environment: Katy's wedding day is sunny and bright, seemingly to reflect the joy of the day itself. Happens again for Johnnie and Dorry's weddings, where the sky is said to be unnaturally nice even for that time of year.
  • Everything but the Girl: By the end of the final book, Phil has everything he wants except Amy, with whom he claims to have been in love since their early childhood. He seems to have resigned himself to the fact that she'll likely have married someone else by the time he is in a position to find a wife.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Katy laments that she would rather die than be told to stay in bed for the rest of her life, the author teasingly notes that it's easy for young people to wish for death rather than face hardship.
  • Funetik Aksent:
    • Choo Loo and Ah Lee, who are Chinese and Mongolian respectively, speak in Engrish. While relatively harmless at the time, it now reads as being incredibly racist.
    • Miss Barret, the English stewardess who take care of Katy and the Ashes during the journey to England, is prone to dropping the endings of words and adding 'h's' to words with vowels. Katy is confused when Amy says about going up on the deck to get some 'fresh hair'.
    • Katy pretending to be an Irish maid to entertain Amy is also written like this.
  • Girl Next Door: Cecy in What Katy Did.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Katy initially gets jealous when Elsie becomes close to Cousin Helen.
    • Elsie herself is jealous of Katy, Clover and Cecy.
    • Katy briefly experiences this when Clover becomes close to Rose Red, but immediately chides herself for it.
    • Imogen is incredibly jealous of Clover due to being kind, pretty and beloved by all, but eventually gets over it when Clover takes care of her while she's sick.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-universe example. When Katy first falls, she's devastated at the thought of having to stay in bed for a couple of days. Those couple of days turns out to be four years.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The Carr children get up to all manner of 'gay' things.
    • From What Katy Did Next:
    She (the baby) was used to it, and submitted with perfect good nature to being kissed, trotted, carried up and down, and generally made love to.
    She (Amy) followed her (Katy) about like a little lover.
  • Heroic BSoD: Katy has one when she first becomes sick in What Katy Did.
  • Hope Spot: Katy is starting to get better, she's coping with her illness much more easily and everyone is awed at how much her spirits have improved. Then Aunt Izzie dies of a short and sudden illness.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Katy; she was "up above Papa's ear, and half a head taller than poor Aunt Izzie" when she's just twelve.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Katy has shades of this in What Katy Did; the author does mention that once Katy grows into her features, she will look stunningly pretty.
  • I Can't Feel My Legs!: Katy, after her fall from the swing.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Cousin Helen. When she first become sick, however, she was bitter and withdrawn until her father gave a What the Hell, Hero? speech that she herself gives to Katy later.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Very much Type C, too. Helen makes it clear that it's contemptible for disabled women not to be this.
  • Karma Houdini: Elsie, the evening the children play the forbidden game Kikeri. Lampshaded by the author who notes that Elsie was the only child who didn't get the scolding or punishment she deserved that night.
  • Lies to Children: Averted, Mr Carr is extremely against lying to his children and sugar coating the truth.
  • Little Professor Dialog: From the precocious Daniel D'Aubigny in What Katy Did At School.
  • The Load: Amy. When she's not being a spoiled brat who demands everything her way she's sick for months on end.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Katy, Lilly and Ned. Lilly likes Ned, who is in turn enchanted by Lilly's beauty until she reveals her true colours. He then falls for Katy after seeing how kind she is, and Katy in turn grows fond of Ned once she gets to know him.
    • Clover, Clarence and Geoffrey. Clarence harbours feelings for Clover as she's always been nice to him, but she only has eyes for Geoffrey, who in turn falls for her almost the moment he meets her.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • The Carrs, with two boys and four girls.
    • Esther Dearborn ends up mother to seven children, although two are from her husband's previous marriage.
  • Missing Mom: We only hear about Katy's mom in flashbacks as she died just after Phil was born, and Katy's the only one of the siblings who really has any proper memories of her.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Katy has finally started to recover after her accident and can even move about using her chair. Then aunt Izzie dies of a short and sudden illness.
    • Katy and Clover have started to settle into Hillsover and are making friends, and even have their own secret society. Then they're suddenly moved to a less desirable room as punishment for a note that neither of them actually sent.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Averted; there are three Helens throughout the series, Cousin Helen, Little Helen and Geoff's sister Helen.
    • There are also two Imogens; the self-centred girl who was one of Katy's special friends and Imogen from In The High Valley who is the protagonist and eventual wife of Dorry.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Applies to Katy (Katherine), Johnnie (Joanna) and Dorry (Theodore) of the Carr children, and also to Imogen Clark, whose real name is Elizabeth. Lampshaded in What Katy Did Next about Rosamund Redding, who signs herself as Rose Red even after she gets married to a Mr Browne.
    Katy: Oh, Rose Red Browne would sound too funny. Rose Red she must stay until the end of the chapter; no other name could suit her half so well, and I can't imagine her being called anything else.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • Johnnie and Dorry just happen to fall for Lionel and Imogen comes across like this as it happens in the last half of the final novel in the series.
    • The author tries this with Phil and Amy, the former of whom has apparently always wanted to marry Amy but neglected to even hint at it until the final novel.
  • Parental Favoritism: Aunt Izzie likes Elsie best.
    • Understandable, given that at the time poor Elsie is left out by the older girls, and too proud to play with the younger children.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Aunt Izzie doesn't explain that the swing is broken, she simply states that the children aren't allowed on it until tomorrow and even then only if she allows it. This is why Katy assumes that she's just being controlling and goes on the swing anyway, which leads to her unfortunate accident.
  • Present Peeking: Played with; Katy and Clover receive a large box from their family while they're at boarding school for Christmas and Clover starts feeling around inside until Katy suggests that they go to sleep so Christmas morning will arrive all the faster.
  • Proper Lady: Cecy Hall is this in comparison to Katy Carr.
    • Though Katy does become one when she grows up.
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship:
    • Katy and Cecy are incredibly close throughout the early books, even with their Tomboy and Girly Girl dynamic. Cecy spends so much time at the Carrs she's essentially another member of the family.
    • Katy and Clover might be sisters, but they're especially close to one another. Lilly comments on how unnatural it is and that they'll be labelled 'The Intimates' at school.
    • Rose Red and Mary Silver. As Katy notes, Rose likes to talk and Mary likes to listen. Rose likes to protect and Mary likes to be protected.
    • Clover and Rose Red become incredibly close to one another at school.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Katy and Ned start dating and get married between the end of What Katy Did Next and the start of Clover.
  • Scenery Porn: The author has a talent for describing the various buildings and rooms Katy and her family find themselves in, it's really easy to picture them, despite the books being written so long ago.
  • Settle for Sibling: Clover rejects Clarence's proposal of marriage in favour of Geoffrey Templestowe, so he marries Elsie instead.
  • Sibling Rivalry: While there are initial spats here and there, the six Carr children get on very well. Elsie is left out at the start of What Katy Did as she is too young for Katy and Clover to play with, yet too old to join in with the younger children.
  • Spoiler Cover:
    • The vast majority of the book covers for What Katy Did depict Katy on a swing, which immediately leads to her life-changing accident.
    • One version of What Katy Did Next shows Katy and Ned having an intimate moment together; they only begin courting at the very end of the novel.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: When she was younger, Katy had a habit of bringing home 'new friends' with her. One such friend was Imogen, a girl from school, who while was very nice in class, put on airs and graces at the Carr household which made her come across as selfish and petty. Katy and Clover even comment that it felt like ages before she left.
    • Later, Mrs. Worrett, an obese, talkative neighbour who settles into a rocking chair and stays the entire afternoon.
  • Time Skip
    • What Katy Did has a four-year time skip towards the end of the book.
    • What Katy Did At School is set two years after What Katy Did.
    • What Katy Did Next is set a year after What Katy Did At School.
    • Clover starts with a time skip of around two years, then skips another two years before Clover and Phil head out to Colorado.
    • In The High Valley has a time skip of roughly around four years and then skips ahead another year towards the end.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Amy has to have her hair shaved off after falling ill and she's furious until Katy gets the bright idea to do the same to her beloved doll.
  • Trivial Tragedy: Elsie's awful experience at the farm, which essentially boils down to her being too hot from the unusually warm autumn weather, having to sleep in a feather-filled bed and being unexpectedly sniffed by a pig. Her family later tease her about this, complete with Phil pretending to be the pig in question and often refer back to it as a learning experience whenever Elsie doesn't listen to their well thought out advice.
  • "Ugly American" Stereotype: Heavily averted; Katy and Mrs Ashe are considered to be wonderful people wherever they go throughout Europe, most likely because this was long before the stereotypical American tourist was even a thing. The rather spoilt Amy comes closer to fulfilling the trope, although her rude and entitled behaviour is never addressed by anyone.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Cousin Helen gives a gentle version of this speech to Katy, after Katy falls into despair after her accident. Helen tells Katy that an invalid's life need not be an empty one if one makes an effort to be useful and doesn't push others away.
    • Lionel scolds Imogen for being rude to Clover, reminding her of just how much she and her family have done for them.