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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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Big Eater:
    • Dorry. His journal only seems to consist of what he ate during the day.
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    • 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.
  • Brother–Sister Team:
    • Johnnie and Dorry.
    • Clover and Phil have their moments in Clover.
  • 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.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Dr. Carr punishes the three younger children for eating forbidden gooseberries by making them swallow a spoonful of salts.
  • 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.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Dorry and Johnnie end up marrying siblings Imogen and Lionel Young.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ill Girl:
    • Katy becomes one in What Katy Did when she falls from a swing and damages her back.
    • Cousin Helen has been one for years, and is even described as a 'cripple'.
    • Miss Jane in ''What Katy Did at School' takes to bed with a terrible cold that Katy nurses her through.
    • Amy in What Katy did Next becomes very sick while traveling around.
    • Imogen ends up suffering from "mountain fever" (described in the book as "a milder sort of typhoid"; possibly Colorado tick fever) in In The High Valley and is bedbound for a couple of weeks while Clover takes care of her.
  • 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.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Carrs, with two boys and four girls.
  • Missing Mom: We only hear about Katy's mom in flashbacks as she died just after Phil was born.
  • Mood Whiplash: In What Katy Did, Katy is starting to get better from her accident and can move about using her chair. Then Aunt Izzie dies.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.