Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (1835 – 1905) was an American children’s author. She wrote under the pseudonym Susan Coolidge and is perhaps best known for her classic story What Katy Did.
I can remember reading Coolidge and the What Katy Did series way before I read Blyton’s Malory Towers. The books are a mixture of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. They depict the life and trials of young Katy in various stages throughout her life.
Susan Coolidge might not enjoy the same success or notoriety as Louisa May Alcott, but I certainly remember her books well and believe she deserves to be right up there with Blyton, Alcott or Montgomery.
The series consists of the books What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next. Two spin-off novels, Clover and In the High Valley, featured the younger siblings I think people would generally be surprised to hear just how many books she did write. What Katy Did features the Carr family, which Coolidge based on herself, her siblings and her family in general.
In What Katy Did the reader is introduced to the carefree twelve year old Katy. A boisterous tomboy with a zest for life. She has great plans for the future and enjoys every single second of the day, until
one day she has an accident. Katy now finds herself virtually immobile and must learn to direct her inner strength towards her recovery. The years of being unable to walk teach her immeasurable lessons in life.
The swing gave a violent twist, spun half round, and tossed Katy into the air. She clutched the rope,—felt it dragged from her grasp,—then, down,—down—down—she fell. All grew dark, and she knew no more.
Katy has to adjust, but it also gives her a lot of time to reflect upon the important things in life. Things she probably took for granted up to that point. She gets a keener understanding of her younger siblings and her family.
It was droll, and a little pitiful, to see tall Katy with her feeble, unsteady progress, and the active figures of the little sisters following her protectingly. But Katy did not consider it either droll or pitiful; to her it was simply delightful
Coolidge has a way of sweeping you off into the moment. Her words create an imagery much like a film reel. At the same time her writing is warm, friendly, in a way that almost invites you home.
I want to show you the little Carrs, and I don’t know that I could ever have a better chance than one day when five out of the six were perched on top of the ice-house, like chickens on a roost.
Katy reflects upon the Katy before the accident and the Katy after the accident. How she sees herself in a completely different light now. An old head on young shoulders.
‘I haven’t been brave. You can’t think how badly I sometimes have behaved—how cross and ungrateful I am, and how stupid and slow. Every day I see things which ought to be done, and I don’t do them.’
The story of perseverance, of not giving up regardless of how high the obstacle. Learning to understand the importance and place she has in her family. Whether she can walk or not is completely irrelevant to her place in the family.
In her own way Coolidge also calls for integration of the disabled. Acceptance of those who are different. Quite modern thinking for her era.
The story of Katy continues with her life at school and as a young adult. It has always been one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it just as much.
Download and read What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School, What Katy Did Next, Clover, Eyebright, A Little Country Girl, Nine Little Goslings, A Round Dozen or download and listen to The Barberry Bush, Sixteen, In the High Valley, What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School, What Katy Did Next or Clover all by Susan Coolidge and all for free..
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