Saturday, April 30, 2011

Plain Kate

Plain Kate
by Erin Bow
Scholastic, 2010. 314 pgs. Fiction

Katerina Svetlana is named after her mother, who died giving birth. Her father, Piotr the woodcarver, calls her plain Kate and she is soon known as Plain Kate, after the butcher's witticism, because she is "plain as a stick." But her father calls her Kate, my star. Piotr teaches his daughter to carve and she is on her way to becoming a master when her father dies of a strange sleeping sickness that plagues her town and the country round about. In a magical land, Kate has no magic but her skill. Still, she is so good her neighbors think her a witch and drive her away, but not before a real witch comes along and she trades him her shadow for the promise that she won't have to travel alone. He gives her a talking cat. Kate falls in with gypsies who also find reason to hurt and abandon her and she is rescued by the witch who takes her upriver in a terrible quest to avenge his dead sister and bring her back from the shadowlands. Through all this Kate must be courageous and resourceful, using all her unmagical gifts to rescue whom she can of those she loves and also of those she doesn't. Plain Kate is a memorable, powerful character, a young woman who moves from grace to grace in terrible times. (The intensity of description and situations make this a book best suited for sixth grade and up.)

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