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`And now, Katy, it's your turn. Tell us what you're going to be when you grow up.'
`I'm not sure about what I'll be,' replied Katy; `beautiful, of course, and good if I can. That's what I'd like to be. But now I'll tell you what I mean to do...'
Tomboyish Katy Carr is tall, gangling and full of mischief. Constantly scheming and playing with her brothers and sisters, 12-year-old Katy dreams that one day she will be `beautiful and beloved, and amiable as an angel'. But goodness and obedience don't come easily to Katy, who has promised to be a good stand-in mother to her younger siblings but finds it difficult to stick to her word. When her bedridden cousin Helen comes to stay, Katy becomes enchanted with her as the living embodiment of goodness and light. On the day Helen leaves, Katy devotes herself to be a shining example of Helen's behaviour. But quickly the best of intentions go awry, and a day of mischief ends in an accident: a serious fall from a swing that seems to threaten Katy's grand hopes for the future. But by focusing on the good humour and strength she witnessed in Helen, Katy eventually learns to overcome her difficulties in the `School of Pain', and to practice strength, patience, and hope.
Originally published in 1872, and often paired with `The Secret Garden' and `Pollyanna', `What Katy Did' is the classic American tale of childhood, love, hope and `doing good'.
Susan Coolidge was the pen name of Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (1835-1905). She wrote book-length stories as well as short stories and poems and is best known for What Katy Did and the series that followed.