Previous in the series: What Katy Did.
I love What Katy Did, and I love What Katy Did at School, but it struck me on this reread that the two have almost nothing to do with one another. The Katy Carr who attends school in Hillsover seems to have completely forgotten that she ever romped around losing hats and causing havoc. There are occasional references to lessons Katy learned when she was unable to walk but, on the whole, if you presented What Katy Did at School as the first in a new series, I’d totally believe it.
The remaining four were Sally Alsop and Amy Erskin; Alice Gibbons, one of the new scholars, whom they all liked, but did not know very well; and Ellen Gray, a pale, quiet girl, with droll blue eyes, a comical twist to her mouth and a trick of saying funny things in such a demure way that half the people who listened never found out that they were funny.What Katy Did at School, Susan M Coolidge
In a way, it’s a shame. What I loved most about What Katy Did was the character development, and Susan M Coolidge doesn’t give us much of that in this sequel. Though Katy is sent away to school so as not to become old before her time, she doesn’t materially change through her experience at The Nunnery. Instead, she’s become almost a new Cousin Helen: perfect and unchanging. Meanwhile, Rose Red seems to have taken up Katy’s old mantle, though there’s no significant character arc for her, either.
“Oh, that isn’t all. It’s being gentle, don’t you see? Gentle and nice to everybody, and just as polite to poor people as to rich ones,” said Clover, talking fast, in her eagerness to explain her meaning,— “and never being selfish, or noisy, or pushing people out of their place. Forks, and hats, and all that are only little ways of making one’s self more agreeable to other people. A gentleman is a gentleman inside,—all through! Oh, I wish I could make you see what I mean!”What Katy Did at School, Susan M Coolidge
On the other hand, Susan M Coolidge, like Enid Blyton, captured the romance of boarding school in a way real life always failed to measure up to. While the disgrace of walking past boys carrying a sponge and towel was a little lost on me, I’ll always remember the glory of Katy and Clover’s Christmas box. Clover’s advice to her cousin Clarence about being a gentleman has also stuck with me for most of my life. Though lacking What Katy Did‘s character development, What Katy Did at School also lacks the original’s saccharine preachiness, which is probably a good thing for many modern readers. Katy is something of a paragon, especially when founding her Society for the Suppression of Unladylike Conduct, but it seems more of a joke than anything taken terribly seriously.
I really enjoyed Katy’s relationship with Miss Jane. It’s one of the few places in the novel where events in What Katy Did actually matter, and it leads to the resolution of the only real conflict in the novel. If that could’ve been fleshed out, I think I would’ve loved this book as much as I loved What Katy Did. Instead, it’s a fun and nostalgic boarding school read, but nothing exceptional.
The next book in the series is What Katy Did Next, which I remember disliking, but I was only about 12. It’s possible that, as an adult, I’ll find it a lot more worthwhile. I certainly intend to give it a fair try!