Sunday, 27 March 2016

Apple Paperback Review: Katie and Those Boys by Martha Tolles

On select Sundays I will be reviewing some of the old Apple Paperback titles from my childhood. These titles were published, or republished by Scholastic during the 1980s & 1990s and were written and set in the United States. In Australia, these books were typically only available from libraries or could be ordered through catalogues that were distributed through primary schools. Most of these titles are now long out of print or have been updated and republished for later generations ...

Katie and Those Boys is one of the Apple Paperbacks that I can remember very clearly from my childhood. It was bought in the usual way--ordered from the Arrow Book Club catalogue that was distributed to my school, and arrived what felt like weeks later (in reality, about a fortnight). I remember, I was very, very excited to read this title. It was about a girl who, like me, only had brothers and some of the problems and situations that arose from that. Anyway, the book arrived at school first thing in the morning and was duly handed to me. I couldn't wait to go home and read it! As it happened, I would not have to wait long, as I was struck down with some kind of virus or another in the middle of the school day and had to go home early. (The days I spent at home were followed by quite a serious bullying incident when I returned to school, the kind that more or less fucks you up for life, but that is another story.) Anyway, I remember that as soon as I was able to sit up in my sick bed and read a book, I eagerly reached for this one. Here it was, a story about a girl who was just like me. The front cover looked pretty cool too, featuring a girl in jeans and a red jumper.

And then I opened the front cover.

It turned out that Katie and Those Boys was a reprint of a book that Scholastic had published during the mid-1960s. The illustrations and language were representative of that era and some parts of the story were difficult to relate to. I persevered, because well, it was a brand new book and I was sick, but what I remember about the book most of all was how disappointed I was with the whole thing. I don't know what happened to my original copy, whether I passed it on to my younger cousins or the Salvation Army, or if it's tucked away with some of my old Babysitters Club books, it's not something that I have ever really felt nostalgic for. When I found a cheap copy at a secondhand bookshop, along with some other Apple Paperback titles, I almost contemplated leaving it there. On a whim, I decided to buy it along with the others and read it.

Funny thing. I enjoyed this one much more the second time around, when I was reading it through the
An earlier cover, though obviously a reprint,
as it notes the original title.
rose coloured glasses of nostalgia.

Katie and Those Boys is a humorous tale about a girl living in a neighbourhood full of boys. Katie is lonely--all of her friends from school live a long way away, and all seem to have one special or close friend who lives in their neighbourhood--she doesn't always get along with her brothers and she especially does not like Will, the freckled boy next door who is always playing mean tricks on her. When the house next door goes up for sale, Katie hopes that a family with a girl will buy it. And exactly that happens, though it takes almost a year for the house to be sold, and Katie has a number of adventures--usually featuring Will--between the start and end of the book, before finding a best friend in the new girl from next door, and the possibility of one day becoming Will's girlfriend.

The illustrations in the book have come straight out of the 1960s, and the story definitely belongs in that era. Some of the activities that the kids participate in seem very dated--a small section notes a fight that Katie and Will had at Sunday School. (As religion is never mentioned, and neither Katie's nor Will's families are shown to be particularly religious, it suggests that this was just a normal activity for kids in that part of the world, in that era.) Katie's older brother is named Dick, and he buys a car for eighty dollars. Katie enjoys gardening, though her garden is regarded as "little" and of no particular interest to the others. Also, the story ends with all of the neighbourhood kids being sent to a dance class so that they can learn how to dance, and proper social etiquette at dances. Friends come over to "play." The exact age of the kids is unclear, though at one stage Katie and Will are said to be in the "Fifth Form", in another part of the book they are said to have entered "Sixth Grade." Which brings me to another point ...

But what is really odd about my edition is how some of the spellings, and words, change between British and American English. At one stage Katie wears plimsols, in another stage of the novel, she wears sneakers. On the copyright pages, there is a note stating that this is a Commonwealth Edition, so I wonder if perhaps whomever edited the Commonwealth Edition missed a few things. In any case, it really doesn't spoil the story greatly.

Although very dated, this one made for a fun distraction. 

About the author: Martha Tolls wrote a number of Apple Paperbacks including Darcy in Cabin 13.

Fun Trivia: Martha Tolls went on to write two more books about Katie. Katie for President was published during the 1970s and also republished as an Apple Paperback. Katie's Babysitting Job was published in 1984 and proved to be so popular that Scholastic decided to create an entire series about girls who liked babysitting--The Babysitters Club. (Note: Katie's Babysitting Job is wrongfully referenced as Ginny's Babysitting Job on wikipedia and at a number of other sources.)