Book Talk: Plain Kate's mother died in childbirth, and after her father catches witch's fever and follows her mother Kate is left alone in the world. Fortunately, although Kate's looks may be plain she is extraordinarily talented with a knife. In fact she's so good that some people think she's a witch herself. When a stranger with actual magical abilities comes to down and starts making it look as if she's casting spells she's forced to sell him her shadow for the chance to flee town before she's burned at the stake. She has to find a new place to fit in before the spell is completed and her shadow disappears completely, but where could a shadowless orphan possibly belong? When a new, strange sickness starts causing a panic people start looking for someone to blame, and Kate is a perfect candidate.
Rocks my Socks: Kate's sidekick is a talking cat. That's enough to sell me. Cats have such amusing personalities that it's always entertaining to give their haughty pride a voice. There are also a lot of strong female characters, which I always enjoy. Kate herself is a great example. She manages to survive on her own through skill and persevering, she is willing to risk herself for others and her beliefs, she is able to see the sparks of goodness despite all the horrible things happening around her, and she is able to forgive and move on with her life. She works hard at her skill in addition to being born with talent. She's a great role model as far as I'm concerned. I also really enjoyed the character Linay, who steals her shadow. He's definitely not a good role model, but he is wonderfully morally ambiguous. There's a lot of meat and subtleties to his character.
Rocks in my Socks: I read a lot of glowing reviews of this book before reading it, so I came in with really high expectations, and they weren't quite met. The book is a well-written fantasy novel, but I wouldn't call it exceptional. The plot is enjoyable, but not particularly original or striking. The moral, while handled well enough, is the same lesson about the treatment of outsiders that appears in virtually every book involving witchcraft and small towns.
Every Book its Reader: I'd give this book to 7th grade and up fantasy fans, especially those who enjoy talking animals. The female presence is stronger than the male presence in the book, but there's no romantic subplot or particularly feminine elements, although it does spend some time talking about periods. Still, I think it could be enjoyed by boys as well.
*************Animal Status Spoiler Alert*************************
I've added this in because I know some people won't read books that involve animals without knowing whether or not they survive in the end. If you are one of those people (and you know who you are) rest assured that although the cat seems to die at the end, he is brought back to life.
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
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