After hearing that Plain Kate by Erin Bow had won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, I decided to pick it up. I had been hearing bits and pieces about this book for awhile, and I love supporting Canadian authors so that was enough of a push for me to head to my local library and pick up a copy.
I can certainly see why Bow’s writing impressed the judges. Erin Bow tells the story of Plain Kate, the carver’s daughter in a beautiful and melancholic tone. Plain Kate’s mother died when she was born and is being raised by her father, who teaches her wood carving. When life in their little town begins going badly and Kate becomes an orphan she makes a deal with a mystical stranger that will greatly impact her life.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, I will say that there is a talking cat in this book. I know, I can hear you saying “How annoying!”. I am the first person to dislike talking animals in books or movies, although if it happened in real life I’d probably be pretty thrilled. Erin Bow may have made a deal with a witch, or perhaps is just really talented, because the talking cat is not only not annoying but is truly impressive. He actually talks the way you might imagine a real cat to talk- aloof, slightly sarcastic and incredibly narcissistic. He was definitely my favourite character.
Now is the part where you think I’d say “I give it a 10/10 and recommend it to everyone!”. Sadly, not so much. The book was wonderful, awesome, well written- up to page 287. That is the page where the entire book basically falls apart- the characters suddenly go against how they’ve been acting throughout the entire book, the plot is unbelievable ( and not just in a fantasy book sort of way) and it just dissolves. It’s as if there was a sudden change to a deadline and it had to be quickly finished, or Bow suddenly got tired of writing the book, thought ” Forget this” and hastily finished it.
Overall, I was really disappointed in this book. I feel like I invested my time in reading this book because I thought it was a great story, only to get the bait-and-switch and have a ill-written ending. It’s like picking out expensive, high quality ingredients to make a cake, spending all that time shopping and baking and decorating it only to have the cake turn out absolutely tasteless. If you are someone who likes consistent quality throughout a book, or someone who feels disappointed if the ending is poorly done then I wouldn’t recommend it.