Monday, October 18, 2010

Just Call Me Kate Review

Coming of age amidst the seething unrest of the Civil War era, feisty fourteen-year-old Katie McCafferty infiltrates the Molly Maguires, a secret Irish organization, to rescue a lifelong friend. Under the guise of "Dominick," a draft resister, Katie volunteers for a dangerous mission in hopes of preventing bloodshed. Katie risks job, family, and ultimately her very life to intervene. A series of tragedies challenge Katie's strength and ingenuity, and she faces a crisis of conscience. Can she balance her sense of justice with the law? Call Me Kate is suitable for readers from eleven to adult. The story is dramatic and adventuresome, yet expressive of daily life in the patches of the hard coal region during the Civil War era. This novel will appeal to readers of the Dear America series, as well as more mature readers who will enjoy the story's rich context and drama.

My Take: This novel is a concisely written account of the little known events in the Irish coal mining community during the Civil War.  When I say "little known," I really mean, I didn't know.  The basic tenets of the Civil War are little disputed (except by the state of Texas, still in denial) with the southern states wanting to be separated from the Union, disagreeing on political points. Aside from Rhett Butler and Ashley Wilkes, who willingly joined the fight because they gave a d***, I was unaware that the Civil War was truly forced upon the indigent Irish members of the communities. 

Pennsylvania was the home to a number of newly arrived Irish settlers who lacked any skill other than surviving great famines and speaking lyrically.  Many found themselves in the clutches of poorly maintained and unregulated coal mines where accidents and death became the norm.  Paid nominally, the miners barely survived starvation.  When mines collapsed (which occurred often), heads of household were maimed and killed, often forcing their wives and children into further poverty or starvation.

With the Civil War needing soldiers on both sides, the ruling came down that men were to serve their country either by fighting against the south or paying for a substitute.  The Irish immigrants had no voice as the press and community practiced bigotry against them.  Thus the Molly Maguire group was born to protest the unfair treatment of the Irish.  Kind of like draft dodging only Canada was not an option, there was no veteran pay, and, by golly, Miss Molly, he most certainly did inhale.

Katie discovers the organization and dresses as a man in order to infiltrate.  She discovers one or two men who suffer severely from impulse control and narcissism and many Irish immigrants frustrated with the state of the country.  All she wants to do is save her friend, Con, from certain death or blacklisting (the opposite of Black Lung, in this case). 

The story is easy to follow and possesses the appropriate amount of intrigue to engage the young reader.  Blood and gore are present but only in appropriate doses to illustrate the plight of the poor Irish workers in this time period.  This is war, after all. 

Clean reading and educationally minded, the story will hold the interest of a latter elementary school child as evidenced by this juvenile middle aged reviewer. 
3 hearts

Thanks to Nichole at Tribute Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 


Teresa said...

I am looking forward to reading this one. thanks for the review.

Tribute Books said...

Nancy - thanks for sharing 'Call Me Kate' with your blog readers. We appreciate your support of the book.

I loved your witty review. You have an engaging writing style strengthened by such a wide array of reference points. It displays the winning combination of being smart and funny.

Best wishes,
Tribute Books

CountessLaurie said...

Would an adult also appreciate it or is it too young?