Plain Kate

Plain Kate

3.73 (5,294 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

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Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden charms are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade" -- a dangerous nickname in a town where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 314 pages
  • 142 x 212 x 32mm | 498.95g
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 0545166640
  • 9780545166645
  • 328,691

Review quote

"Plain Kate, [Bow's] first young adult novel, demonstrates a mature, haunting artistry... The plot unfolds with the swiftness and dramatic urgency of an adventure tale, yet each event has a measured gravity.... [An] outstanding novel." -- New York Times
Bow seamlessly integrates ironic humor and existential distance, keeping readers, like Kate, quietly convinced that where there's life, there's hopeRealistic fiction fans may also be drawn to Kate's grueling, dramatic story, as under the fantasy elements lies an effective and moving coming-of-age novel. -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
Bow's pellucid prose illuminates the contest between humanity and superstition, including the fear of witches that blights innocent lives. An ending sure to bring tears to readers' eyes concludes this stunning debut fantasy. -- Horn Book
"Despite the talking animal (who nearly steals the show) and graceful writing (Kate carries Taggle around her neck, "draped bonelessly, like a fur collar with glittering eyes"), this is a dark and complex tale, full of violence--knives cut a lot more than wood. . . . Kate is undeniably a sympathetic character deserving of happiness." -- Publishers Weekly
"A haunting, chilling (but never gory or graphic) tale with a fantastic girl at its center." --Kirkus Reviews
In her debut novel, poet Bow writes with an absorbing cadence, creating evocative images that trigger the senses and pierce the heart. With familiar folktale elements, she examines the dark corners of human fear and creates intriguing, well-drawn characters, including Taggle, Kate's talking cat, who adds a welcome lightness. . . . [W]ith this debut, Bow establishes herself as a novelist to watch. --Booklist
Kate is a stalwart, engaging heroine and Bow vividly evokes a soggy countryside of birch trees, babbling rivers and colourful Roamers. Magic here has its share of blood and death, its grief and powerful joy. Very satisfying reading. -- Toronto Star
[T]he lively presence of Taggle, irrepressible with his feline self-involvement and clever observations, brings elements of fun and friendship to Kate's journey. The novel will appeal to fans of Karen Cushman, with Kate as a strong, individualistic female protagonist, and those of Vivian Vande Velde, who also plays with the unpredictable wildness of magic. -- VOYA
[Plain Kate] is gorgeously well written, unafraid of plumbing joy and sorrow, and with a story that you can't bear to stop reading. -- The Times
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About Erin Bow

Erin Bow was born in the Midwest and studied particle physics in college, eventually working at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. She then decided to leave science in order to concentrate on her love of writing. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband James and their two daughters. Erin Bow can be visited online at
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Rating details

5,294 ratings
3.73 out of 5 stars
5 29% (1,525)
4 33% (1,738)
3 25% (1,333)
2 9% (490)
1 4% (208)

Our customer reviews

The amount of love for this book in the book blogging community is huge. I keep seeing the name popping up and finally made the decision to cave and put it first and foremost in my pile of books - so I happily skipped off to the library and picked it up. I shouldn't have waited - seriously, this is a book to own. I cannot wait for my niece to get a bit older because this will be one of those books I'll be anxiously waiting to put into her hand. Filled with interesting lore, magic and a heroine who proves you don't have to be beautiful or fall in love to be interesting, Plain Kate had me spellbound from the first page. There's villains who still inspire sympathy, there are actions which cause conflicting emotions in the reader, and then there's Kate. Kate (who insists on being called Plain Kate) is a big of a ragamuffin who is a very talented carver. Little bits of Russian lore are woven into the story and provide the setting and history to make this a book rich with information for the young reader. As I read it, I was reminded a bit of how Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants affected me - it filled me with wonder, made me feel young again and left me with a touch of regret as I closed the book, having finished it. Plain Kate is a perfect addition to the middle grade world of books and one I'll be recommending left and more
by Lydia Presley
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