She was ten-years-old when we first met, and I was about a year younger. It didn’t matter that I was a Chinese-American girl from the suburbs of Los Angeles and that Katie John was a white girl from Barton’s Bluff, Missouri. We were soul mates, two misunderstood tomboys trying to navigate through the confusing world of our youth — no longer little kids, yet nowhere near old enough to sit at the grown-up table.
My parents were teachers, so we didn’t have a lot of money. However, I had something better. I had a library card. There were three books that I checked out over and over again — Katie John, Depend On Katie John, and Honestly, Katie John. I’d get upset if they weren’t on the shelf, because that meant that someone else was reading my books. Hello? Didn’t they know that the novels were written just for me?
Mary Calhoun was the name on the title page. That was really all I knew about the author. We didn’t have computers back then, and the closest thing to Google were the heavy volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia. Anyway, most of the authors we learned about in school were dead — so I just assumed she was, too. Still, Mary Calhoun inspired me to dream that maybe one day I’d write a book… and that it would be in the library… and someone would check it out.
A couple of years ago I wrote an essay about Katie John for the Horn Book magazine.
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