For my first Old Favourite, I chose the book that I was completely in love with when I was about 13. I like everything I’ve read by Canadian children’s author Jean Little, but Kate is not only my favourite of hers, it’s my favourite YA novel of all time.
I guess I met Kate at an impressionable age. Kate Bloomfield is both the girl I wanted to be and the girl I wanted to have for a best friend. The novel tells the story of a year in her life when she is exploring her family’s Jewish heritage, discovering herself as an individual and a writer, and falling out with her inseparable best friend Emily.
“Finding yourself” is hardly a unique theme in YA novels (in fact, Kate herself makes fun of the idea of finding herself at one point in the story) but this book is a funny, sensitive, and very Canadian portrait of a young girl figuring out who she is and how she wants to define herself. I cannot begin to say how much this book influenced me as a teenager. I probably spent far too much time trying to be Kate, with the result that rereading the book is like a visit to my junior-high self. It definitely stands the test of time and I loved rereading it.
Jean Little is a very prolific author and many of her earlier books (Mine for Keeps, Home from Far, and From Anna) have remained in print. Kate and its prequel, Look Through My Window (which features Kate, but is from Emily’s point of view) have not fared so well, and I truly don’t know why. It’s hard to come by a copy these days except second hand, but it’s well worth hunting for.