Katy has always enjoyed life in her small Mennonite community, but she longs to learn more than her school can offer. After getting approval from her elders, Katy starts her sophomore year at the public high school in town, where she meets new friends and encounters perspectives much different than her own. But as Katy begins to find her way in the outside world, her relationships at home become restrained. Can she find a balance between her two worlds?
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Katy's New World
By Kim Vogel Sawyer
ZondervanCopyright © 2010 Kim Vogel Sawyer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLike wisps of smoke that upward flee, Disappearing on the breeze, Days dissolving one by one ... Time stands still for no one.
Katy Lambright stared at the neatly written lines in her journal and crinkled her brow so tightly her forehead hurt. She rubbed the knot between her eyebrows with her fingertip. What was wrong? Ah, yes. Two uses of "one" at the ends of the final lines. She stared harder, tapping her temple with the eraser end of her pencil. What would be a better ending?
She whispered, "Time's as fleeting as the-"
Just like the poem stated, her thought dissipated like a wisp of smoke. Dropping her pencil onto the journal page, she smacked the book closed and dashed to the top of the stairs. "What?"
Dad stood at the bottom with his hand on the square newel post, looking up. "It's seven fifteen. You'll miss your bus if we don't get going."
Katy's stomach turned a rapid somersault. Maybe she shouldn't have fixed those rich banana-pecan pancakes for breakfast. But she'd wanted Dad to have a special breakfast this morning. It was a big day for him. And for her. Mostly for her. "I'll be right down."
She grabbed her sweater from the peg behind her bedroom door. No doubt today would be like any other late-August day-unbearably hot-but the high school was air conditioned. She might get cold. So she quickly folded the made-by-Gramma sweater into a rough bundle and pushed it into the belly of the backpack waiting in the little nook at the head of the stairs.
The bold pink backpack presented a stark contrast to her simple sky blue dress. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, while at the same time a twinge of uncertainty wiggled its way through her stomach. She'd never used a backpack before. Annika Gehring, her best friend since forever, had helped her pack it with notebooks and pencils and a brand-new protractor-all the things listed on the supply sheet from the high school in Salina. They had giggled while organizing the bag, making use of each of its many pockets.
Katy sighed. A part of her wished that Annika was coming to high school and part of her was glad to be going alone. If she made a fool of herself, no one from the Mennonite fellowship would be there to see. And as much as she loved Annika, whatever the girl saw she reported.
"Katy-girl!" Dad's voice carried from the yard through the open windows.
Would Dad ever drop that babyish nickname? If he called her Katy-girl in front of any of the high school kids, she'd die from embarrassment. "I'm coming!" She yanked up the backpack and pushed her arms through the straps. The backpack's tug on her shoulders felt strange and yet exhilarating. She ran down the stairs, the ribbons from her mesh headcovering fluttering against her neck and the backpack bouncing on her spine-one familiar feeling and one new feeling, all at once. The combination almost made her dizzy. She tossed the backpack onto the seat of her dad's blue pickup and climbed in beside it. As he pulled away from their dairy farm onto the dirt road that led to the highway, she rolled down the window. Dust billowed behind the tires, drifting into the cab. Katy coughed, but she hugged her backpack to her stomach and let the morning air hit her full in the face. She loved the smell of morning, before the day got so hot it melted away the fresh scent of dew.
The truck rumbled past the one-room schoolhouse where Katy had attended first through ninth grades. Given the early hour, no kids cluttered the schoolyard. But in her imagination she saw older kids pushing little kids on the swings, kids waiting for a turn on the warped teeter-totter, and Caleb Penner chasing the girls with a wiggly earthworm and making them scream. Caleb had chased her many times, waving an earthworm or a fat beetle. He'd never made her scream, though. Bugs didn't bother Katy. She only feared a few things. Like tornadoes. And people leaving and not coming back.
A sigh drifted from Dad's side of the seat. She turned to face him, noting his somber expression. Dad always looked serious. And tired. Running the dairy farm as well as a household without the help of a wife had aged him. For a moment guilt pricked at Katy's conscience. She was supposed to stay home and help her family, like all the other Old Order girls when they finished ninth grade.
But the familiar spiral of longing-to learn more, to see what existed outside the limited expanse of Schellberg-wound its way through her middle. Her fingernails bit into the palms of her hands as she clenched her fists. She had to go. This opportunity, granted to no one else in her little community, was too precious to squander.
"Dad?" She waited until he glanced at her. "Stop worrying."
His eyebrows shot up, meeting the brim of his billed cap. "I'm not worrying."
"Yes, you are. You've been worrying all morning. Worrying ever since the deacons said I could go." Katy understood his worry.
She'd heard the speculative whispers when the Mennonite fellowship learned that Katy had been granted permission to attend the high school in Salina: "Will she be Kathleen's girl through and through?" But she was determined to prove the worriers wrong. She could attend public school, could be with worldly people, and still maintain her faith. Hadn't she been the only girl at the community school to face Caleb's taunting bugs without flinching? She was strong.
She gave Dad's shoulder a teasing nudge with her fist. "I'll be all right, you know."
His lips twitched. "I'm not worried about you, Katy-girl."
He was lying, but Katy didn't argue. She never talked back to Dad. If she got upset with him, she wrote the words in her journal to get them out of her head, and then she tore the page into tiny bits and threw the pieces away. She'd started the practice shortly after she turned thirteen. Before then, he'd never done anything wrong. Sometimes she wondered if he'd changed or she had, but it didn't matter much. She didn't like feeling upset with him-he was all she had-so she tried to get rid of her anger quickly.
They reached the highway, and Dad parked the pickup on the shoulder. He turned the key, and the engine spluttered before falling silent. Dad aimed his face out his side window, his elbow propped on the sill. Wind whistled through the open windows and birds trilled a morning song from one of the empty wheat fields that flanked the pickup. The sounds were familiar-a symphony of nature she'd heard since infancy-but today they carried a poignancy that put a lump in Katy's throat.
Why had she experienced such a strange reaction to wind and birds? She would explore it in her journal before she went to bed this evening. Words-secretive whispers, melodious trill-cluttered her mind. Maybe she'd write a poem about it too, if she wasn't too tired from her first day at school.
Cars crested the gentle rise in the black-topped highway and zinged by-sports cars and big SUVs, so different from the plain black or blue Mennonite pickups and sedans that filled the church lot on Sunday mornings in Schellberg. When would the big yellow bus appear? Katy had been warned it wouldn't be able to wait for her. Might it have come and gone already? Her stomach fluttered as fear took hold.
Dad suddenly whirled to face her. "Do you have your lunch money?"
She patted the small zipper pocket on the front of the backpack. "Right here." She hunched her shoulders and giggled. "It feels funny not to carry a lunch box." For as far back as she could remember, Katy had carried a lunch she'd packed for herself since she didn't have a mother to do it for her.
"Yes, but you heard the lady in the school office." Dad drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "She said the kids at this school eat in the cafeteria or go out to eat."
Embarrassment crept over Katy as she remembered the day they'd visited the school. When the secretary told Dad about the school lunch program, he'd insisted on reading the lunch menu from beginning to end before agreeing to let his daughter eat "school-made food."
Truthfully, the menu had looked more enticing than her customary peanut butter sandwich, but Dad had acted as though he thought someone might try to poison her. She'd filled three pages, front and back, in her journal over the incident before tearing the well-scribbled pages into miniscule bits of litter. But-satisfaction welled-Dad had purchased a lunch ticket after all.
The wind tossed the satin ribbons dangling from the mesh cap that covered her heavy coil of hair. They tickled her chin. She hooked the ribbons in the neck of her dress and then brushed dust from the skirt of her homemade dress. An errant thought formed. I'm glad I'll be eating cafeteria food like a regular high school kid. It might be the only way I don't stick out.
Dad cleared his throat. "There she comes."
The school bus rolled toward them. The sun glared off the wide windshield, nearly hiding the monstrous vehicle from view. Katy threw her door open and stepped out, carrying the backpack on her hip as if it were one of her toddler cousins. She sucked in a breath of dismay when Dad met her at the hood of the pickup and reached for her hand.
"It's okay, Dad." She smiled at him even though her stomach suddenly felt as though it might return those banana-pecan pancakes at any minute. "I can get on okay."
The bus's wide rubber tires crunched on the gravel as it rolled to a stop at the intersection. Giggles carried from inside the bus when Dad walked Katy to the open door. Katy cringed, trying discreetly to pull her hand free, but Dad kept hold and gave the bus driver a serious look.
"This is my daughter, Katy Lambright."
"Kathleen Lambright," Katy corrected. Hadn't she told Dad she wanted to be Kathleen at the new school instead of the childish Katy? Dad wasn't in favor, and Katy knew why. She would let him continue to call her Katy-or Katy-girl, the nickname he'd given her before she was old enough to sit up-but to the Outside, she was Kathleen.
Dad frowned at the interruption, but he repeated, "Kathleen Lambright. She is attending Salina High North."
The driver, an older lady with soft white hair cut short and brushed back from her rosy face, looked a little bit like Gramma Ruthie around her eyes. But Gramma would never wear blue jeans or a bright yellow polka-dotted shirt. One side of the driver's mouth quirked up higher than the other when she smiled, giving her an impish look. "Well, come on aboard, Katy Kathleen Lambright. We have a schedule to keep."
Another titter swept through the bus. Dad leaned toward Katy, as if he planned to hug her good-bye. Katy ducked away and darted onto the bus. When she glanced back, she glimpsed the hurt in Dad's eyes, and guilt hit her hard. This day wasn't easy for him. She spun to dash back out and let him hug her after all, but the driver pulled a lever that closed the door, sealing her away from her father.
Suddenly the reality of what she was doing-leaving the security of her little community, her dad, and all that was familiar-washed over her, and for one brief moment she wanted to claw the doors open and dive into the refuge of Dad's arms, just as she used to do when she was little and frightened by a windstorm.
"Have a seat, Kathleen," the driver said.
Through the window, Katy watched Dad climb back into the pickup. His face looked so sad, her heart hurt. She felt a sting at the back of her nose-a sure sign that tears were coming. She sniffed hard.
"You've got to sit down, or we can't go." Impatience colored the driver's tone. She pushed her foot against the gas pedal, and the bus engine roared in eagerness. More giggles erupted from the kids on the bus.
"I'm sorry, ma'am." Katy quickly scanned the seats. Most of them were already filled with kids. The passengers all looked her up and down, some smirking, and some staring with their mouths hanging open. She could imagine them wondering what she was doing on their bus. She'd be the first Mennonite student to attend one of the Salina schools. She lifted her chin. Well, they'll just have to get used to me.
Katy ignored the gawks and searched faces. She had hoped to sit with someone her own age, but none of the kids looked to be more than twelve or thirteen. Finally she spotted an open seat toward the middle on the right. She dropped into it, sliding the backpack into the empty space beside her.
The bus jolted back onto the highway with a crunch of tires on gravel. The two little girls in the seat in front of Katy turned around and stared with round, wide eyes. Katy smiled, but they didn't smile back. So she raised her eyebrows high and waggled her tongue, the face she used to get her baby cousin Trent to stop crying. The little girls made the same face back, giggled, and turned forward again.
Throughout the bus, kids talked and laughed, at ease with each other. Katy sat alone, silent and invisible. The bus bounced worse than Dad's pickup, and her stomach felt queasier with each mile covered. She swallowed and swallowed to keep the banana-pecan pancakes in place. Think about something else ...
High school. Her heart fluttered. Public high school. A smile tugged on the corners of her lips. Classes like botany and music appreciation and literature. Literature ...
When she'd shown Annika the list of classes selected for her sophomore year at Salina High North, Annika had shaken her head and made a face. "They sound hard. Why do you want to study more anyway? You're weird, Katy."
Remembering her friend's words made her nose sting again. Annika had been Katy's best friend ever since the first grade when the teacher plunked them together on a little bench at the front of the schoolroom, but despite their lengthy and close friendship, Annika didn't understand Katy.
Katy stared out the window, biting her lower lip and fighting an uncomfortable realization. Katy didn't understand herself. A ninth grade education seemed to satisfy everyone else in her community, so why wasn't it enough for her?
Why were questions always swirling through her brain? She could still hear her teacher's voice in her memory: "Katy, Katy, your many questions make me tired." Why did words mean so much to her? None of her Mennonite friends had to write their thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook to keep from exploding. Katy couldn't begin to explain why. And she knew, even without asking, that was what scared Dad the most. She shook her head, hugging her backpack to her thudding heart. He didn't need to be worried. She loved Dad, loved being a Mennonite girl, loved Schellberg and its wooden chapel of fellowship where she felt close to God and to her neighbors. Besides, the deacons had been very clear when they gave her permission to attend high school. If she picked up worldly habits, attending school would come to an abrupt and permanent end.
A prayer automatically winged through her heart: God, guide me in this learning, but keep me humble. Help me remember what Dad read from Your Word last night during our prayer time: that a man profits nothing if he gains the world but loses his soul.
The bus pulled in front of the tan brick building that she and Dad had visited two weeks earlier when they enrolled her in school. On that day, the campus had been empty except for a few cars and two men in blue uniforms standing in the shade of a tall pine tree, smoking cigarettes. Dad had hurried her right past them. Today, however, the parking lot overflowed with vehicles in a variety of colors, makes, and models. People-people her age, not like the kids on the school bus-stood in little groups all over the grassy yard, talking and laughing.
Katy stared out the window, her mouth dry. Most of the students had backpacks, but none sporting bold colors like hers. Their backpacks were Mennonite-approved colors: dark blue, green, and lots and lots of black. Should she have selected a plain-colored backpack? Aunt Rebecca had clicked her tongue at Katy's choice, but the pink one was so pretty, so different from her plain dresses ... Her hands started to shake.
Excerpted from Katy's New World by Kim Vogel Sawyer Copyright © 2010 by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If I could pick 5 words to describe this book they would be: Family. Friends. Truth. Lies. Adventures. Katy's New World is an awesome read for pre-teen through teen girls. You should read this book because it is very descriptive and teaches you about modesty. Firstly, I love how Kim Sawyer constantly reminds you that Katy is a Mennonite by mentioning Katy's white cap strings. In addition, I also like how the author describes how much Katy loves to learn and wants to learn. Also, this book is a good read for girls because it teaches them about modesty. Katy wears a dress that covers up everything, while her friend from public school, Shelby, does show a bit. However, some people might think that reading a "religious" book might make the reading less enjoyable. I actually liked it more because I could imagine Katy walking into 10th grade at a public school in a dress, while everyone else was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I felt her joy as she bounced on the sleeping bags with her worldly friends, and I bit my nails when she was "the single leaf clinging to a tree.holds so tight-it won't give up without a fight" as Katy's poem says. Due to all of this, Katy's New World is a very good book. Please read it.
Katy Lambright received permission to attend a public high school by the Mennonite Deacons. Imagine how awkward we felt attending a new school for the first time. She had it twice as hard being a Mennonite and dressing so differently then everyone else. What a wonderful young adult book. Even though it's modern times, it reminds me of the Little House on the Prairie series. I like their faith in God and their simple living.
Katy's New World is the first Katy Lambright book in a new teen series by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I have enjoyed some of Kim's other novels, and, even though I'm way past my teen years, this one also captured my interest and kept me reading. Katy belongs to the Old Order Mennonites, whose education ends with ninth grade in their one-room school. Katy longs to keep learning and is given permission by the church leaders to attend the public high school in a nearby city.Not only is Katy unfamiliar with worldly ways, she doesn't even know the meaning of many words her peers take for granted. She has to learn her way around the noisy school and keep up with mounds of homework, in addition to all her chores at home and helping her aunt in her fabric store. Katy wonders how she can cope with all the pressure, plus the uncertainty of where she really belongs and the void of not having a mother.Shelby, Katy's escort on the first day of school, befriends her. They discover similarities and differences in their lives, and grow in respect for each other. Katy makes some poor choices in the course of the story, but learns from her mistakes. She also gains insight into herself.Can Katy have two best friends_Annika, her friend from childhood, and Shelby, daughter of the Baptist pastor? How can they reach out to Jewel, Shelby's foster sister? Does the teasing Caleb like Katy or Annika best? Will Katy's dad find a new wife after all these years? I expect these questions to carry on in the next book.
Katy's New World by Kim Vogel Sawyer is the first book in the Katy Lambright series about a Mennonite girl attending a public high school. I just have to get this off of my chest before I get into my review: I don't think that this book will actually appeal to the audience the author and publisher is hoping for. While bonnet fiction is extremely popular right now, I don't see teenage girls who listen to Ke$ha and Lady Gaga being interested in a Mennonite girl's life. That said, it's the kind of book that moms really want their daughters to read and girls roll their eyes at and ignore. However, if the girls could be convinced to crack the covers, inside they will find a completely enjoyable read. Katy, although Mennonite, is going through the same worries and insecurities that so many teenage girls suffer. She worries about fitting in and pleasing her parents. She feels overburdened by her father's expectations and flustered by the attention of boys. She wants to stay true to who God wants her to be, but she hasn't exactly figure out who that is yet. I loved reading about Katy's love of language and poetry and her desire for to know more and be more than her community expects. I look forward to reading more of this series.
Katy's New World is a quick enjoyable read. As a reader, I was hooked from the first page. I wasn't sure if I'd be interested in a girl from a Mennonite community, but Kim Sawyer hooked me. The thought of someone from a Mennonite community integrating into a public high school is quite intriguing. I love how Katy thinks how she'd like to answer, but constantly keeps her mouth shut. Kim Vogel Sawyer writes her young characters as believably as she does the adult characters. Kim has a lovely voice and is respectful to her characters. I enjoyed how everything wrapped up in the end. And was surprised how the novel ended considering how it began. So readers, beware of a little twisting in the plot :-)