Review: Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis with Beth Clark.
Howard Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2011.
Memoir, 264 pages.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  6.6 (worth 13.0 points)  .

This is a story of a young American who moved to Uganda, adopted 13 girls, and started a non-profit, motivated by her belief that Jesus was calling her there.

Kisses from Katie resized

Kisses for Katie is very religious.  I knew from the subtitle and her blog that this book was Christian, but didn’t expect it to be so heavy-handed.  I was also confused about the intended audience.  Given that literally every page included at least one reference to God, praying, or religion, one would assume this is a specialty book intended for a specifically Christian audience.  However, there are repeated points where commonly known Bible stories are summarized as if to someone unfamiliar with Christianity.

The other major problem is the format.  At the end of each chapter is an excerpt from her diaries, set off by a flowery border that looks like stationary.  But sometimes there are excerpts within the chapters, too.  The book follows a roughly chronological format through Katie’s time associated with Uganda, but it doesn’t have any sense of story.

The most frustrating part is it did seem like there was an interesting story here.  Katie left behind her entire world and built a new life for herself in Uganda.  She also generally provides aid in the ideal way.  While she and her mother initially came for a short stay volunteering at an orphanage, she next commits to spend a year teaching in Uganda.  She takes the time to learn the language and get to know the people.

Once she’s ready, she goes out and lives in the community.  She works to fit into their lifestyle rather than expecting Uganda to conform to her.  She meets needs one at a time, after getting to know the people and learning what will best help.  She gets the community involved and works on empowering others by providing education and employment opportunities rather than only meeting basic needs.  And all of this without (as far as we know) formal training on what to do.

Choosing to adopt 14 children is not a simple decision.  For many people, just hearing the number is shocking.  However, large families are fairly common among people who foster long-term.  If a large number of children come through your house, eventually there will be some for whom you simply cannot find a better living situation than in your home.

Katie explains how her family grew because siblings turned up who needed homes.  She tells about children who stay with them temporarily.  She also touches on some of the people who ask her to adopt their children, and I’d imagine there’s many more than she references in the book.

She briefly mentions some of the issues common in children who have grown up in poverty, been neglected, watched loving family members die, been malnourished or possibly abandoned.  I would have liked more on this topic, though I assume she skirts the issue to protect her daughters’ privacy.

There definitely was new material here, but a lot was rehashed.  In particular, the summaries of Bible stories and the repetitive working through of her thoughts on Uganda were tiresome.  Where the book was best were the chapters devoted to a specific event, adventure, or group of people in her life.

I’m glad I requested this library loan instead of purchasing it.  If I happen to see the author’s new book I’d consider reading it, mainly because her website indicates that she’s now married and has a biological child, and I’m curious whether that has changed any of her perceptions.

However, I’m not sure I could recommend this.  Perhaps a devout Christian who doesn’t mind repetition, isn’t annoyed by odd formatting, and wants to learn about Uganda might be interested.  Other than fairly mild references to horrific living conditions, HIV, starvation, and so on, it would be suitable for YA or MG readers, but is intensely Christian and lacks narrative flow.

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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