Book Review: Call Me Kate

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Have you been following the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners? Isn’t it exciting? 33 men have been trapped in a collapsed mine for 69 days. Wow. I’m watching the paramedic getting into the tiny capsule to go down 1/2 mile to the trapped men.

It’s strange coincidence that I’m watching the rescue of the miners in Chile and reading the book Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires by Molly Roe for a Tribute Books blog tour.  It gives insight into the lives of miners and those who lived in the mining communities during the Civil War.  The story is set in “The Patch, tucked in the eastern Pennsylvania mountains…”

What It’s About

“…the piercing breaker whistle split the air.  A mine accident!….. Please God, no.  Please no.”  Can you imagine living in dread of hearing a whistle?  It meant that someone you loved may have been hurt or killed.  And if hurt, medical care was often out of reach.  If the victim was the sole wage-earner in the family, it could mean eviction or even starvation.  Mine accidents are frequent.  Pay for the workers was based on the amount of coal brought to the surface, not on safety work.  Shoring a roof or clearing rubble was unpaid work and left to last or left undone.

When young Catherine Agnes McCafferty ‘s father loses the use of his legs in a mine accident, her life is turned upside down.  She has to leave school and go to work as a domestic.  Katie is frustrated to be female and poor but it doesn’t keep her from doing her best to help her family.  In those times, women had limited choices among low paying jobs.  Katie sacrifices her Catholic religious practices, when an employer forces his servants to attend Protestant services.  She puts aside her pride, when an employer doesn’t bother to remember the names of her servants and calls them all “Bridget”.

More trouble brews for the people in the mining community called The Patch when the news comes that men will be drafted into the Army to fight the South in the Civil War.  Unless a man can pay $300, impossible for the miners, they will be drafted and their families will lose their wage earner.  It was called a “poor man’s war”.

Katie’s father had a favorite saying, “Katie, me girl, God is good, but never dance in a small boat.”  As Katie begins taking more and more risks to help her friends, I found myself holding my breath to see if she would escape the tight situations.  When she dons the clothing of a boy and the identity of Dominick Harkins, to try to rescue her friend, things become even more exciting.

About the Author

Molly Roe (her real name is Mary Garrity Slaby) spent twenty years teaching in junior high school and clearly knows what young people like to read. She is a Pennsylvania native, born in Philadelphia, raised in Schuylkill County.  She has two grown children, Melissa and John, cover illustrator of Call Me Kate.

Her hobby of genealogy – digging into the past – has given Mary newfound respect for her ancestors and a better understanding of history. Call Me Kate is the first in the author’s trilogy of historical novels loosely based on the lives of the strong women who preceded her.  Molly also has a blog called, Conversations From The Side Porch.

My Take

mom's  choiceCall Me Kate is a Mom’s Choice Award Winner and I agree with their selection.  It is the perfect blend of history and fiction.  Recommended for young adults, eleven and older, I would choose this book for my daughter as a means to learn about this country before we had Child Labor Laws, OSHA Safety Requirements, Labor Unions and Civil Rights Legislation.  It’s also a good read for adults, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of the trilogy!  Especially with the current news about the miners being rescued in Chile, this is an interesting and current topic as well as a lesson in history.  Reading it with your child and then discussing it would be highly recommended.

I like the portrayal of the female character as strong, smart, resilient, and courageous.  Katie embodies the character traits you would like to encourage in your child.  She also had a sense of humor and I laughed out loud several times while reading this book.  Loyalty to family and friends is strong in Katie and in the community where she lives.  All qualities I would love to see develop in my little Rosie.

This book is available at the Tribute Books website or at  The Kindle version of Call Me Kate is only $2.99! Paperback Price: $12.95 ;Hardcover Price: $19.95; Ebook Price: $4.95; Kindle Price: $2.99; iPad Price: $4.99; Nook Price: $4.95.

Disclosure:  I was provided with an Ebook for review purposes.


  1. 1

    Kelly – what a remarkable coincidence that we are talking about ‘Call Me Kate’ around the time of the rescue of the miners in Chile.

    You are so right when you say that the book helps young readers understand the life of mining families. The dangers involved, the hard and dirty work, etc.

    Thank you for your support of the book and for sharing it with your blog readers.

    Best wishes,
    Tribute Books

  2. 2

    I am so greatful that those mining guys in Chile are on the way out of the mine. How long were they trapped, 67 days? Truly a wonder they are alive.

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