About The Book
Katie and the Kudzu King is about a little girl from New Jersey who visits her country cousins in Georgia. Leaving the airport, she spies the kudzu vines covering telephone poles, trees, bushes and everything else. The sight scares her because the scene looks like ghosts and grotesque creatures. Her cousins are amused by her fear and tease her, but later help her learn about this extraordinary vine.
The book’s theme is that the kudzu covering trees and bushes by southern highways looks startlingly like “monsters” waiting to cross the road, or perhaps to gobble up some unwary traveler. My own children saw many such monsters in the masses of kudzu, and we often played a travel game similar to seeing faces and objects in the clouds.
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) is a vine in the pea family that is ubiquitous in the South. It climbs, coils, spreads rapidly and generally covers everything in its path (telephone poles, bushes and trees and even whole buildings) if left unchecked. Although dormant during winters in the South, come Spring it revives and can grow a foot per day in the summer heat. It is native to southeast China and southern Japan and was brought to the United States in the late 1870’s to use for cattle fodder and also for curbing erosion. Some animals (goats and llamas, for example) like it and other animals won’t touch it. State highway departments in the South planted kudzu as roadside erosion control, but it quickly grew out of hand.
Kudzu is almost impossible to eradicate. It can spread by seeds in the pods that form on the vine, or by vine stolons (runners) It is actually a pretty plant with a deep green color and has a beautiful purple flower reminiscent of wisteria.
EXCERPT FROM “KATIE AND THE KUDZU KING”
it was getting kind of dark,
the setting sun cast shadows
over every street and park.
As they drove down darkened country roads
she looked at all the sights,
but the spectacle of kudzu
was what gave her quite a fright.
It covered field and forest,
it hung from trees and poles,
and everything it covered,
looked like monsters, ghosts, or trolls!
“What are those scary things up there?”
Katie screamed in fright,
she ducked behind the car seat
and cowered out of sight.
“Oh that’s just the kudzu vine,”
her little cousins posed.
“We even wrote a poem for it,
and this is how it goes.”
”Kudzu Kee, Kudzu Ku,
what on Earth are we to do?
The kudzu’s getting out of hand,
the Kudzu’s gobbling up the land.”
“It’s climbing up the power poles,
and sneaking up the trees,
It’s creeping across the roads at night
and covering all it sees.”
The following are excerpts of testimonials from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
This has to be one of the most entertaining and accurate childhood stories ever.
The imaginative, humorous writing coupled with the fanciful, colorful illustrations make for a wonderful trip through story telling land.
Searching for the kudzu people, like animals in cloud formations, is tons of fun. Parents be warned: you’ll be looking at the illustrations long after the children have fallen asleep.
What a creative book – for children of any age! It’s a great story, and the illustrations by Donna Bailey are superb.
Katie and the Kudzu King can be used to teach map skills, ecology, and regional flora. The colorful illustrations and the poetry engage young readers and listeners. My students love it.
This picture book is educational about a subject I have never before seen in print. It is bound to become a favorite read-a-loud for both adults and children.