by Louis Sachar
Miss Katherine (Kissin' Kate Barlow)
Sweet Miss Katherine, the schoolteacher in the nineteenth-century town of Green Lake. She's famous in the town for her prize-winning spiced peaches and her knock-out beauty. Described as "full of knowledge and full of life" (23.7), Miss Katherine is loved by her students, both children and adults. (And by us, of course.)
To the surprise of the townspeople, Miss Katherine rejects the advances of the ignorant and conceited Trout Walker, the son of the richest man in town. Instead, she finds herself falling in love with Sam the onion man, who shares her kindness and her love of poetry. These feelings lead to an awesome kiss. That kiss, however, leads (eventually) to Sam's murder.
After Sam's death, Miss Katherine becomes Kissin' Kate Barlow and spends the rest of her life robbing and terrorizing the "civilized" people of the American West. Wait, what? How did that happen? It seems like the narrator is subtly telling us that people are the products of their environment. If Miss Katherine can turn into Kissin' Kate Barlow, anyone can change (for better or worse). Maybe even the Warden… what do you think?