Willo Davis Roberts’ children’s book The Girl with the Silver Eyes was published in 1980.
The title character is Katie Welker, a nearly-ten-year-old girl with silver eyes and telekinetic powers. Katie is a mutant, a smart, book-loving, but outcast kid with super-powers.
As a smart, book-loving, introverted kid who wanted super-powers, I loved the book when I discovered it in elementary school.
This was around 1982 or 1983, about the same time that I discovered the X-Men and the New Mutants.
Like the X-Men, Katie is feared and sometimes hated by her community. She mostly hides her powers, but sometimes can’t help using them when bored, distracted, or angry. The resultant strange occurrences and her peculiar eyes have made her an object of confusion and fear, even to her family.
The story is driven by two major events that occur nearly simultaneously.
- Katie discovers that there could be other children like her.
- She discovers that someone is investigating her, and a vicious rumor that she had something to do with her grandmother’s recent death.
Is Katie wanted for a crime she didn’t commit? And can the other mutant children help her…if she finds them in time?
- Real Name: Katherine Joyce Welker.
- Known Relatives: Monica Welker (mother), Grandma Welker (deceased), Joe Welker (father)
- Note: Katie’s parents are divorced.
- Base of Operations: A two-bedroom apartment in an unnamed U.S. city
- Height: Less than 53.5 in (less than 4 ft. 5 1/2 in) (less than 1.36m). Weight: Less than 65 lbs. (29½ Kg).
- Note: Height and Weight aren’t listed in story, but she is small for her age. Height and weight above are based on averages for a girl her age.
- Eyes: Silver. Hair: Brown. Age: 9. Birthday is September 10.
- Other Distinguishing Features: Horn rim glasses. And you got the part about the silver eyes, right?
Powers & Abilities
Katie’s main power is telekinesis, the ability to move objects with her mind. She can’t lift much weight (even an average bag of groceries would be too heavy). She uses it for things like setting the table or fetching small hand-held objects.
She has a range of 100 feet (30m) or more, enough to fetch an envelope from the mailbox beside the road while she stays inside the house.
Katie’s control is good enough to turn the pages of her book or to smooth her hair without a brush. When playing sports she reflexively makes dodgeballs or baseballs veer away before they can hit her.
(In DC Heroes RPG terms, she has a Powered version of the Evasion Skill, with the Subvelocity Only Limitation.)
She can move things outside her line-of-sight, like fetching an object from another room. It’s unclear if she can only do this in areas she’s familiar with, or if her power allows her to ‘feel’ her way around.
Katie can also use her power to move the air, creating breezes. These wind gusts can move pieces of paper around or redirect cigarette smoke. She once made a wind strong enough to slam a door into a man and bloody his nose.
Similarly, she can move water. Not very much, but enough to soak a pair of shoes left out by the pool, or divert the spray from a fountain.
Katie recently learned that she can “hear” her neighbor’s cat speak in her mind, and that the cat can understand and answer her questions (Speak with Animals, for DC Heroes players).
She also had two encounters with dogs who may have understood her and followed her commands. The encounters were ambiguous and she didn’t hear the dogs speak back to her, so it may have been coincidence.
She has also been given reason to believe she may have some as-yet-undeveloped telepathy. She was able to project her own feelings and wishes to another person who was nearby but not within line-of-sight. She was also able to have a two-way telepathic communication with a person standing next to her.
In both cases the person in communication with her was another silver-eyed mutant who might also have latent telepathy. It’s unclear how much general telepathic ability Katie could develop.
Beyond these paranormal abilities, Katie is unusually smart and observant. She remembers what she reads and notices details of people’s behavior.
Conversely, she’s good at not giving away her own thoughts and feelings. She is practiced at keeping a blank expression. She has also learned to take advantage of the discomfort most people feel around her. She’s learned that a blank-faced, silver-eyed stare and silence makes even adults uncomfortable.
Kim Carnes’ cover of Bette Davis Eyes was the biggest hit of 1981, one year after Roberts’ book was published.
Beyond the obvious ideas association, it is a suitable early 1980s mood – especially for older readers.
Katie Welker is the not-quite-ten-year-old daughter of Joe and Monica Welker, two ordinary people with an extraordinary child.
When the Welkers were first married, the young couple struggled financially. Both had low-paying jobs and struggled to make a living wage.
The situation became much worse after they were injured in a car wreck. Neither was able to work for a month or more, Monica miscarried, and the medical bills were crippling.
Then Monica got a new job at Curtis Pharmaceutical. She worked on an assembly line packaging a new pain killer, Ty-Pan-Oromine. The pay was good, the women she worked with were friendly, and the Welkers’ finances began to stabilize.
Both Joe and Monica were excited when Monica became pregnant again within six months.
Monica and her co-workers, who all used Ty-Pan-Oromine for things like headaches, joked that the drug must have magical powers. Several of the women became pregnant at nearly the same time.
But Monica’s pregnancy was difficult. Joe and her doctor decided she should quit working until after the baby was born. Monica hoped she’d be able to return to the job at Curtis after she gave birth.
But a few weeks later the entire assembly line working on that product was closed. Ty-Pan-Oromine was taken off the market without explanation.
The loss of the pharmaceutical job and a new baby caused the financial pressure to begin building again. Monica went back to work after Katie was born, but with lesser wages. And Katie herself was odd.
She had silver eyes.
Katie had other oddities. She never cried, even as an infant, not when hungry, wet, or injured. At first her parents feared she might be cognitively impaired. As it turned out, she was unusually smart, almost frighteningly so. She taught herself to read by age 3.
She also never laughed and she usually kept a perfectly blank expression. Her parents could never tell what she was thinking.
And those strange silver eyes made them squirm.
The Welkers continued to struggle financially and their marriage deteriorated. Their discomfort with Katie was an unspoken but significant factor in the family breakdown. They were divorced by the time Katie was 4. Katie and her father went to live at her paternal grandmother’s home, in a small town called Delaney a few hours outside the city.
(Although the state is never identified in the book, Google identifies communities named “Delaney” in the states of Washington, Arkansas, and Missouri. Willo Davis Roberts, the book’s author, lived in Granite Falls, Washington.)
Joe Welker quickly left. He took a succession of jobs around the country. Katie heard from him only rarely and saw him even less. Monica came to visit regularly but she and Katie were uncomfortable around each other and were never close.
Grandma Welker took good care of Katie. She provided for her needs, made her home-cooked meals and bought her books. She didn’t mistreat Katie, but their relationship was never warm. Like her parents, Katie’s Grandma felt uncomfortable around her.
So Katie had no one to confide in as she discovered that she could move objects with her mind. She realized soon enough that others couldn’t do this, and that they became scared if they noticed objects move, so she tried to hide her abilities.
This mostly worked, but Katie’s use of telekinesis was instinctive. She would often move things reflexively, or when distracted or irritated. She might smooth her hair without a comb or hands, or telekinetically turn the page of a book when engrossed in the story.
She also occasionally used her power to play pranks (like during a boring sermon) or to defend against bullies at school.
Grandma Welker noticed the oddities. To a lesser extent so did the neighbors, or the people at Grandma Welker’s church, or the kids and teachers at school.
Katie began to be blamed for any unexpected events, including complete coincidences. A few of the more superstitious sorts even muttered about witchcraft.
Back to mom
When Katie was 9, Grandma Welker died in a fall down the stairs. Katie went back to live with her mother Monica. Monica now made enough to afford a decent two-bedroom apartment for the two of them in the city.
Monica was still not completely comfortable with Katie but wanted to build a bond with her daughter now that she was in a better position to care for her. This is where the book actually begins.
In the new apartment building, Katie quickly runs afoul of Mr. Pollard, a bachelor who lives in the building. The two have a literal run-in on the stairs, causing Mr. P’s briefcase to pop open and papers to go flying. The unpleasant man curses at Katie, takes an instant dislike to her and her silver eyes. He then spreads tales about her to the other residents.
Katie also has bad experiences with the baby sitters Monica hires to stay with her during weekdays. (It’s summertime, so Katie isn’t in school and needs supervision while her mom is at work.)
Katie also doesn’t care for Monica’s boyfriend, Nathan.
But Katie also meets Mrs. Michaelmas, a nice old lady across the hall, and her cat, Lobo. Katie learns that she can communicate with Lobo. Mrs. M meanwhile freely shares books and cookies.
The open-minded old lady becomes Katie’s confidant, the first person that she ever tells about her powers. She also takes over as babysitter free of charge, though Monica can’t quite believe Mrs. M. really enjoys spending time with her daughter!
Things continue to look up for Katie as she bonds a bit with newspaper boy Jackson Jones, who has always been teased for having one blue and one green eye. They also share dislike for Mr. Pollard, Jackson’s worst customer.
A week after Katie moves in, a new resident moves into the complex. Mr. Cooper is a nice, good-looking man and is friendly to Katie. He also offers to loan her books, and Katie initially thinks he might be better for Monica than Nathan.
Then Katie makes two life-changing discoveries. While eavesdropping on Monica and Nathan, she learns for the first time about the job Monica had when she became pregnant with Katie.
She also learns that three of Monica’s co-workers became pregnant at the same time. Could that drug have caused Katie’s silver eyes and powers? Could those other kids be like her?
With Mrs. M’s help, Katie begins to identify and locate those children. She identifies three candidates, all born within a month of Katie to women that worked with Monica.
- Dale John Casey was born on September 16 to Alfred and Sandra Casey.
- Eric Arnold VanAllsburg is the son of Richard and Paula VanAllsburg.
- Kerri Louise Lamont was born on September 27 to Fern and Charles Lamont.
- Katie finds an address for Kerri, but it is in a different city.
- She tracks down a phone number for Dale, but has trouble getting him on the line.
- She discovers that the VanAllsburgs are divorced and that Eric lives with his mother, who remarried and has a new last name. But she’s unable to find out what that name is.
She also has an encounter in the park where she suspects that a boy walking his dog might be using telekinesis. But when she calls out and runs toward him, he runs away.
In the midst of this investigation, Katie makes her second discovery: kindly Mr. Cooper is investigating her. He’s been using his charm to speak to all the residents, including Monica, asking questions about Katie.
She even overhears him trying to intimidate Mrs. M., who looks shaken when he flashes a badge Katie can’t see. He’s insinuating that questions are being asked about how Granda Welker fell down the stairs…and that people he’s spoken with back in Delaney think Katie might be responsible.
Katie, always an outcast, is terrified that Mr. Cooper might be a police officer and that if her powers are discovered she might be locked up. She wonders if Monica would believe she was innocent of wrong-doing, and would protect her, or if she would give up her strange child once again.
She decides her best hope is to find the other children who might be like her. They might believe her, and might be able to help her.
The next day, Katie ventures into the city. She’s trying to find Dale Casey’s address since she wasn’t able to talk to him on the phone.
But he isn’t home, and when Katie returns to her apartment, she finds police cars filling the place. She jumps to the conclusion that they’re going to arrest her.
But paper boy Jackson Jones comes along, and helps Katie hide out at his home. He has a huge family and two of his sisters are having a slumber party with girls about Katie’s age. He helps her blend in and spend the night.
But while Katie is hiding out at the Jackson’s home she sees a picture of herself on TV. She is being hunted as a missing person. Mrs. Jones recognizes her and Katie runs again.
She finds her way to Dale’s home and this time is able to contact him. The two meet – and he does have silver eyes and powers like hers, as well as some telepathy.
The two then pool their abilities and telepathically make contact with the boy Katie previously saw walking his dog – Eric VanAllsburg.
Dale and Eric are also able to bring Katie up to speed on events. The police were at Katie’s apartment complex because Katie had been reported as missing when Monica found blood in the apartment. (Katie had just cut her finger on the can opener. But she had gone out looking for Dale’s house and hadn’t left a note or gotten permission to leave, because of her fear of Mr. Cooper.)
Katie’s picture was on the TV news because Monica feared she had been kidnapped.
But Katie still doesn’t trust Mr. Cooper, who was investigating her while pretending to be friendly, and who had flashed a badge and scared Mrs. M.. So Dale and Casey accompany Katie home, hoping that Dale will be able to read Mr. Cooper’s mind and find out his true intentions.
When they arrive at Katie’s apartment, the Lamont family is just arriving. It turns out that all four familes are now meeting with Mr. Cooper, who reveals that he is not a cop.
Instead he works for the Institute of Psychic Phenomena, a boarding school and research facility for children with paranormal powers. They currently have 17 students with special abilities (though none of them have silver eyes). He wants Katie, Dale, Eric, and Kerri to enroll.
As the book ends, the four families are debating the merits of sending the kids off to this special school, or keeping them at home and helping them learn how to be around ordinary people. Katie and the others still aren’t sure about Mr. Cooper’s motives, and if he might have a hidden agenda.
But now that the four children had found each other, now that they knew they were not alone, they would never be lonesome again.
Katie is a nearly 10-year-old girl, thin, of slightly below average height. She is small for her age, so people often guess she is about 8 or so.
She is White and has straight, light brown hair down to about her shoulders.
Two bits of her appearance stand out. The first is her horn rim glasses. The more remarkable trait is her silver eyes. They aren’t gray; they are clearly, starkly silver. The silver eyes seen through her horn rim glasses make several people think of an owl staring at them.
Katie is unusually smart and highly independent. She was insulted that her mother Monica thought she needed a babysitter. Having spent so much time alone, she’s pretty independent.
She loves to read, primarily fiction. She also loves animals and the outdoors. Although she didn’t have friends or any close ties in Delaney, she loved living in the country, taking long walks alone, having her own room and her own space. She doesn’t necessarily love the city, at least not yet.
However, she’s actually pretty friendly and definitely interested in people. She spends a good bit of time people-watching and notices details of their behavior. Within a day of moving into Monica’s apartment building, she knew the names and apartment numbers of most of the residents.
Those few people who aren’t uncomfortable with her bizarre eyes or intellect take to friendship with her pretty quickly.
Although Katie is smart and relatively mature, she is still a child. She knows she should keep her powers secret, but they are such a part of her that she often uses them without thinking. For example, when caught up in a book, she often turns pages with her mind rather than with her hands.
She’s also liable to use her powers to prank people when she is bored or angry.
Perhaps because of this, she’s learned to guard her tongue and her facial expressions. When questioned about unusual occurrences, she’s learned that her best defense is a blank-faced, silver-eyed stare and silence. This makes even adults uncomfortable and eventually they drop the questions.
“Grownups told you and told you things, and then they acted as if you didn’t have any brains at all, even when they admitted you were bright.”
Katie: “It isn’t just that I can move things, though. It’s something in my looks, because lots of times I haven’t done anything, and they just look at me and back away.”
Mrs. M: ” It’s your eyes. Very different. People don’t like people who are different.”
Katie: “But why not ? Having silvery colored eyes doesn’t hurt anyone, does it ?”
Katie: “But do I have to wait until I’m grown up ? And won’t I still be a freak ? Won’t people still be afraid of me and hate me because I’m different ?”
Mrs. M: “Well, maybe all you can do is just be careful. Not do it when anyone’s looking.”
Katie: “Yeah. That’s what I do, mostly, now. But maybe, if there are other kids like me, I could find them. It would be nice to know someone else like me.”
“It’s hard work to keep pretending all the time.”
DC or Marvel Universe Adaptation
(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe or Marvel Universe stories).
Katie would fit easily within a Marvel, DC, or similar super-hero universe. Katie’s power level is very low, but the story notes that it is growing and she wonders if someday she’ll be strong enough to move people or even cars with her TK.
Since most mutant abilities manifest during puberty, it would be easy to rationalize increased powers as she gets older.
School of X
Either way, she and the other silver-eyed children could certainly be students at Xavier’s.
Her story was published in 1980. If you keep with publication dates, she’d be about 12 when the New Mutants start, a year younger than Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), and two years younger than Sunspot or Kitty Pryde.
(Alternately, Kitty was introduced in 1980 and was 13½, making Katie more than 3 years younger than her.)
Power and drugs
Or, keeping her at age (almost) 10, she’d be about the same age as Julie Power of Power Pack, younger than Alex but older than Jack or Katie. Perhaps becoming aware of four telekinetic ten-year-olds would prompt Xavier to finally do something to help the Power kids and poor neglected Franklin Richards, and start another class for younger students.
We know some drug cartels did experiments with the drugs that created Cloak and Dagger, hoping to create more powered subjects. Those cartels might be eager to study the effects of Ty-Pan-Oromine.
Alternately, in the DCU, the Titans’ youth and public HQ would make them logical contacts if Katie and her mother needed help. But don’t do that. Because that would inevitably lead to Katie being trained by Danny Chase, and nobody wants that….
If you introduced her in a late 1980s or early 1990s era, she could be part of the government program that took over guardianship of the Inferno babies and the orphaned mutant children collected by Nanny and the Orphan-Maker. Those kids would stay in government custody until they became targets. Maybe of an ‘evil mutant’ faction like Sinister or Magneto, or until Operation Zero Tolerance.
Either way, at that point one or more X-Men or members of X-Factor would smuggle them out of the country to Muir Isle.
Another 1990s alternative would be to have GeneTech interested in Katie and Ty-Pan-Oromine. GeneTech was the R&D company featured in early issues of the New Warriors, known for the experiments that created the mildly homicidal super-team Psionex.
If introduced after 2000 Katie and the others could easily be background students during the Grant Morrison era or at an Avengers Academy.
Stephen King Universe Adaptation
Because I use both Katie and several of Stephen King’s psi-powered children in my Universe 3001 (a DC/Marvel Amalgam ), it’s worth noting some similar themes between The Girl with the Silver Eyes and King’s classic Firestarter (and to a lesser extent, Carrie and The Shining and probably others).
Carrie was published in 1974; The Shining in 1977. Firestarter and The Girl with the Silver Eyes were both published in 1980. Obviously King’s books are much darker and much more sophisticated works than Willo Davis Roberts’ children’s book. But they draw from similar wells and could easily be in the same universe.
Charlene McGee, the central figure of Firestarter, is a little girl on the run from The Shop, a black ops government agency who conducted drug experiments on college students in the 1960s. Charlie’s parents were test subjects, developed minor psi-powers, and married each other. Their daughter was born with far more potent abilities and The Shop coveted her powers.
It’s entirely possible that the Institute for Psychic Phenomena is a Shop operation designed to find psi-powered subjects to study and exploit. The Shop would certainly be interested in the Ty-Pan-Oromine that gave Katie, Dale, Eric, and Kerri their powers.
Katie and her friends are “invited” to join, but if they try to turn Mr. Cooper and the Institute down, Shop agents may soon arrive to give a…firmer invitation. Perhaps Charlie McGee might help Katie and her friends escape….
Jackson Jones is the friendly neighborhood paper boy. A few years older than Katie, the two bond over their shared dislike of Mr. Pollard. Pollard is a bullying adult who lives in Katie’s building and tries to get out of paying his bill to Jackson Jones. They also share unusual eyes – Jackson has one blue and one green eye and has often been picked on because of this.
He has some inkling about Katie’s powers, which she used to help him collect from Mr. Pollard. When Katie went on the run, Jackson Jones snuck her into his basement for a night, giving her food and a place to stay.
In DC Heroes RPG terms, he has the Area Knowledge (local neighborhood) Advantage due to traveling the neighborhood distributing newspapers.
Mrs. Michaelmas, who Katie calls Mrs. M., is a true confidant for Katie. She knows all about Katie’s powers and helped her track down the other super-powered, silver-eyed children. She kept Katie’s secrets despite Mr. Cooper interrogating and trying to intimidate her.
Mrs. M. assists Katie by being a friendly, open-minded adult who will act on her behalf, negating some of the consequences of Katie’s Age (Young) Drawback. For instance, she acts as a babysitter while Katie’s mom is at work, which ensures Katie has supervision from someone who is sympathetic and won’t keep Katie from searching for the other powered children.
She also loans Katie novels and feeds her cookies, which makes her the absolute best kind of friend.
The Silver Eyes
At least three other children were born with silver eyes and psychic powers due to their mothers’ exposure to the mutagenic drug Ty-Pan-Oromine. Dale Casey, Eric VanAllsburg, and Kerri Lamont were all born within a month of Katie’s birthday. They all have silver eyes and telekinetic powers similar to Katie’s.
In DC Heroes RPG terms, consider each of them to have 002 in all stats except for Str: 01 and Int: 03. Each has 002 Hero Points and Telekinesis: 01, with Air Control: 01 Contingent Upon Telekinesis. Now that they have finally met, they all serve as High level Connections for each other.
Dale, Eric, and Katie live in the same city and fairly close together. Kerri lives in the nearby town of Millersville.
Further DC Heroes RPG notes:
- Dale is the best telepath of the four children so far. He has Telepathy: 02 and Mind Probe: 02, Contingent Upon Telepathy. Dale’s Telepathy doesn’t have the Limitations that Katie’s does. He also has Water Control: 01 Contingent Upon Telekinesis, just like Katie. Eric and Kerri probably do too, and could certainly learn to use their power that way, but they don’t demonstrate it in the book.
- Eric has a large dog and is big for his age. A really generous GM might give him Str: 02 and should definitely note that as an adult he’ll probably be bigger and stronger than average. His Telekinesis might also be 02. He has Accuracy (Telekinetic attacks): 02.
- Kerri can see in the dark and so has Ultra Vision: 02.
DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 02||Str: 01||Bod: 02|
|Int: 03||Wil: 03||Min: 02|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 02||Spi: 02|
|Init: 007||HP: 003|
Air Control: 01, Shrinking: 01, Speak with Animals: 01, Telekinesis: 01, Telepathy: 01, Water Control: 01
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Air Control and Water Control are Contingent Upon Telekinesis (-1 each).
- Shrinking is Always On and Already Factored In (at least until she grows up).
- Speak with Animals may be limited to cats – or to cats and dogs (-1 or 2 if so).
- Speak with Animals is mental (she hears the animal in her head, +0).
- Telepathy is Minor Marginal (-1). So far she’s only sent and received thoughts to the other silver-eyed mutants, which could be an additional (-1) Limitation.
- Telekinesis and Telepathy both have an extended Range of at least 3 or 4 APs (+1).
Bonuses and Limitations:
Evasion is Derived from Telekinesis (-1) and has the Subvelocity Only limitation (-3).
Confidant (Jackson Jones), Confidant (Mrs. Michaelmas), Financial Backer (Monica Welker, Wealth is 004 or a low 005).
Dale Casey (High), Eric VanAllsburg (High), Kerri Lamont (High).
Age (Young – age 9), Distinct Appearance (silver eyes), Mistrust (Mutant – depending on the campaign setting), MIA (Near-sighted).
Prescription glasses [BODY 01, Notes: the glasses negate Katie’s MIA.]
Source of Character: The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts.
Helper(s): The illustration is cover art by Jason Chan for Aladdin Publishing.
Writeup completed on the 2nd of February, 2019.