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 resembles 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.