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Women's History
Kathleen Karr

Women's History
Women's History

Kathleen Karr
Print Kathleen Karr Reading Comprehension

Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   10.44

     challenging words:    Blackspur, graft, mid-nineteenth, phrenology, precinct, reentering, determined, feminists, housing, award-winning, recognition, lecturer, physicist, plague, suffragist, theatrical
     content words:    Kathleen Karr, New Jersey, Although Karr, Catholic University, Providence College, Rhode Island, United States, Washington Circle Theater Corporation, Circle Showcase Theaters, It Ain't Always Easy

Kathleen Karr
By Jamie Kee

1     American writer Kathleen Karr was born on April 21, 1946, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Dorothy, New Jersey, on a chicken farm. She used reading and writing as a way of escaping the approximately 5,000 hens on the family farm. Although Karr didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a writer, she now believes that living in a rural setting as a child encouraged her to travel later on in life.
2     After completing high school, Karr went on to college. In 1968 she earned a B.A. from Catholic University of America and three years later earned her M.A. from Providence College. She initially taught high school English and speech in Barrington, Rhode Island. She later changed careers, working in the film and theatrical industry in Washington, D.C., and other northeastern areas of the United States. From 1973 until 1978, Karr worked as the general manager at the Washington Circle Theater Corporation. She later became the advertising director of the Circle Showcase Theaters from 1979 until 1983. Between 1969 and 1995, Karr worked for various organizations as a lecturer in the fields of film and communication.
3     Karr actually began her writing career on a dare from her husband, Larry, a computer consultant and physicist. She initially began writing fiction romance novels for women, completing five before changing genres. Once she switched to children's historical novels, Karr knew she found her passion. It was her children who encouraged her the most when they, at ages six and ten, asked her to write them a story. This request led to her first children's novel, It Ain't Always Easy (1990), an historical novel which Karr calls "...a time machine into the past." The novel is set in 1802 and tells about the adventure of two orphans who struggle to stay alive. They maintain their hope as they search for a home with caring and dependable adults. Karr's next book, Oh, Those Harper Girls (1992), uses humor as it tells the story of six sisters who resort to robbing a stagecoach when their father's ranch needs saving. This novel also uses historical facts, a style that has become standard for Karr. For example, the setting in her 1994 novel, The Cave, is the Great Depression during the dust storms of South Dakota. Spy in the Sky, published in 1997, looks at the true story of the Balloon Corps established by Thaddeus Lowe during the Civil War. Karr has published many other historical fiction books in the 1990s.
4     Another of Karr's many interesting and award-winning books is The Great Turkey Walk (1998). The Great Turkey Walk tells the story of Simon Green, a fifteen-year-old boy who makes his fortune in 1860 by herding one thousand turkeys from Missouri to Denver. Karr received countless awards and recognitions for this book. School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly both recognized it as the Best Book of 1998. Bank Street College of Education recognized it as the Best Children's Book of the Year, and Chicago Public Library named it Best of the Best for 1999. For more than ten years, The Great Turkey Walk has been on numerous state book lists such as the Charlie May Simons Children's Book Award Master List for 2000-2001 in Arkansas, the Children's Book Award List for 1999-2000 in Georgia, the Mark Twain Award List for 2000-2001 in Missouri, the State Reading Association Young Readers' List for 2001-2002 in Virginia, and the Cumberland County Battle of the Books Master List for 2008-2009 in North Carolina. The Great Turkey Walk has also been included on important state book lists in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington. Clearly, The Great Turkey Walk reached the entire nation.
5     In the 1990s, Karr published a successful book series using historical fiction along with humor. She called this series the Petticoat Party. The first book in this series, Go West, Young Woman, was published in 1996. The young ladies in this book, especially twelve-year-old Phoebe, can easily be described as the "first feminists of the frontier." After most of the men are killed or wounded during a buffalo hunt, the ladies of the Petticoat Party take on hardship as their wagon train travels in the Wild West and pushes on for Oregon. In book two of the Petticoat Party series, Phoebe's Folly (1996), the members of the Party get rifles and are challenged by the Snake Indians to a shooting contest. In Oregon, Sweet Oregon (1997), book three in the series, Phoebe and her family finally settle into their new lives in the Oregon Territory. Phoebe, however, misses the freedom she had during the journey. In the final book of the Petticoat Party series, Gold-Rush Phoebe (1998), Phoebe decides to head out for Gold Country. Traveling with her is the handsome Robby Robson. Phoebe is ready for all kinds of adventure, but she's not ready for the romance that comes her way. The Petticoat Party series earned Karr several awards and recognitions.

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