Author Kathleen Karr, best known for her numerous historical children’s novels such as The Great Turkey Walk, died on December 6. She was 71 years old.
Karr was born on April 21, 1946, in Allentown, Pa., and raised in Dorothy, N.J., where her family owned a chicken farm. After earning a degree from Catholic University in 1968, Karr received her master’s in English literature from Providence College. In 1971, Karr began work at the newly established American Film Institute in Washington, D.C. Karr also taught high school and college before taking up writing on a dare from her husband Larry. She went on to publish five works of women’s fiction. Karr’s children later urged her to write a book for them. It Ain’t Always Easy (1990) was the first of several children’s novels Karr published with Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Karr received the 2003 Agatha Award for best Children’s/YA Mystery of the Year for The Seventh Knot (Cavendish). She was also awarded SCBWI’s 2000 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction for The Boxer (FSG). In all, she wrote more than 24 novels for young readers. Karr was a member and former president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C., and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Wesley Adams, executive editor at FSG, told PW, “Kathleen gave young readers historical-fiction heroes to cheer for, kids as feisty and fun on the page as she was in real life. Her books champion children whose backs are against the wall, but whose pluck and fortitude enable them to find a way forward. I’m so gratified to have had the chance to work with her on many books and to see favorites such as The Boxer and The Great Turkey Walk alive and kicking on the FSG backlist.”
Tracey Adams, literary agent at Adams Literary, said, “I was lucky enough to represent Kathy for almost 20 years. She was brilliant, funny, witty, fierce, and generous. Kathy was always so excited about whatever historical topic she was meticulously researching, from the U.S. Camel Corps for Exiled to the women’s suffragist movement for Mama Went to Jail for the Vote, and that passion was contagious! Her countless fans would agree. Kathy was a dear friend, and I will miss her.”