Female. Education: Antioch College, B.A.; State University of New York at Albany, M.S. (teaching English to speakers of other languages).
Educator and author. Administrator of English-as-a-second-language program at Yup'ik Inuit villages in Alaskan Bush until 2000; freelance writer.
Sidney Taylor Manuscript Award, 2001, for A Pickpocket's Tale.
Thailand: Land of Smiles, Dillon Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1991.
El Salvador on the Road to Peace, Dillon Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1999.
A Pickpocket's Tale, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.
The Hope Chest, Random House (New York, NY), 2006.
Raised in New York State, Karen Schwabach now makes her home in Alaska, where she works as a teacher among students from a variety of cultures and language backgrounds. Until 2000, she operated an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program for Inuit students living in Alaska's remote bush. A move to Anchorage provided her with the opportunity to shift her concentration to her writing, and the historical novels A Pickpocket's Tale and The Hope Chest have been the result. Schwabach's novels feature adventurous young heroines who bravely journey into unfamiliar urban settings, In the first book, a preteen travels from England to New York City as part of the immigrant waves of the late 1800s, while the second finds a young runaway ending her journey in Nashville, Tennessee, as battle lines form for the 1919 fight for women's right to vote.
Praised by a Kirkus Reviews writer as "a first novel with lots of concrete and engaging historical detail," A Pickpocket's Tale introduces readers to a ten year old named Molly. An orphan, Molly has been living on the streets of 1730 London since her mother died of smallpox. When the girl is arrested for picking pockets, she is sent to America, her punishment being to become an indentured servant to a New York City family. In her new home with the Bell family, Molly has difficulty dealing with regular work as well as with her new culture, which includes regular baths, self-improvement through reading, and participating in the family's Jewish traditions. Ultimately, a meeting with a black slave shows the girl that her life could have been marked by far greater hardships, in a novel that features "an engaging protagonist" and "vividly detailed prose," according to Booklist contributor Shelle Rosenfeld. Although noting that some readers may wrestle with Molly's street-thief dialect, School Library Journal contributor Barbara Auerbach deemed A Pickpocket's Tale an "engaging tale about some lesser-known aspects of 18th-century life," and concluded that Schwabach's novel is filled "with memorable characters."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, November 15, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of A Pickpocket's Tale, p. 62.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2006, review of A Pickpocket's Tale, p. 1080.
School Library Journal, November, 2006, Barbara Auerbach, review of A Pickpocket's Tale, p. 151.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December 2006, Rebecca Barnhouse, review of A Pickpocket's Tale, p. 432.
Association of Jewish Libraries Web site,http://www.jewishlibraries.org/ (June 23, 2002), Karen Schwabach, acceptance speech for Sydney Taylor Award.