Tough-Luck Karen


This fourth novel about the popular Sossi family focuses on 13-year-old Karen and the bad luck she encounters when she ignores her schoolwork for cooking and babysitting. "Skilled in making everyday occurrences interesting, the author has written a pleasant story of a caring family."?Horn Book.

Author Biography:

Johanna Hurwitz is the author of over five dozen books for young readers. She is the recipient of many state awards, including the ...

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This fourth novel about the popular Sossi family focuses on 13-year-old Karen and the bad luck she encounters when she ignores her schoolwork for cooking and babysitting. "Skilled in making everyday occurrences interesting, the author has written a pleasant story of a caring family."—Horn Book.

Author Biography:

Johanna Hurwitz is the author of over five dozen books for young readers. She is the recipient of many state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and the Garden State Children's Choice Award. She lives in Great Neck, NY, and Wilmington, VT.

Johanna Hurwitz always knew she wanted to be a writer. She started by telling stories to her brother, who is six years her junior, and she's been making up stories ever since. Born and raised in New York City, she earned her B.A. degree from Queens College and went on to receive a master's in library science from Columbia University. She embarked on a career as a children's librarian, but she never forgot that one day she wanted to write books, too.

She worked at the New York Public Library and in a variety of other public and school library positions. She also taught graduate courses in children's literature and storytelling at Queens College. When she and her husband, Uri—a college teacher and writer-and their children, Nomi and Beni, moved to Long Island, she continued her library work.

Although she had told original stories to her children, it was not until they were well along in school that Mrs. Hurwitz actually began to write down her stories. That's why, when children ask her how long it takes to write a book, she replies that her first, Busybody Nora, tookher whole life.

But since then she has been writing with regularity, portraying with humor and sympathy the everyday incidents that are so important to children. She is particularly fond of seven- to nine-year-olds, because they are " so very open and get excited about small things," and she enjoys writing realistic fiction for and about them.

That these youngsters are equally fond of Mrs. Hurwitz's books is obvious. She has received many child-chosen state awards, including the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, the Garden State Children's Choice Award, the West Virginia Children's Book Award, and others.

In recent years, Johanna Hurwitz has crisscrossed the United States from Juneau, Alaska, to Jackson, Mississippi, and from San Diego, California, to St. Albans, Vermont. She has even spoken abroad, from Morocco to Mozambique and from Portugal to Nicaragua. On these trips she has met and spoken to schoolchildren, teachers, librarians, and parents. She has made many new friends and has often brought home new ideas for her next book.

Thirteen-year-old Karen Sossi encounters bad luck when she ignores her schoolwork for cooking and baby-sitting.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this story by the creator of the Sossi family, the inimitable Aldo relinquishes the spotlight to his sister Karen. PW said, ``The novel lifts our spirits. De Groat's artful drawings illustrate the lively happenings, described in the author's warm and amusing style.'' Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688109745
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/1991
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 710L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 7.87 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Karen Sossi sat on her bed and reread the letter that she was holding. It said:

Dear Friend,

This is a chain letter approved by the U.S. Post Office as an educational game. Please send a picture postcard to the first person on the list below. Then copy this letter and send it to six friends. Leave the first name off the list, advance the others up one space, and add your name to the bottom of the list. This chain has not been broken since January 1, 1972. In eighteen days you will receive 500 postcards from all over the world. If you don't have the letters in the mail in three days, the chain will be broken. If you break the chain you will have seven years of bad luck!

Five names were listed on the page. The fifth one, the person who had sent the chain letter to Karen, was Holly Whitestone, a girl who had been in Karen's English class when she still lived in New York City.

Ten months ago, when the Sossi family had moved to New Jersey, Karen's old English teacher had put Karen's new address on the blackboard to encourage the class to keep in touch with her. Holly bad not been a friend of Karen's, and she bad never written before. Now, in addition to the copy of the letter from Holly, Karen bad two more copies of the same letter. They bad been sent by two other girls from that same class, Gloria Goodman and Nina Kraft. Obviously they bad all been searching for names at the same time.

Karen sighed. It was Sunday evening, and there were two good programs that she wanted to watch on TV. But although she bad only been in eighth grade a month, thehomework was already piling up. Karen didn't know bow she would survive the school year. She had to make a decision. Should she try to do her math homework, or should she answer the chain letters?

Karen loved getting mail. She bad half a dozen pen pals living in countries all over the world. She wrote them long and frequent letters and eagerly awaited their answers. But from past experience she knew that chain letters were an exercise in futility. Whenever she sent out the letters and waited for the results, nothing happened. She bad never received more than two postcards, even though she was always promised hundreds. Karen turned to her math book. In four weeks of school, Mrs. Nesbitt bad never once forgotten to collect the homework. Karen sighed and decided she would risk seven years of bad luck by ignoring the chain letter. After all, even if she took three days to send out the eighteen copies that the three letters asked for, she would still be using time she needed for her schoolwork, and she would have bad luck on the math test the day after tomorrow.

She took a sheet of loose-leaf paper and wrote her name neatly in the right-hand corner. "Karen Sossi," she wrote, experimenting and writing the K with a fancy loop. She studied her signature. It looked slightly better than usual, but not good enough.She wished her name was spelled with a C. Caren Sossi seemed more interesting, less common and more distinctive. There were so many other ways one could spell her name: Karyn, Karin, Carin, Caren, Caryn. Why did her parents have to choose the dullest way of all? She tried writing the alternatives: "Miss Caren Sossi. Ms. Caren Sossi, Ms. Caryn Sossi. Ms. Carin Sossl." Kara was a nice name too, unusual but not too gross. In Karen's class in New York, there bad been one girl whose parents had named their daughter Pocahontas Goldbirsch. Poor Pokey! Karen remembered her. Tomorrow she would probably get another chain letter from her. She was a slowpoke, like her name.

Karen looked at the sheet of loose-leaf paper. Without realizing it, she had half covered the page with variations of her name. She took out a clean sheet and began again. "Karen Sossi," she wrote, forgetting to make the fancy loop on the K.

She opened her math book to page 49, where the assignment was. "Draw a graph," it said.

"Auggg," moaned Karen, and she threw the math book against her bedroom door in disgust.

"Hey, what's up?" called Aldo, her younger brother. He charged into her room without knocking.

Karen looked at him and remembered bow sweet it was to be nine years old. Life bad been so simple in those days. There hadn't been much homework and certainly none needing graph paper. School was like one big game when you were in fifth grade.

"I have to draw a graph for my math homework, and I forgot to buy graph paper over the weekend," she said.

"Maybe Elaine has some," suggested Aldo, and he went charging off to the room of their fourteenyear-old sister, who was in ninth grade.

"Don't you dare come in here without knocking," Elaine shrieked.

Karen sat on her bed, too dejected to go to Aldo's defense.

Aldo returned. "Sorry," be said. "She doesn't have any." He thought a moment. "Is there anyone in your class who lives nearby that you could borrow the paper from?"

"No," said Karen. Unlike Aldo and Elaine, she bad not made any real friends since she moved to Woodside, New Jersey.

"I'll go ask Mom," said Aldo. "Maybe she has an idea." Aldo rushed out of the room. Karen sat numbly looking at the sheet of loose-leaf paper. How could she have been so stupid? They had been doing graphs in class on Friday, and Mrs. Nesbitt bad told them to buy some paper over the weekend. Nothing would be open at this hour. She really had rotten luck.

Aldo returned. "Mom says could you draw lines on a piece of regular paper and make your own graph paper?" he asked.

"That's crazy," said Karen. "It would take hours. "

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2005

    Mother's book choice

    I am reading this book with my sixth grade daughter for her monthly book report. Like the main character in the book she also finds that school, friends and family, at times, can be a challenge. Through the books main character my daughter sees alot of herself and how the character deals with her problems. This book is a keeper in our bookshelf.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2003

    Some Luck!

    My book¿s title is Tough Luck Karen. Karen¿s life is a mess! Karen is feeling like she always has bad luck. She enjoys cooking and baby-sitting but she can¿t do this until her school work is done. Karen hates school, she can¿t even do the work! Is she just not trying? This book will always hold your attention while Karen tries to sort out her life.

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