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Schreck, Karen Halvorsen 1962–

Schreck, Karen Halvorsen 1962–

(Karen Schreck)


Born 1962; married Greg Halvorsen Schreck (a photographer), c. 1991; children: Magdalena, Teo (son). Education: Wheaton College, B.A.; State University of New York, Binghamton, M.A.; University of Illinois at Chicago, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, yoga, traveling, and attending movies, concerts, plays, and art gallery exhibitions.


Home—Wheaton, IL. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]


Writer, novelist, and educator. Taught writing and literature at State University of New York, Binghamton and University of Illinois at Chicago. Worked in publishing in Boston, MA, and as an advertising copywriter, editor, and proofreader.

Awards, Honors

Pushcart Prize; Illinois State Arts Council grant; Honor Book selection, Society of School Librarians, 2001, for Lucy's Family Tree.


Lucy's Family Tree (picture book), illustrated by Stephen Gassler III, Tilbury House (Gardiner, ME), 2001.

Dream Journal (young-adult novel), Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2006.


Karen Halvorsen Schreck is an educator and author of books for teens and young readers. In Lucy's Family Tree Lucy is a young Mexican girl who is adopted as a baby by an American family. When she is given an assignment at school to make her family tree, she worries that she will be unable to complete the project because her family is "different." In an effort to help Lucy realize the benefits of this difference, her teacher challenges her to make a family tree for three families that she believes are the same. Dora and Seth, she finds, have a stepfather. In Lucinda's family, her mother works to earn a living while her father stays home and cares for the children. Robert has two mothers who care for him a great deal. Soon, Lucy realizes that some families she thought were "typical" and "normal" are actually strengthened by their differences. Lucy renews her efforts on her class project, constructing a traditional Mexican Tree of Life with pictures of both her birth parents and her adopted mother and father. The material in Lucy's Family Tree helps "deliver a timely message to educators about the appropriateness of family-related assignments in today's world of diverse lifestyles," commented Thomas Pitchford in School Library Journal.

Livy, the sixteen-year-old protagonist of Dream Journal, is struggling to cope with the fact that her mother is dying of cancer. Her father is also terribly upset by the situation, but he has told her to not talk about these troubles outside of the family. Her father's rules mean that Livy is isolated and unable to share her concerns with friends or other adults who could help her. Because she has been staying home to care for her mother for months, Livy has drifted apart from her peers, including from best friend Ruth, daughter of the local pastor. As the story progresses, both Livy and Ruth are testing the limits of their teenage lives, their fathers' patience, and their own sense of self and morality. Concerned about their friendship, Ruth convinces Livy to accompany her and several members of the school football team on a cheerful outing. When the group goes to a local teen hangout the next day, a tragic accident injures a promising young musician, and Livy reacts by isolating herself from the world again. Facing her own maturation and the impending death of her mother, Livy must ultimately come to terms with her loneliness, her relationship with her father, and her own future.

The foundation of Dream Journal exists in a tragic event from Schreck's own life. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Schreck was in the fifth grade. Three years later, she stated on her home page, her mother died from the illness. "With Dream Journal, I wrote the book I wanted and needed to read when I was a girl," Schreck commented. "It took me several years and many drafts to complete the manuscript. But every minute I spent waiting for the angel was worth it. Through Livy I did things I wish I could have done when my mother was ill and dying. I understood things I'd never understood before. I had always heard writing could be healing. Now I experienced this first-hand."

Young-adult readers who have "lost someone close to them, or know that it's about to happen, will appreciate this sincere and thoughtful novel," commented Kelly Czarnecki in a School Library Journal review of the novel. In Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser concluded that Dream Journal is "a poignant story that in essence is believable." Livy's "plight and her honesty will interest many YA readers," Rosser commented.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2006, review of Dream Journal, p. 851.

Kliatt, September, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Dream Journal, p. 17.

Publishers Weekly, June 11, 2001, review of Lucy's Family Tree, p. 85.

School Library Journal, January, 2002, Thomas Pitchford, review of Lucy's Family Tree, p. 109; November, 2006, Kelly Czarnecki, review of Dream Journal, p. 151.


Karen Halvorsen Schreck Home Page, (March 28, 2007).

Karen Halvorsen Schreck Web log, (March 28, 2007)., (March 28, 2007), "Karen Halvorsen Schreck."

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