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Caralyn (M.) Buehner (1963-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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Surname pronounced Bee-ner; born 1963, in St. George, UT; Education: Attended University of Utah, 1981-83, and Utah State University, 1983-85. Religion: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon).

Addresses

Agent—c/o Lisa Sandick, Dial Press, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

Career

Writer.

Honors Awards

Children's Choice Award, Children's Book Council, 1994, and Utah Children's Choice Award, 1996, both for A Job for Wittilda; Parent's Choice Award, 1996, Notable Book designation, American Library Association, and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award, both 1997, all for Fanny's Dream; Utah Children's Choice selection, 1997, for It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel.

Writings

PICTURE BOOKS

The Escape of Marvin the Ape, illustrated by husband, Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 1992.

A Job for Wittilda, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.

It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 1995.

Fanny's Dream, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.

I Did It, I'm Sorry, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.

I Want to Say I Love You, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Snowmen at Night, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Phyllis Fogelman Books (New York, NY), 2002, published in board-book format, Dial (New York, NY), 2004.

Superdog: The Heart of a Hero, illustrated by Mark Buehner, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.

Snowmen at Christmas, illustrated by Mark Buehner, Dial (New York, NY), 2005.

Adaptations

The Escape of Marvin the Ape was adapted for CDROM.

Sidelights

Working frequently with her husband, artist Mark Buehner, Caralyn Buehner has created a number of entertaining picture books for young children. From the adventures of an ape who roams the city in The Escape of Marvin the Ape to a lonely farm girl's fantasy about marrying a prince in Fanny's Dream, Buehner combines interesting plots with a sense of fun to capture the imagination of her young audience. Reviewing Buehner's debut work, The Escape of Marvin the Ape, Five Owls contributor Stephen Fraser found evidence of "the beginning of a long career of strong, unusual, and zany books children will love."

Born in St. George, Utah in 1963, Buehner was raised in Salt Lake City, the youngest of five siblings. "Books were always important in our house," she once recalled to Something about the Author (SATA). "My mother rarely had time for her own reading, but we knew that she loved books. I remember sitting on her lap as she read to me, or listened to me read. Sometimes on trips, with the whole family packed into a little motor home, we would lay in our beds at night while Mom read Onion John or The Boxcar Children by the dim light of the little propane lantern.

"One of my treasured memories is of being down in the 'big girls' basement bedroom, listening to my older sister read to us from the P. G. Wodehouse series about the unflappable Jeeves. I know there was much that I didn't understand, being so much younger than the older girls, but because they were convulsed in laughter, so was I.

"The discovery of a story was exquisite, and I loved books from the time I can remember. I loved going to the library; the wonderful smell and feel of a stack of books to take home and savor.… Through books I was exposed to some of the world's greatest literature, and probably some of its worst, but I felt as if I were living a thousand lives more than my own. What a wonder to crawl inside another person's head, and see the world through their eyes!"

Buehner met her future husband, illustrator Mark Buehner, while attending college. "I had no intention of being a writer," she recalled, "but was feeding my love of history and humanities. Mark introduced me to a fascinating world of shape and color, where a story can be told in a single picture." It was Mark who encouraged Caralyn to write her first full-length picture book, The Escape of Marvin the Ape.

In The Escape of Marvin the Ape a large ape walks through his open cage door at the New York City Zoo and wanders the surrounding city, riding the subway, watching a baseball game, and ordering food at a local restaurant, all without so much as a raised eyebrow from people tending to their busy lives around him. A Publishers Weekly critic maintained that Buehner's "vocabulary choices and turns of phrase imbue this romp with an appealing sense of wonder."

Buehner's wide-ranging exposure to all types of books inevitably influenced her own writing. In addition, as the mother of five children, her habit of reading aloud to her family strengthened her sense of a story's rhythm and pacing. A Job for Wittilda, her tale of a middle-aged witch forced to get a job to feed her forty-seven hungry cats, was praised by School Library Journal contributor Lauralyn Persson for the "effortless flow" of its "rhythmic language." The story follows Wittilda as she competes for a job as a pizza delivery person at Dingaling Pizzas. A Publishers Weekly commentator found Buehner's "creation of a witch with a heart of gold" to be comforting, and noted that "equal dashes of adventure, magic and reality provide a captivating mix."

The team of Buehner and Buehner moved from witches to etiquette with a series of books that make manners fun. It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel and I Did It, I'm Sorry provide "a handsome combination of humor, puzzles, and lessons in elementary good behavior," according to Horn Book reviewer Ann A. Flowers. Written in a quiz format that allows the reader to choose from among three possible courses of action, It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel depicts a wide variety of social situations, substituting animals for people faced with quandaries such as what to say to the host of a dinner party when showing up late, or how best to react to a disappointing birthday present. Julie Yates Walton, reviewing the work for Booklist, praised the volume for containing "ample spoonfuls of humor" that make the "medicine go down very easily."

Focusing on ethical questions, I Did It, I'm Sorry finds engaging animal characters deciding on the correct course of action in situations where cheating, lying, or ignoring the requests of authority figures would be far easier. "This book brims with the sort of solid values every child should learn: never lie, follow the rules, obey your parents and think of others," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In between working on their two books about manners, the Buehners took time out to create Fanny's Dream, a mixed-up Cinderella story about a very tardy fairy godmother. Fanny waits for her godmother to appear and grant her wish; instead, she is met by Heber Jensen. While not a prince, Heber asks Fanny to spend her life with him, and Fanny accepts! When Fanny's godmother shows up years later, Fanny decides she likes the life she has better than the one she thought she wanted. Grace Oliff, in a review for School Library Journal, wrote that Buehner tells the story "with wit and humor." In an interview for the Utah Children's Writers and Illustrators Web site Buehner noted that Fanny is one of her favorite original characters. "There's so much of myself, my mother, and my grandmother in her that she's very real to me," the author explained.

In I Want to Say I Love You Buehner worked with illustrator Jacqueline Rogers. The book is something of a love-letter from a mother to her daughter; the mother talks about all the things she loves about her child, even the things that seem less than loveable. Rogers's collages accompany Buehner's rhyming text. Writing for School Library Journal, Roxanne Burg called I Want to Say I Love You "a fine selection for stories about family relationships," while a contributor to Kirkus Reviews termed the book "a tender tale that captures the essence of childhood."

Working again with her husband, the team created a pair of books about the misadventures of snowmen in Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas. Snowmen at Night describes what a boy imagines happens to snowmen after he goes to sleep at night. He envisions snowmen going to the park to go sledding, making snow angels, having snowball fights, and drinking ice cold chocolate. Several reviewers commented on the bouncy, rhyming text that Buehner uses in her story, while Adele Greenlee dubbed Snowmen at Night "an entertaining read-aloud for bedtime sharing or winter storytimes." A critic for Kirkus Reviews praised the work, noting that "It would be difficult not to fall in love with this rollicking flight of imagination."

The Buehners are also the creators of Dexter the dachshund, a pup known also as Superdog. Dex, ridiculed for his size, decides there is only one way to earn the respect of his peers: he must become a hero. In Super-dog: The Heart of a Hero, he sets out to accomplish just that. Dex checks out books from the library, exercises, and begins to perform heroic tasks in spite of his small stature, even rescuing the husky tom cat that initially teased him. "The author has created a lovable and memorable character in the endearing and stalwart Dex," Grace Oliff proclaimed in her School Library Journal review. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, noted that Superdog has "less slapstick and more heart … plenty of wit, too." In Publishers Weekly, a contributor promised that the story "has a triumphal, never-smug tone that will strike a chord with underdogs everywhere."

Buehner and her husband often visit schools to talk about their work as writer and illustrator, respectively. "Both of us want to bring the magic we felt for books as children to the ones we produce," she noted. Aside from her writing, Buehner's greatest joys are finding time in her busy schedule to spend with her family or to participate in church activities. "Much of my writing time is spent in trying to capture the magic of ordinary days for my children in their own photo-journals," she added, "or fumbling to express my awe and wonder at their existence for myself."

On the Utah Children's Writers and Illustrators Web site, Buehner offered the following advice to young writers: "Read, and read good writers, read your work out loud, don't be afraid of critiques and editing."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1993, p. 1973; June 1, 1995, Julie Yates Walton, review of It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel, p. 1774; April 15, 1998, p. 1449; April 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, p. 1370; October 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 409.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1996, p. 7.

Five Owls, November-December, Stephen Fraser, review of The Escape of Marvin the Ape, 1992, p. 34.

Horn Book, September-October, 1992, p. 574; July-August, 1995, Ann A. Flowers review of It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel, p. 476; July-August, 1996, p. 444.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1992, p. 1138; January 1, 1996, p. 65; November 15, 2001, review of I Want to Say I Love You, p. 1610; September 15, 2002, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 1385; January 15, 2004, review of Superdog: The Heart of a Hero, p. 80.

Publishers Weekly, June 22, 1992, review of The Escape of Marvin the Ape, p. 61; June 28, 1993, review of A Job for Wittilda, p. 76; May 20, 1996, p. 258; April 13, 1998, review of I Did It, I'm Sorry, p. 74; August 14, 2000, review of I Did It, I'm Sorry, p. 357; August 26, 2002, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 66; March 1, 2004, review of Superdog, p. 69.

School Library Journal, January, 1994, Lauralyn Persson, review of A Job for Wittilda, p. 87; August, 1995, p. 115; April, 1996, p. 105; December, 2001, Roxanne Burg, review of I Want to Say I Love You, p. 90; October, 2002, Adele Greenlee, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 99; September, 2003, Grace Oliff, review of Fanny's Dream, p. 83; February, 2004, Grace Oliff, review of Superdog, p. 103.

ONLINE

Utah Children's Writers and Illustrators Web site, http://www.ucwi.org/ (April 20, 2005).*

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