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Margaret Buffie (1945–) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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Born 1945, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Education: University of Manitoba, received degree, 1967, certificate in education, 1976.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Kids Can Press Ltd., 29 Birch Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 1E2.

Career

Hudson's Bay Co., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, illustrator, 1968–70; Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, painting instructor, 1974–75; River East School Division, Winnipeg, high school art teacher, 1976–77; freelance illustrator and painter, 1977–84; writer, 1984–. University of Winnipeg, writing instructor, 1992–97.

Member

International Board on Books for Young People, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Manitoba Writers' Guild.

Honors Awards

Young Adult Canadian Book Award, 1987–88; Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award, 1989, for Who Is Frances Rain?; Ontario Arts Council grants, 1987 and 1989, Canada Council grant, 1995; McNally Margaret BuffieRobinson Book for Young People Award, 1995, for The Dark Garden; Vicky Metcalf Award, 1996, for body of work; McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award, 2005, for The Finder. Works placed on shortlists for Governor General's Award, Mr. Christie Book Award, Ruth Schwartz Book Award, and Canadian Library Association Book Award, as well as on Notable Canadian Young Adult Fiction lists, Canadian Children's Book Centre Our Choice lists, Canadian Library Association Notable Canadian Fiction lists, and American Library Association and New York Public Library Best Books for Young Adults lists.

Writings

Who Is Frances Rain?, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987, published as The Haunting of Frances Rain, Scholastic Inc. (New York, NY), 1989.

The Guardian Circle, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1989, published as The Warnings, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1991.

My Mother's Ghost, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, published as Someone Else's Ghost, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1995.

The Dark Garden, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

Angels Turn Their Backs, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

"WATCHER'S QUEST" TRILOGY

The Watcher, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2000.

The Seeker, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2002.

The Finder, Kids Can Press (Tonawanda, NY), 2004.

Adaptations

My Mother's Ghost was adapted as a film by Credo Entertainment and Buffalo Gals Pictures, 1996.

Sidelights

Margaret Buffie is a popular Canadian author of fiction for young adults. She writes lively and entertaining ghost stories that combine elements of fantasy and reality, according to reviewers. A number of her books fit into the traditional time-travel genre. The main characters in Buffie's novels are contemporary adolescent girls coping with family problems. These young women stumble onto a supernatural world that offers them solace from their troubles. Critics have praised the author for her ability to combine separate storylines and various images into coherent tales.

Buffie's own life has had a noticeable impact on the plots of her novels. She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, one of four daughters of Ernest and Evelyn Buffie. The family spent many summers at Long Pine Lake in Ontario, living in a log cabin built by Buffie's grandfather in 1919. Buffie still cherishes memories of the Canadian wilderness that she fell in love with as a child. Unfortunately, when she was twelve, her father died of cancer, and her peaceful childhood came to an end. As a result, Buffie's mother had to work extra hard to keep the family together. Looking back, although the author is saddened, she is not bitter about the experience of losing her father. In fact, as she told Dave Jenkinson in an interview for Emergency Librarian, "It's a time that's full of really rich memories for me that I've used or tried to use in the writing that I do."

Buffie was not always a writer; at first she was a painter and art instructor. She did not begin to write until long after her marriage to James Macfarlane, a high school art teacher. When her daughter, Christine, became a teenager, the author began to reflect on her own childhood, and she kept a journal in which she recorded her memories of the log cabin at Long Pine Lake, and of her father's death. After Buffie read some of her daughter's books, she became hooked on young-adult literature and started working on her own novel, Who Is Frances Rain?

In Who Is Frances Rain? Buffie combines several genres—mystery, ghost story, and time-travel fantasy—with a sensitive depiction of a fractured modern family. The result, according to Peter Carver in Books for Young People, is "a ghost story with much to reveal to the thoughtful reader about the turbulent emotions at work within families." Sarah Ellis, writing in Horn Book, stated that the "time travel conventions are handled very delicately," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the novel's "good sense of place and atmosphere" as well as the "all-too-realistic family friction and its heartening, less-than-perfect resolution."

The Guardian Circle, Buffie's second ghost story, was published in the United States as The Warnings. At the beginning of the novel, teenager Rachel McCaw's mother has run off and her father has sold their Manitoba farm to become a truck driver. Before leaving on a trip, Rachel's father drops her off at her Aunt Irene's house in Winnipeg. She is now stuck living with a group of old people whom she affectionately calls "the Fossils." These oldsters turn out to be part of a Guardian Circle, and they need Rachel's help to protect a magical stone from an ancient evil spirit. The story is, in the words of Peter Carver in Quill and Quire, "a classic struggle between good and evil, a struggle in which Rachel herself becomes the pivotal figure." According
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to Voice of Youth Advocates reviewer Catherine M. Dwyer, "Buffie has written a wonderful supernatural fantasy."

Buffie's My Mother's Ghost takes place in Willow Creek, Alberta. Following the tragic death of her younger brother Scotty, sixteen-year-old Jessica Locke moves from Winnipeg, with her mother and father, to a dude ranch. Jessica is working very hard on the ranch, trying to put her life back in order, and her mother, who has become very withdrawn and depressed, begins to think that she sees Scotty's ghost. Jessica finds the journal of Ian Shaw, a little boy who died on the ranch long ago, and suspects the ghost that her mother sees is actually the ghost of Ian. The story of the Locke family is juxtaposed with the story of Ian Shaw and his family. The two stories intersect as both families are faced with collapse as the result of the death of a family member. Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Sister Mary Veronica described the book as "a real sit-on-the-end-of-your-seat page turner" and Julia Rhodes noted in Quill and Quire: "It's refreshing to read YA fiction that respects the intelligence and maturity of its readers…. [Buffie] proves once again that the realities of modern life need not come at the expense of an engrossing narrative."

Buffie serves up more mystery and magic in Angels Turn Their Backs, another tale of a teen girl encountering the paranormal. In the work, fifteen-year-old Addy Jarrick, who suffers from agoraphobia, learns that the home in which she lives is haunted, and the ghost is reaching out to her. Teresa Toten commented in Quill and Quire that "the story is peopled with likeably flawed major and minor characters," and concluded that "the chills are warmer than a horror story in this tale, which is first and foremost a good story."

In her "Watcher's Quest" trilogy, Buffie turns her attention to classical fantasy. The first work in the series, The Watcher, concerns a misfit teenage girl named Emma and Emma's sickly younger sister, Summer, as Summer become engulfed in a strange and ruthless alternate world. In a review in Canada's National Post, Elizabeth MacCallum noted, "In some ways, The Watcher feels like Lewis Carroll with the Queen of Hearts in full control." She also noted, "from a world centered on humans in the opening chapter, Buffie skillfully navigates step by step from the solid ground of a world governed by gravity and expected behavior and understanding, to an existence where Emma can't separate dreams from reality. Taking her fantasy from Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology, Buffie adroitly conjures up this confusing world, going back and forth from worldly adventure and fright to supernatural powers."

In The Seeker, the sequel to The Watcher, Emma, who was raised as a human, now recognizes that she is an alien Watcher. She travels through a series of intricate obstacles to find her earth mother's natural daughter. "Emma is a headstrong, appealing narrator, and Buffie
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uses her first-person perspective to smoothly provide background for readers unfamiliar with the first volume," noted Beth L. Meister in Booklist. In The Finder, the conclusion to the trilogy, Emma must use all of her skills, experience, and alliances to locate four wands of power before they can be obtained by a villainous and maniacal genius. Buffie's narrative "moves quickly to a satisfying conclusion," noted Booklist reviewer Kay Weisman, and School Library Journal contributor Saleena L. Davidson called The Finder "a rollicking story with plenty of aliens, danger, and conflict for fans of the series." Discussing the "Watcher's Quest" trilogy on her Web site, Buffie stated, "I've discovered that fantasy and realism are not separate worlds, opposed and incompatible. Often they blend and blur. And the borders where this blending takes place is the territory I'm exploring in these three fantasies."

The discontent Buffie expresses through the characters in her stories is profound. It coincides with contemporary problems in the real world. On her Web site, she explained that her protagonists are ordinary teenagers, but she also noted, "I always have an added element—spirits from the 'other side,' or I take that 'ordinary' person and put them into a fantasy setting. Most of the spirits in my ghost stories are unhappy. They seem to be 'earth-bound' because of an unhappy event that happened to them. When my character helps the ghost, she also learns how to solve her problems in the 'real' world, too. So, in a way, you see, I use the ghosts as a means of helping the main characters understand the world around them better."

The combination of past and present in Buffie's novels continues to alert readers to the importance of history in their lives. As Peter Carver stated in Quill and Quire, the Canadian novelist "is a kind of literary archeologist exploring the people who occupy her stories. It's a search that's not likely to disappoint her readers."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Children's Literature Review, Volume 39, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Greenwood, Barbara, editor, Behind the Story: The Creators of Our Best Children's Books and How They Do It, Pembroke (Markham, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

Meet Canadian Authors and Illustrators, Scholastic Canada (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, 1975–1991, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1991, p. 1464; October 15, 1997, p. 397; November 1, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of The Watcher, p. 537; October 1, 2002, Kay Weisman, review of The Seeker, pp. 318-319; October 15, 2004, Kay Weisman, review of The Finder, p. 397.

Books for Young People, October, 1987, p. 10.

Books in Canada, December, 1987, p. 11.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1991, pp. 160-161; October, 1997, p. 45.

Canadian Children's Literature, number 53, 1989, pp. 59-60; number 68, 1992, pp. 43-49; number 75, 1994, Linda Soutar, review of My Mother's Ghost, pp. 73-74; number 81, 1996, Margery Stewart, "Our Ghostly Co-habitants: The Seen and the Unseen," pp. 63-65; number 82, 1996, Joanne Stanbridge, review of The Dark Garden, pp. 84-85.

Canadian Review of Materials, March, 1990, p. 71; January, 1991, pp. 63-65; November, 1992, p. 311; February 2, 2001, Kristin Butcher, review of The Watcher; October 4, 2002, Kristin Butcher, review of The Seeker.

Children's Book News, September, 1987, p. 13.

Emergency Librarian, January-February, 1989, Dave Jenkinson, interview with Buffie, pp. 58-62.

Horn Book, May-June, 1988, pp. 390-394; September, 1997, p. 568.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1989, p. 1471; January 15, 1991, p. 105; July 15, 1997, p. 1107; September 1, 1998, p. 1282; August 15, 2002, review of The Seeker, p. 1218; September 1, 2004, review of The Finder, p. 861.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Deirdre Root, review of The Seeker, p. 24.

National Post (Canada), October 14, 2000, Elizabeth MacCallum, "World of Fantasy Grounded in Real Concerns, Characters," p. B10.

Quill and Quire, November, 1989, Peter Carver, "Margaret Buffie's Spirit Circle," p. 35; August 15, 1992, Julia Rhodes, review of My Mother's Ghost; December, 1995, p. 37; September 15, 1998, p. 65; August, 2000, review of The Watcher, p. 31.

Resource Links, October, 1998, review of Angels Turn Their Backs, p. 18; October, 2002, Margaret Mackey, review of The Seeker, p. 27.

School Library Journal, September, 1989, p. 272; April, 1991, p. 141; October, 2000, Heather Dieffenbach, Kay Weisman, review of The Watcher, p. 155; November, 2002, Beth L. Meister, review of The Seeker, p. 158; January, 2005, Saleena J. Davidson, review of The Finder, p. 126.

Teacher Librarian, March-April, 1999, review of Angels Turn Their Backs, p. 22.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1991, p. 93; April, 1995, Sister Mary Veronica, review of Someone Else's Ghost, p. 19; April, 1999, Ann Bouricius, review of Angels Turn Their Backs, p. 35.

ONLINE

Margaret Buffie Web site, http://buffie.netfirms.com/ (May 21, 2005).

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