12 minute read

Mark Buehner (1959-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Illustrator, Adaptations, Sidelights

Name pronounced Bee-ner; born 1959, in Salt Lake City, UT; Education: Attended University of Utah, 1981-82; Utah State University, B.S., 1985. Religion: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). Hobbies and other interests: Interior and landscape design.


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


Illustrator of children's books. Performs volunteer work with religious organizations and scouting programs.

Honors Awards

Parent's Choice Award, 1990, for The Adventures of Taxi Dog; Children's Choice Award, Children's Book Council (CBC), 1994, and Utah Children's Choice Mark Buehner Award, 1997, both for A Job for Wittilda; Gold Medal, National Parenting Best Books, 1994, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 1995, American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book designation, Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and Maryland Black-eyed Susan Award, all for Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm; Parent's Choice Award, 1996, ALA Notable Book designation, and Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award, both 1997, and Society of Illustrators Silver Medal, all for Fanny's Dream; ALA Notable Book designation, Best Picture Book designation, Publishers Weekly, named Cuffies Favorite Picture Book, and Original Art Silver Medal, Society of Illustrators, all 1997, and Children's Choice selection, International Reading Association/CBC, 1998, all for My Life with the Wave.



Debra and Sal Barracca, The Adventures of Taxi Dog, Dial (New York, NY), 1990.

Debra and Sal Barracca, Maxi the Hero, Dial (New York, NY), 1991.

Jerdine Nolen, Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1994.

Catherine Cowan, My Life with the Wave, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1997.

Alice Shertle, I Am the Cat, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1999.

Laura Leuck, My Monster Mama Loves Me So, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard (New York, NY), 1999.

Laura Krauss Melmed, This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

Pearl S. Buck, Christmas Day in the Morning, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.

Chuck Wilcoxen, Niccolini's Lullaby, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2004.


The Escape of Marvin the Ape, Dial (New York, NY), 1992.

A Job for Wittilda, Dial (New York, NY), 1993.

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

Fanny's Dream, Dial (New York, NY), 1996.

I Did It, I'm Sorry, Dial (New York, NY), 1998.

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

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

Snowmen at Christmas, Dial (New York, NY), 2005.


The Escape of Marvin the Ape was adapted for CDROM.


Highly regarded illustrator Mark Buehner has created artwork for the books written by his wife, Caralyn Buehner, as well as for stories by other authors such as Debra and Sal Barracca, Catherine Cowan, and Jerdine Nolen. Praised for the gentle humor and vibrant color that distinguishes his oil and acrylic art, Buehner has received a host of honors for his work. Reviewing the Barraccas' Maxi, the Hero, New York Times Book Review contributor Michael Anderson noted that Buehner's "panoramic pictures vibrate with detail and activity; so much is happening that the pages seem to be straining to speak aloud." Anderson added that the illustrator draws in large, rounded forms "a reassuringly solid universe, for all of its surprises."

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Buehner was the youngest of a family that included seven children. "I've been told that I learned to walk by holding a pencil; maybe that's where this illustrating business got started!" he once commented to Something about the Author (SATA). He was also inspired by his father, who used to draw pictures to entertain his young son while the family sat through Sunday church services. As a boy, Buehner made "books" by drawing pictures and stapling them together; as he later noted, "I had no idea that what I was doing would eventually become my line of work. Pulling out pencils, paper, and watercolors was just part of my daily routine."

In school, Buehner gained a reputation among his teachers as a good artist, and the praise he received for his drawing skills encouraged him to excel. "I couldn't read as well as the other children," he remembered, "but I remember poring over the illustrations in picture books. I particularly latched onto one small book called Pierre, by Maurice Sendak, which I not only read but memorized." By high school, art had become more than just a hobby. Buehner took his first class in oil painting when he was sixteen years old, and, by his own admission, "became a convert"; he still prefers to work in oils.

After graduating from Utah State University in 1985, Buehner and his wife, Caralyn, moved to New York City, where they lived for more than four years. In New York, home to most of the country's major publishing houses, Buehner circulated his portfolio and was given the opportunity to illustrate The Adventures of Taxi Dog, a picture book about a dog named Maxi who accompanies his owner, a cab driver named Jim, on his rounds. The book, written by Debra and Sal Barracca, was praised for containing illustrations that some commentators compared to the work of Chris Van Allsburg; Buehner's oil-over-acrylic technique "gives each scene a subtle, lively play of light and color," according to School Library Journal reviewer John Peters.

With the success of The Adventures of Taxi Dog and its sequel, Maxi the Hero, Buehner soon found other illustration projects coming his way. His work for Jerdine Nolen's popular Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm brought his stylized artwork to the front of bookstore windows. The story of a balloon farmer who teaches his trade to a young African-American girl, Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm features "vivid … illustrations of balloons with expressive faces in every size, color and shape—frogs, demons, elephants, fish, snowmen—and the animals devilishly hidden on every page," according to Ann A. Flowers in Horn Book. Reviewing Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm for School Library Journal, Kathleen Whalin hailed Buehner as "a master character painter" whose "rich, rounded paintings" combine with Nolen's text to create "a most satisfying whole."

In My Life with the Wave Buehner brings his artistic talents to bear on Catherine Cowan's retelling of a story by Octavio Paz. The tale of a young boy who grows to love a powerful ocean wave and determines to possess it for himself by bringing it home, My Life with the Wave is enlivened by "acrylic and oil paintings that capture the powerful sensuality and surrealism" of Paz's original work, in the opinion of Horn Book reviewer Cathryn M. Mercier. Calling the story "a celebration of imagination from beginning to end," School Library Journal contributor Wendy Lukehart praised Buehner's technique of "inserting small details with such skill that they do not overpower or detract from the main story."

Buehner completed the illustrations for two titles in 1999: I Am the Cat and My Monster Mama Loves Me So. These very different stories required very different illustrations. I Am the Cat contains poems about cats by Alice Schertle, but these cats are not necessarily the cute and innocent type. Schertle draws on mythology to tell the story of a cat who lost its wings, as well as a story of a cat who was murdered and now haunts the dogs that killed her. Though the mood created up by Shertle's poetry is not necessarily playful, Buehner gives readers an "added bonus of lots of 'hidden pictures'" according to Stephanie Zvirin writing in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also pointed out "cleverly planted surprises," such as a cat who keeps pictures of all of the birds he has caught on bird wallpaper.

My Monster Mama Loves Me So is a rhyming story that describes how much a monster mother loves her child. "Few monsters have been as sweet as the green, googly-eyed mother and son," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly.

Buehner creates illustrations with a holiday flare for The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story and Christmas Day in the Morning. The First Thanksgiving Day focuses on the preparations made for the very first feast celebrating colonists' gratitude, a feast attended both by the Pilgrims and by the Wampanoag people who celebrated with them. Each page contains a numbered item: one napping pilgrim boy, two giggling Wampanoag girls, twelve tables filled with the various foodstuffs that have been harvested. Each page also contains a picture of a turkey trying to hide from the people preparing the feast; at the end, he has managed to avoid capture and watches the celebration from a safe hiding spot. According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Buehner "captures the beauty of autumnal skies" in his illustrations, and GraceAnne A. DeCandido felt that the book's "cheer is fairly irrepressible."

Christmas Day in the Morning uses a text drawn from the writing of Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck. Here Buehner brings "to life for a new generation" a story of a boy's Christmas gift to his father, as Susan Patron explained in her review of the book for School Library Journal. In order to show his appreciation to his father, the narrator, Rob, goes out late at night to complete all of the early-morning chores. This way his hard-working father can have Christmas morning to relax. A critic for Kirkus Reviews complimented Buehner's "deep-toned, striking illustrations."

Buehner often teams up with his wife, writer Caralyn Buehner, and the couple has created several popular picture books. In the couple's first project for young children, The Escape of Marvin the Ape, a zoo escapee's day-long exploration of New York City—which occurs without so much as a raised eyebrow from passersby—is brought to life with colorful pictures that "are lively enough to need no definition," according to School Library Journal contributor Karen James. A Job for Wittilda finds a scruffy witch forced away from her cauldron to earn money to feed her forty-plus cats. Lauralyn Persson hailed Buehner's illustrations as "a delight" in her appraisal of the book for School Library Journal, and she commended him for including "comic touches to discover at every rereading." A Publishers Weekly reviewer asserted: "Buehner's sumptuous oil and acrylic paintings exhibit his flair for depicting the play of light and shadow, and for deploying a variety of arresting perspectives."

Stephanie Zvirin, writing in Booklist, praised another of the Buehners' collaborative efforts, this one a variation of the Cinderella story titled Fanny's Dream. Zvirin dubbed the work "a truly wonderful mix of storytelling and art from a husband-wife team with a fine sense of humor," and also offered singular accolades to illustrator Buehner for the detail in his "robust, bucolic pictures, which seem almost to jump off the page."

The Buehners focus on the social graces in It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel and I Did It, I'm Sorry. The magical adventures of snowmen are the focus of Snowmen at Night and Snowmen at Christmas. Snowmen at Night offers readers an insight into the secret life of snowmen, showing the chilly fellows busy at the part having snowball fights, sledding, and drinking ice-cold chocolate while human children are asleep. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the story's "glee comes through at its most infectious" through Buehner's paintings, and a contributor to the Kirkus Reviews credited the book's illustrations with being able to "bring this dazzling idea to life."

Leaving snowmen for superheroes, the Buehners introduce an amazing canine named Dex in Superdog: The Heart of a Hero. Teased for his size, the diminutive Dex wants nothing more than to become a hero, so he sets about making himself one. Researching heroes, he starts to work out to build his strength, and ultimately performs an heroic rescues. "Dex cuts a distinctive figure in the illustrations," noted a critic for Kirkus Reviews, while a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted "a few dashes of comic-book-style text blocks and panel art" bring out the superhero theme. Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, praised Buehner for creating "artwork that practically jumps off the page." As in some of his other projects, Buehner also includes hidden pictures in Superdog; Grace Oliff pointed out in School Library Journal that "he has added to the fun by hiding cats, rabbits, and even a Tyrannosaurus rex in the clouds and shadows."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, July, 1993, p. 1973; April 15, 1994, p. 1541; June 1, 1995, Julie Yates Walton, review of It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel, p. 1774; April 15, 1998, p. 1449; April 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of I Am the Cat, p. 1417; September 1, 2001, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story, p. 121; October 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 409; April 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, p. 1370.

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, May-June, 1990, p. 317; September-October, 1992, p. 574; July-August, 1994, Ann A. Flowers, review of Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm, p. 442; July-August, 1995, Ann A. Flowers review of It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel, p. 476; July-August, 1996, p. 444; September-October, 1997, Cathryn M. Mercier, review of My Life with the Wave, p. 555; September, 1999, Nancy Vasilakis, review of I Am the Cat, p. 621.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1992, p. 1138; January 1, 1996, p. 65; August 15, 2001, review of This First Thanksgiving Day, p. 1218; September 15, 2002, review of Snowmen at Night, p. 1385; November 1, 2002, review of Christmas Day in the Morning, p. 1616; January 15, 2004, review of Superdog: The Heart of A Hero, p. 80.

New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1992, Michael Anderson, review of Maxi, the Hero, p. 23; November 9, 1997, p. 24.

Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1990, p. 61; December 21, 1990, p. 14; June 22, 1992, review of The Escape of Marvin the Ape, p. 61; June 28, 1993, review of A Job for Wittilda, p. 76; July 3, 1995, p. 59; May 20, 1996, p. 258; April 13, 1998, review of I Did It, I'm Sorry, p. 74; March 15, 1999, review of I Am the Cat, p. 59; September 27, 1999, review of My Monster Mama Loves Me So, p. 103; August 14, 2000, review of I Did It, I'm Sorry, p. 357; September 24, 2001, review of This First Thanksgiving Day, p. 44; 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; May, 1994, Kathleen Whalin, review of Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm, p. 102; August, 1995, p. 115; April, 1996, p. 105; August, 1997, Wendy Lukehart, review of My Life with the Wave, p. 129; September, 2001, Pamela K. Bombay, review of This First Thanksgiving Day, p. 219; October, 2002, Susan Patron, review of Christmas Day in the Morning, p. 57; 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 Super-dog, p. 103.


Storyopolis Art Gallery Online, http://www.storyopolis.com/ (April 20, 2005), "Mark Buehner."*

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