Jane Buchanan (1956-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1956, in Boston, MA; father a pediatrician, mother a nurse practitioner; Education: Graduated from college. Hobbies and other interests: Watching birds, gardening, reading, going for walks, rooting for the Boston Red Sox.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar Straus & Giroux, Children's Marketing Department, 19 Union Square W., New York, NY 10003.
Former newspaper journalist; library director in Shutesbury, MA.
Gratefully Yours, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
Hank's Story, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2001.
The Berry-picking Man, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2003.
Goodbye, Charley, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of Three Kinds of Touches, Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape.
Work in Progress
Jane Buchanan writes historical fiction set in the early twentieth century. Her novel Gratefully Yours tells the story of nine-year-old Hattie, a girl whose family was killed in a New York City fire. Hattie is one of many orphaned children put on board an "orphan train" bound for Nebraska. Hattie's situation is based in reality; the orphan trains of the early twentieth century took homeless children from the crowded cities of the East to the farmlands of the Midwest, where couples without children might adopt them. Hattie is taken in by a farming couple, Elizabeth and Henry, who have lost their only child to smallpox. Cold and distant at first because of her loss, Elizabeth makes Hattie feel unwelcome in her new home. However, the death of a family cat in a snowstorm eventually brings the two together in their grief. A critic for Publishers Weekly called the story "quiet and sometimes strained," but Susan Dove Lempke noted in Booklist that the inclusion of "historical details about Nebraska farm life are engaging, and children will sympathize with Hattie."
Orphans reappear in Buchanan's Hank's Story, in which young Hank Donohue is adopted by a Nebraska farm family but finds his new life unbearable. His new father is abusive and beats Hank, while his new mother is extremely critical. The boy finally leaves for the home of a sympathetic neighbor who cares for wounded birds, and he realizes that there are good people as well as bad in the world. Kay Weisman in Booklist found that "Buchanan's characters are her strength—well-drawn, believable individuals who do their best." Janet Gillen in the School Library Journal described the book as being "filled with many heart-wrenching and gripping moments."
Nine-year-old Meggie is angry with her mother for befriending a local eccentric in The Berry-picking Man. Although Old Sam spent years in a mental asylum, dresses badly, and smells, Meggie's mother insists on hiring him to help pick berries on the family farm. With time, Meggie begins to understand that Old Sam is lonely and kind and she finds a place for him in her heart. "Buchanan's story," according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "tells of one young girl's journey towards empathy." Hazel Rochman, writing in Booklist, praised Buchanan's "simple, eloquent narrative" and added that the story's conclusion provided a "heartrending sense of redemption."
Goodbye, Charley is set during World War II and tells of Celie Marsh, a twelve year old who lives on the Massachusetts coast. Celie is unduly worried about possible submarine attacks or Nazi bombing raids until her father buys a pet monkey to keep her company. Named Charley, the monkey becomes her best, if mischievous, friend. She gets some help in keeping an eye on Charley from Joey, who is spending the summer with his grandfather next door. But life during wartime intrudes when Celie's mother must go to work and her older brother runs away to enlist in the army. A critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote that the book portrays "the charm of a young girl exploring the Massachusetts coast and exploring life farther than she has ever done." "Celie is a multifaceted, realistic character, both spirited and introspective," wrote Shelle Rosenfeld in Booklist. Miriam Lang Budin, writing in the School Library Journal, called Goodbye, Charley "a solid piece of historical fiction."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Gratefully Yours, p. 404; April 1, 2001, Kay Weisman, review of Hank's Story, p. 1482; August, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of The Berry-picking Man, p. 1980; January 1, 2004, review of The Berry-picking Man, p. 780; August, 2004, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Goodbye, Charley, p. 1932.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, November, 2001, Danielle, review of Hank's Story, p. 254.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of The Berry-picking Man, p. 747; July 15, 2004, review of Goodbye, Charley, p. 682.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1997, review of Gratefully Yours, p. 76.
School Library Journal, May, 2001, Janet Gillen, review of Hank's Story, p. 148; August, 2004, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Goodbye, Charley, p. 116.
Jane Buchanan Home Page, http://www.janebuchanan.com (April 29, 2005).*