Dori Hillestad Butler (1965-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1965, in Fairmont, MN; Education: Attended Bemidji State University, 1983–85, University of Minnesota, 1985–86, and Hamline University, 1986–87. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, hiking, playing the piano, Scrabble, biking, learning to juggle.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Albert Whitman, 6340 Oakton St., Morton Grove, IL 60053-2723.
Freelance writer. Friends of the Coralville Public Library, teen writing-group facilitator; sponsor of online teen Web site The Leaky Pen; active with local youth theatre. Reader for Iowa Children's Choice Award and Iowa Teen Award.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (Iowa regional advisor, 1998–2000).
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Best Book designation, 2003, and Sequoyah Children's Book Award nominee, Sunshine State Award nominee, and Volunteer State Book Award nominee, all 2005–06, all for Trading Places with Tank Talbott; Pennsylvania School Library Association Young-Adult Top Forty listee, 2003, Honor Book Award, Society of School Librarians International, 2004, and Nebraska Golden Sower Award nomination, Young Hoosier Book Award nomination, Mark Twain Award listee, and Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award nominee, all 2005–06, and Volunteer State Award nominee, 2006–07, all for Sliding into Home.
The Great Tooth Fairy Rip-Off, illustrated by Jack Lindstrom, Fairview Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
M Is for Minnesota, illustrated by Janice Lee Porter, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.
W Is for Wisconsin, illustrated by Eileen Potts Dawson, Trails Media Group (Madison, WI), 1998.
ABC's of Wisconsin, illustrated by Alison Relyea, Trails Media Group (Madison, WI), 2000.
H Is for Hoosier, illustrated by Eileen Potts Dawson, Trails Media Group (Black Earth, WI), 2001.
Sliding into Home, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2003.
Trading Places with Tank Talbott, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2003.
Whodunnit: How the Police Solve Crimes, Perfection Learning, 2004.
My Mom's Having a Baby!, illustrated by Carol Thompson, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2005.
Do You Know the Monkey Man?, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2005.
Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2005.
Tank Talbott's Guide to Girls, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 2006.
Zoe's Potty, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2006.
Zack's Potty, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2006.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Child Life, Children's Digest, Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, Guidepost for Teens, and various parenting and Sunday-school publications. Ghostwriter for "Sweet Valley Twins" and "Boxcar Children" novel series; author of scripts for classroom plays published by Benchmark Education; author of reading curricula.
Work in Progress
A new mystery; F Is for Fire Fighting.
Beginning her authorial career writing picture-book texts, Dori Hillestad Butler has expanded her audience to include older readers with the award-winning middle-grade novels Trading Places with Tank Talbot, Sliding into Home, and Do You Know the Monkey Man?, and has also ventured into nonfiction with Whodunit? How the Police Solve Crimes.
Geared for preteen boys, Trading Places with Tank Talbott finds Jason Pfeiffer in a quandary. While busy translating his annoyance over his sister into an amazing horror-film script, his parents drag him away from his desk and into the local recreation center to take swimming lessons. As if the pool's cold water is not bad enough, when Jason sees school bully Tank Talbott there too, things quickly go from bad to worse. Embarrassed by the fact that his parents have forced him into taking dancing lessons, Tank is less threatening than normal, and ultimately the two boys find that they can help each other out of an uncomfortable situation. In School Library Journal Sharon R. Pearce praised Trading Places with Tank Talbott as "well-written" and "laced with humor and a good sense of adolescent growing pains."
Teenage girls feature in several of Butler's novels, including Sliding into Home and Do You Know the Mon-key Man? In Sliding into Home thirteen-year-old Joelle Cunningham lives and breathes baseball, but when she moves to a new state and a new school she learns that baseball is only for boys; girls are restricted to softball only. Suddenly, Joelle has a crusade on her hands, and she draws on her determination and her love of the game to inspire change. Also featuring a thirteen-year-old protagonist, Do You Know the Monkey Man? finds Samantha haunted by the death of her twin sister years ago and the disappearance of her father shortly after that tragedy. Now that her mother is getting remarried, Samantha decides that it is time to uncover the truth, but in her search for her father she uncovers a new threat to her family. Praising Sliding into Home, a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed the novel "breezy and fast-paced, with a feminist slant," while Booklist contributor Roger Leslie praised Joelle's "passionate commitment and … broadening vision."
Butler told SATA: "I've always wanted to be a writer. It was my childhood dream. When I finished college, I considered going to graduate school to study child psychology, but my husband told me I should try writing. He said graduate school would still be there in a year or two, but if I didn't give my writing a chance, I'd always wonder whether I could've done it. He was right. So I took a year to concentrate on being a writer. I sold two short stories to magazines in that year and took that as a sign that I should keep at it. I've never looked back.
"I write for two reasons. One: To connect with other people; and Two: To get kids interested in reading. Sometimes people ask me if I'm ever going to write anything for adults—as though somehow writing for adults is more important or more serious than writing for kids. I have written a few parenting articles for adults, but for the most part I prefer writing for kids. There is no more important audience. If I can grab them while they're young and turn them into readers, someone else can keep them reading as adults.
"Though I live the first thirty years of my life in Minnesota, I had to move to Iowa in order to write M Is for Minnesota. Shortly after I moved here, I met an author who'd written a book called I Is for Iowa. She said she was a native Iowan and wasn't interested in writing an ABC book on Minnesota. I wrote Alexandra Hopewell, Labor Coach because when I was pregnant with my second child, my four-year-old really wanted to come to the hospital with us to see the baby be born.
"Judy Blume and Paula Danzinger are the writers who most influenced my work. They were my favorite authors when I was growing up. I trusted them to tell me the truth about everything I wanted to know, but was afraid to ask.
"My advice to aspiring writers: Read and write every day!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Kathleen Squires, review of M Is for Minnesota, p. 862; May 1, 2003, Roger Leslie, review of Sliding into Home, p. 1591; April, 2005, review of My Mom's Having a Baby..
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2003, review of Sliding into Home, p. 747; March 1, 2005, review of My Mom's Having a Baby!, p. 284.
School Library Journal, March, 1999, Kathy Piehl, review of M Is for Minnesota, p. 190; June, 2003, Sharon R. Pearce, review of Trading Places with Tank Talbott, p. 137; May, 2005, Martha Topol, review of My Mom's Having a Baby!, p. 106.
Dori Hillestad Butler Home Page, http://www.dorihillestadbutler.com (September 15, 2005).