Barbara Bottner (1943–) Biography
Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1943, in New York, NY; Education: Attended Boston University, 1961–62, and École des Beaux Arts, 1963–64; University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.S., 1965; University of California, Santa Barbara, M.A., 1966; studied animation at School of Visual Arts. Hobbies and other interests: Dancing, travel, politics, Buddhism.
Writer, illustrator, producer, actor, and educator. Formerly taught kindergarten; set designer for off-Broadway theater; Café La Mama, New York, NY, actor in touring productions in United States and Europe; producer of short animated films; Parsons School of Design, New York, NY, instructor, beginning 1973; instructor at Oris Art Institute of Los Angeles County and New School for Social Research, c. 1990; staff writer for television series Nickelodeon, 1992. Director of short animated films, including Goat in a Boat and Later That Night. Mentor for WriteGirl (nonprofit), Los Angeles. Exhibitions: Work has been represented in film festivals in London, England; Melbourne, Australia; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; and New York, NY.
Writers Guild of America, Author's Guild.
Best Film for Television award, International Animation Festival (Annecy, France), 1973, for Goat in a Boat; Children's Choice citation, International Reading Association/Children's Book Council, 1980, for Mean Maxine; Distinguished Teaching Award, New School for Social Research, 1990; Cine Golden Eagle, Council for International Nontheatrical Events, for animated film Later That Night; Bank Street College honor citation, and School Library Journal best books designation, both 2005, both for Wallace's Lists; books included on several notable book and children's choice lists.
What Would You Do with a Giant?, Putnam (New York, NY), 1972.
Fun House, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1975.
Eek, a Monster, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1975.
The Box, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1975.
What Grandma Did on Her Birthday, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1975.
Doing the Toldedo, Four Winds Press (New York, NY), 1977.
Big Boss! Little Boss!, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1978.
Jungle Day! Delacorte (New York, NY), 1978.
There Was Nobody There, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1978.
Messy, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1979.
Dumb Old Casey Is a Fat Tree, Harper (New York, NY), 1979.
Myra, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1979.
Horrible Hannah, illustrated by Joan Drescher, Crown (New York, NY), 1980.
Mean Maxine, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1980.
The World's Greatest Expert on Absolutely Everything … Is Crying, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.
Nothing in Common (young-adult novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1986.
Zoo Song, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1987.
Let Me Tell You Everything: Memoirs of a Lovesick Intellectual (young-adult novel), Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
Bootsie Barker Bites, illustrated by Peggy Rathmann, Putnam (New York, NY), 1992.
Hurricane Music, illustrated by Paul Yalowitz, Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.
Nana Hannah's Piano, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
Bootsie Barker, Ballerina, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Two Messy Friends, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.
Marsha Makes Me Sick, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, Golden Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Marsha Is Only a Flower, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2000.
(With husband, Gerald Kruglik) It's Not Marsha's Birthday, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, Golden Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Be Brown!, illustrated by Barry Gott, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2002.
Charlene Loves to Make Noise, illustrated by Alex Stadler, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
The Scaredy Cats, illustrated by Victoria Chess, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Wallace's Lists, illustrated by Olof Landström, Katherine Tegen Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Rosa's Room, illustrated by Beth Spiegel, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2004.
(With Gerald Kruglik; and illustrator) Pish and Posh, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
(With Gerald Kruglik; and illustrator) Pish and Posh Wish for Fairy Wings, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
Raymond and Nelda, illustrated by Nancy Hyashi, Peachtree (Atlanta, GA), 2006.
You Have to Be Nice to Someone on Their Birthday, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2007.
(And illustrator) Miss Mabel Is Able, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Writer for television series Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories and Winnie the Pooh, for Disney Channel; author of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle (television program), Showtime. Contributor to periodicals, including Los Angeles Times Book Review; contributor of short fiction to Cosmopolitan and Playgirl. Contributing editor, LA Weekly, Lion and the Unicorn, and Miami Herald; contributor of illustrations to periodicals, including New York Times, Viva, and Ms.; contributor of cartoons to Viva, Penthouse, and the New York Times op-ed page.
Bottner's work has been translated into French and Swedish.
Myra was adapted into an animated film by Churchill Films, 1980.
Work in Progress
A novel for adults titled Don't Look Me Like That; work for other media.
As a child, Barbara Bottner grew up dreaming of becoming an artist, a dancer, and a story teller. After studying painting in Paris, she was asked to create sets for an off-Broadway theatrical company, Café La MaMa, where she worked alongside company founder and director Ellen Stewart. Bottner's set-design career with Café La MaMa ended prematurely, however, when she was told that her set designs were too large and eclipsed the actors. She then studied acting and toured for two years both in the United States and Europe. Bottner became a substitute teacher to supplement her acting wages, and after a year of teaching, she decided to establish a career in children's book illustration. Since then, she has become known for writing children's books, young-adult novels, and "I Can Read"s. She has also written a novel for adults, works with at-risk teenage girls through the Los Angeles-based mentoring nonprofit WriteGirl, and teaches and consults privately in Los Angeles.
In her young-adult novel Nothing in Common, Bottner chronicles the lives of Melissa Warren, a wealthy teenager, and Sara Gregori, the daughter of Melissa's maid. Mrs. Grigori had a motherly relationship with both girls, and following her death Melissa and Sara each attempt to circumvent their grief, in different ways.
Let Me Tell You Everything: Memoirs of a Lovesick Intellectual introduces Brogan Arthur, a high-school senior who is passionate about books, politics, and the
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world of ideas. Brogan's feminist ideals are confused, however, by her infatuation with her handsome social studies teacher. Hazel Rochman commented in Booklist that Bottner's "witty voice is nicely controlled as she mocks feminist rhetoric, yet at the same time affirms her commitment."
Written for younger readers, Zoo Song dramatizes the simple theme of working together despite differences of opinion. "Although a replay of an old song, Bottner's moral tale is light, and readers will harken to it," maintained a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In one of several books Bottner has created featuring an unusual heroine, Bootsie Barker Bites illustrates a theme in keeping with that of Zoo Song, but with a somewhat darker tone. The dreadful Bootsie Barker appears to be sweet, but when the adults disappear she becomes thoroughly cruel. Bootsie terrorizes the story's narrator, a younger girl forced to play with Bootsie while the girls' mothers visit with one another. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Bootsie Barker Bites "an entertaining, insightful glimpse into a child's real world," while Ann A. Flowers concluded in Horn Book: "The satisfaction of seeing a bully get her comeuppance is guaranteed to make a young reader's heart sing." Bootsie returns in Bootsie Barker, Ballerina.
The comical Hurricane Music represents another example of Bottner's effective use of humor. As a Kirkus Reviews critic remarked, in Hurricane Music "Bottner makes her playful, syncopated text tongue-in-cheek from start to finish." After discovering a clarinet in her basement, Aunt Margaret finds herself unable to afford music lessons and opts to "study the sounds of life" instead. Booklist reviewer Mary Harris Veeder noted that "any child who's ever tried to master an instrument will identify with [Aunt Margaret's] vigorous glee."
Another Bottner story with musical undertones is Nana Hannah's Piano, which puts a spin on the time-tested story about a boy who would rather play baseball than practice the piano. However, a week spent with Nana Hannah while recovering from a sprained ankle changes the boy's attitude. A Kirkus Reviews critic praised Nana Hannah's Piano, commenting: "Sharing, caring and a patch of common ground—Bottner knows the ingredients, and fashions them into a minor ode to encouragement."
In the picture book Be Brown!, illustrated by Barry Gott, Bottner tells a story about a boy who attempts to train his disobedient brown pup. Each time his young master orders the young dog to do a task, the animal disobeys and does the complete opposite. Be Brown! is sparse in words, including only one command per page, but is not sparse in content; as a Kirkus Reviews critic noted, "Bottner is nicely communicative about the absence of communication" and her story "commands attention."
Bottner touches on the subject of fear in The Scaredy Cats, which introduces a feline family whose members are too afraid to do anything. Mother and Father cat are afraid to drive because they fear the car will go too fast; they do not open their mail because they are afraid of being disappointed; and they are afraid to let Baby Scaredy wear her new dress because they fear she will stain it. The Scaredy Cats presents "a funny and revealing look at our fears," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, in School Library Journal, noted of Bottner's stylistic approach that the author's "serious tone is a perfect counterpoint to the increasing ridiculousness of the Scaredy Cats' fears." In 2003, The Scaredy Cats was chosen as a "One Picture Book, One Community" title for Miami-Dade first graders.
Wallace's Lists is one of several comic collaborations between Bottner and her husband, Dr. Gerald Kruglik. Focusing on the disadvantages of planning too much, the book introduces Wallace, a mouse who starts each day of his orderly life by checking his to-do lists. Wallace's life is thrown asunder when he meets a new neighbor, Albert the mouse, who approaches life in a more impetious way. Under Albert's influence, Wallace gradually gives up his systematic approach to life, and learns to appreciate the value of spontaneity. Critics applauded Bottner's story, remarking on the author's humor and ability to engage readers. Lauralyn Persson, writing in School Library Journal, reviewed the title and noted: "The writing is memorable … and the authors provide just the right amount of details," making "this picture book … a winner." Similarly a Publishers Weekly reviewer stated of the book that Wallace's Lists "goes on the recommended list."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Bottner, Barbara, Be Brown!, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 2002.
Bottner, Barbara, and Gerald Kruglik, The Scaredy Cats, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Booklist, July, 1989, p. 1891; June 1-15, 1995, p. 1782.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1984, p. 62; January, 1987, p. 83; September, 1992, pp. 6-7; April, 1997, p. 277.
Horn Book, March-April, 1993, pp. 193-194.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1989, p. 760; September, 1, 1992, p. 1126; September 10, 1996, p. 1147; April 1, 1997, p. 549; December 15, 2001, review of Be Brown!, p. 1754; March 15, 2003, review of The Scaredy Cats, p. 76.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1984, p. 87; August 28, 1987, p. 78; June 7, 2004, review of Wallace's Lists, p. 49.
School Library Journal, November, 1986, p. 97; February, 19 93, p. 69; May, 1995, pp. 81-82; April, 2003, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of The Scaredy Cats, p. 116; June, 2004, Lauralyn Persson, review of Wallace's Lists, p. 96.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1989, p. 98.
Barbara Bottner Home Page, http://www.barbarabottnerbooks.com (April 10, 2006).