M. Christina Butler (1934–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1934, in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England; Education: Attended St. Joseph's Convent. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Church of England (Anglican). Hobbies and other interests: Music, swimming, walking, travel, reading.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Little Tiger Press, 1 The Coda Ctr., 189 Munster Rd., London SW6 6AW, England.
Leeds General Infirmary, Leeds, England, state-registered nurse, 1953–57; Halifax Infirmary, Sheffield, England, worked in Outpatient's Casualty Department, 1958–60, district nursing sister, 1960–65. Playgroup supervisor, 1973–76; preschool nursery supervisor, 1977–84, 1987. Served on various village committees; governor of local primary school, 1973–77, 1989–; local church warden.
Fine Arts Society.
Can I Live with You?, illustrated by Meg Rutherford, Macdonald Picture Books (Hove, England), 1988, published as Can I Stay with You?, Dial (New York, NY), 1988.
Too Many Eggs, illustrated by Meg Rutherford, David Godine (London, England), 1988.
Where Are My Bananas?, Macdonald Picture Books (Hove, England), 1989.
Stanley in the Dark, illustrated by Meg Rutherford, Simon & Schuster (Hemel Hempstead, England), 1990.
Picnic Pandemonium, illustrated by Margaret Rutherford, George Stevens, 1991.
The Dinosaur's Egg, illustrated by Val Biro, Simon & Schuster (Hemel Hempstead, England), 1992.
Mole in a Hole (and Bear in a Lair), illustrated by Meg Rutherford, Simon & Schuster (Hemel Hempstead, England), 1993.
Archie the Ugly Dinosaur, illustrated by Val Biro, Barron's (Hauppauge, NY), 1996.
The Dinosaurs' Dinner, illustrated by Val Biro, Macdonald Young (Hove, England), 1997.
Big Bad Rex, illustrated by Val Biro, Macdonald Young (Hove, England), 1999.
Who's Been Eating My Porridge?, illustrated by Daniel Howarth, Little Tiger (Wilton, CT), 2004.
One Snowy Night, illustrated by Tina Macnaughton, Good Books (Intercourse, PA), 2004.
Snow Friends, illustrated by Tina Macnaughton, Good Books Intercourse, PA), 2005.
Also author of children's serials and short stories for local radio.
British writer M. Christina Butler draws from her love of nature and her fond memories of farm life in many of her books for younger readers. In One Snowy Night a young hedgehog worries that he has no gifts for his many best friends; Snow Friends features a cast of animal characters—Bear, Otter, and Rabbit—as they band together to make the best snowman ever; and Can I Stay with You? follows a tiny bird after he falls out of his safe nest and must make his way home. In Who's Been Eating My Porridge? a young bear's struggle at the dinner table due to his refusal to eat his porridge is resolved by his imaginative mom. Praising the illustrations by Daniel Howarth, Andrea Tarr wrote in School Library Journal that in Who's Been Eating My Porridge? Butler spins "a pleasant tale, complete with a mild surprise at the end.
Butler was born in Scarborough, a seaside resort in North Yorkshire. While she was still young, her family moved to a small village, and these rural surroundings provided her with memories that she would later draw upon in writing her books for young children. "At a time when farming embraced a rich variety of activities that young people could take part in, I was fortunate enough to have a farmer's daughter as my best friend," she once recalled to SATA. "From the age of about eight years old, weekends and holidays were spent on the farm. There was so much to do. We devised our own games—had secret codes, maps, and dens. Our constant companions were dogs and horses."
Spending most of her time out of doors did not leave Butler much time for reading when she was young, although she recalls being read to by her mother. The stories of Hans Christian Andersen were among her favorites: "The Little Match Girl … never failed to have us both in tears long before the end," recalled the writer.
"I loved art but was never drawn to long essay writing," Butler admitted, adding that she "was, however, extremely happy at school." When she turned eighteen, she enrolled at Leeds General Infirmary in West Yorkshire, where she obtained her state registration as a nurse after four years of study. Following graduation, she married William Anthony Butler, and it was his busy career that prompted Butler to begin her own career as a children's book author. "As my husband was often attending evening meetings, [I] began writing children's stories. For years I wrote for local radio; short stories and serials, but always cherished the hope of being published," Butler once explained. The many hours she spent reading aloud after the birth of her two daughters were followed by several years spent working with other children as the supervisor of a nursery school. Butler became familiar with the wide variety of books available for young children and grew interested in the idea of writing children's picture books. In 1987, Can I Stay with You?, her first book, was published. Designed as a novelty picture book, it is the story of a little bird who tries to find a new home after he accidentally falls out of the family nest. Other books by Butler include Too Many Nests, Stanley in the Dark, and Big Bad Rex, the last illustrated by Val Biro.
Several of Butler's characters are based on people she recalls from her childhood spent on the farm. "Mrs. Bear in Too Many Eggs is my farming friend's mother—the best cook in the world who never used a recipe in her life," she explained. "The mouse in Stanley in the Dark is a memory of long walks over the field in the dark to fasten the poultry houses, surrounded by the sounds and shadows of the night, some rather scary."
"The picture-book format is my ideal medium," Butler once explained. "With an interest in art—and not being particularly disposed to writing long tracts of text—I find the combination of moving the story on in the pictures and with a minimum of words fascinating." "To be able to write stories for young children that captivate, stimulate, entertain, and inform in an humorous way and leave them wanting more is my overriding ambition," the author/illustrator continued. "There is something very special about a group of wide-eyed four year olds listening intently to a story."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Horn Book, July, 1990, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2004, review of Who's Been Eating My Porridge?, p. 738; October 1, 2005, review of Snow Friends, p. 1077.
School Library Journal, February, 1989, p. 66; January, 2005, Andrea Tarr, review of Who's Been Eating My Porridge?, p. 88; November, 2005, Amelia Jenkins, review of Snow Friends, p. 83.
Times Educational Supplement, March 11, 1988, p. 24; March 29, 1991, p. 23.