Bahr, Mary (Madelyn) 1946-

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BAHR, Mary (Madelyn) 1946-

PERSONAL: Born May 20, 1946, in Bemidji, MN; daughter of Frederick J. (a commercial printer) and Frances Mary (a homemaker; maiden name, Larson) Bahr; married Bill James Fritts (a banker), December 27, 1969; children: Jason Erik, Joshua Adam, Jordan Patrick, Jeremy Zachariah. Education: College of St. Catherine, B.S., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, writing, visiting zoos, volunteering with son at the humane society, comedy, music, cats.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—807 Hercules Place, Colorado Springs, CO 80906-1130.

CAREER: Minnesota Department of Corrections, library trainee, 1968-69; Presbyterian Medical Center, Denver, CO, medical librarian, 1969-70, registrar of Nursing School, 1971-74; church librarian, 1978-80; Cobb County Public Library, library assistant, 1981-84; Pikes Peak Library District, information and reference technician at Penrose Library, 1990—. Church librarian in Marietta, GA, 1981-84; Cheyenne Mountain School District, member of special education advisory committee, 1991—; volunteer at libraries in Kansas, Georgia, and Colorado. Speaker and leader of workshops.

MEMBER: International Reading Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Rocky Mountain Society of Children's Book Writers (member of the board, 1990-92; retreat director, 1990-91), Colorado Authors League (member of the board, 1996-97).

AWARDS, HONORS: Writing grant, Highlights Foundation, 1988; Notable Trade Book in Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council, 1992, for The Memory Box; Magazine Merit Honor, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1992, for "Letter to a President"; Top Hand Awards, Colorado Author's League, 1993, for The Memory Box, "Two Fishermen," and "Letter to a President," and 1994, for "A Little Life Music"; Conference Grant, Colorado Author's League, 1994 and 1996.


The Memory Box, illustrated by David Cunningham, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1992.

Jordi's Run, Royal Fireworks, 1997.

If Nathan Were Here, illustrated by Karen A. Jerome, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2000.

My Brother Loved Snowflakes: The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man, Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, PA), 2002.

Contributor to books, including Guiltless Catholic Parenting from A to Y, Charis (Ann Arbor, MI), 1995; God's Abundance: 365 Days to a Simple Life, Starburst (Lancaster, PA), 1997; God's Vitamin C for the Hurting Spirit, Starburst (Lancaster, PA), 1997. Columnist for New Writer's Magazine, 1991-93; reviewer for Five Owls, 1993—. Contributor of stories, articles, and poems to magazines, including Living with Children, Liguorian, Writer's Digest, Woman's Touch, and Our Little Friend.

ADAPTATIONS: The Memory Box has been recorded on audio cassette and released by Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1996.

SIDELIGHTS: Mary Bahr's books for children have taken on difficult subjects, including Alzheimer's disease and the death of a child. Her first novel, The Memory Box, is a story of a young boy who is unexpectedly presented with his grandfather's memory loss due to Alzheimer's disease. Zach, the protagonist, is enthralled by his grandfather's stories every summer, but one summer there is a difference. He finds that his grandfather is not as apt to tell stories as he is to start filling a box with memories of the past. Zach's grandmother encourages him to help with the box, but he does not truly understand why until his grandfather wanders off one day, returning confused and in tears. The elderly man is slowly losing his memory to Alzheimer's. School Library Journal reviewer Judy Constantinides called The Memory Box "a moving, sympathetic, and ultimately comforting book." And a Publishers Weekly contributor added that "love and reassurance fill these pages—along with the sadness of loss and knowledge that there is more to come."

The subject of If Nathan Were Here is equally poignant. The story begins with a boy thinking of all the things he would be enjoying if only his best friend, Nathan, were with him. Midway through the book, it is revealed that Nathan has died. The children in his class at school are encouraged to cope with their feelings of loss by creating a memory box, in which they can place tokens of remembrance. The grieving child has no idea what to put in the box, and spends some time in a tree fort he shared with Nathan, thinking it over. His feelings of loss are "simply expressed" and "sympathetic," according to Patricia Pearl Dole in School Library Journal. While the story has a "hopeful message," it is all the more worthwhile because it does not offer easy answers, stated Connie Fletcher in Booklist. The depiction of grief "feels very real," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Bahr turned to biography with My Brother Loved Snowflakes: The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man. Wilson Bentley became famous for his pioneering work in photography, using snowflakes as his subjects. Bahr chose to relate Bentley's life from the perspective of the photographer's older brother, Charlie. Her book, which is intended for an elementary-school audience, offers the "emotional heart of the story" rather than cold facts, related Kathleen Kelly MacMillan in School Library Journal. MacMillan noted that the book is unclear as to the source of the information presented, but concluded that using Charlie's voice proves an effective way to create "an affectionate and moving portrait" of this unique photographer.

Bahr once told CA: "When asked how I became a writer, I answer 'accidentally.' I then go on to explain how my journey really did begin with an accident; how I didn't choose writing so much as writing chose me.

"When I graduated from high school in northern Minnesota, I headed for college in southern Minnesota to become a nurse. I had wanted to be a nurse ever since first grade. But during my third year, while training on a geriatric floor, I came to work one morning to discover that a favorite patient had died during the night. I was upset for a very long time and realized that nursing was not for me. Since the only things I loved as much as the thought of being a nurse were reading, books, and libraries, I decided to become a librarian.

"Oddly enough, my first job after graduation was as a librarian in a hospital library. During this time I met and married Bill Fritts and we became the parents of four sons—Jason, Joshua, Jordan, and Jeremy—the four reasons I eventually began writing for children. They reminded me of growing up and all the powerful feelings that went along with it—the thrill of skating on the lake as the ice cracked, the excitement of riding atop a float in the fourth of July parade, the pride of building a tree fort in the woods, the sadness of walking alone to school while a best friend walked with someone else, the terror of being bullied by a girl on the playground, the panic of a piano recital, the nervousness of being a radio show hostess, the joy of climbing out of a canoe in the middle of the lake, and the ecstasy of falling in love for the first time.

"For the next few years I worked as a church librarian, in a school library, accounting firm library, public library and a library for parole officers of juvenile offenders. But an accident—a horrible accident—changed all of that. One sunshiny Saturday morning, our three-year-old fell under the wheel of a car. I had to pull him out from underneath the wheels and try to stop the bleeding as his brothers screamed in the back seat and Bill barreled through traffic to the hospital. While the small hand was operated on three times, something moved me to write about the incredible people who helped our family survive this nightmare. The editor for whom I was writing book reviews for the library suggested I send the piece to Parish Family Digest. I sent it. They published it, and I've been writing ever since. That's how writing chose me, and that's how I finally discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"I write for children and adults—fiction and nonfiction—books and magazine articles—serious and not so serious—on lots of things that only have one thing in common—they're subjects or ideas or people that I care about—that I'm passionate about—that I must write about.

"For those who ask 'how' to begin the writing journey, the simplest advice I give is 'read what you want to write, and write what you want to read.' But you'd better write it with a passion because if you don't, nobody will want to read your words. . . . If we have a dream, and if we work hard to make that dream come true, I truly believe it will. The trick?. . . . Never, never, never give up."



Booklist, February 15, 1992, Ilene Cooper, review of The Memory Box, p. 1106; April 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of If Nathan Were Here, p. 1550.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1992, p. 148.

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), May 21, 2000, review of If Nathan Were Here, p. T&B5.

Horn Book Guide, fall, 1992, p. 222.

Magpies, November, 1993, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, March 30, 1992, review of The Memory Box, p. 105; September 25, 1995, p. 58; April 3, 2000, review of If Nathan Were Here, p. 80.

School Library Journal, September, 1992, Judy Constantinides, review of The Memory Box, p. 196; August, 2000, Patricia Pearl Dole, review of If Nathan Were Here, p. 144; September, 2000, review of My Brother Loved Snowflakes: The Story of Wilson A. Bentley, the Snowflake Man, p. 209; September, 2002, Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, review of My Brother Loved Snowflakes, p. 209.*