Butcher, Kristin 1951-

views updated

BUTCHER, Kristin 1951-

PERSONAL: Born April 23, 1951; married Rob Butcher, August 15, 1970; children: Sara Newton, Dan. Education: University of Victoria, teacher certification, 1972. University of Winnipeg, B.A. (education), 1987; attended University of Manitoba, 1989.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—4451 Wilkerson Rd., Victoria, British Columbia V8Z 5C2, Canada. Agent— Transatlantic Literary Agency, 72 Glengowan Rd., Toronto, Ontario M4N 1G4, Canada. E-mail— [email protected].

CAREER: Teacher in Manitoba and British Columbia, Canada, 1972-96; Education International, Victoria, Canada, technical writer, 1996-97, author, 1997—. Worked variously as a real estate sales administer, property manager assistant, office manager, item records clerk, tour package organizer, and cashier.

MEMBER: Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers, Children's Writers and Illustrators (liaison/recording secretary of Vancouver Island and Gulf Island branch), Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable, Canadian Children's Book Centre.

AWARDS, HONORS: Silver Birch Award regional winner, Ontario Library Association (OLA), 1998, and Silver Pencil Award (Netherlands), both for The Runaways; Great Canadian Short Story Competition runner-up, Storyteller, 1999, for "Waltzing Annie Home"; Book of the Year finalist, Canadian Library Association (CLA), 2000, for The Tomorrow Tunnel, Best Bet selection, OLA, 2001, Book of the Year for Children shortlist, CLA, Violet Downey Book for Children shortlist, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, and Our Choice selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre, all 2002, and British Columbia Children's Choice Award shortlist, 2003, all for The Gramma War; Best Bet selection, OLA, and Children's Book Award nominee, CLA, both for Cairo Kelly and the Mann.


The Runaways, Kids Can Press (Toronto, Canada), 1998.

The Tomorrow Tunnel, Thistledown Press (Saskatoon, Canada), 1999.

The Gramma War, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, Canada), 2001.

Cairo Kelly and the Mann, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, Canada), 2002.

Summer of Suspense, Whitecap Books (North Vancouver, Canada), 2002.

The Hemingway Tradition, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, Canada), 2002.

The Trouble with Liberty, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, Canada), 2003.

Zee's Way, Orca Book Publishers (Victoria, Canada), in press.

Also author of short story "Waltzing Annie Home." Contributor of book reviews to Canadian Materials and Canadian Book Review Annual.

WORK IN PROGRESS: One Marigold Summer, a coming-of-age novel for adolescents; After, an historical novel; Lions, Spies, and Chocolate Cake; Simon & the Runaway Sock; Ladders Don't Care; Hating Thomas, a novel for middle readers.

SIDELIGHTS: Kristin Butcher's books for adolescents often feature young characters who have a problem to solve and end up learning much about themselves in the process. Her award-winning 1998 book, The Runaways, tells the story of Nick, who is having family troubles. He is confused and upset when his mother tells him she is having a baby with the stepfather Nick dislikes. The young boy decides to run away and finds himself in an old abandoned house—but he is not alone. Another runaway is also seeking shelter in the house. Considered to everyone in town as a just a homeless person, Luther lives on the streets, keeping a secret about his painful past. The two become friends, and Nick soon understands that his life is not so bad when compared to others. While he returns to his family, the teenager does not forget Luther and begins to work on a school report about the poor and homeless in his town. Nick also volunteers at a local soup kitchen and helps Luther in a way no one else had ever been able to. A Kirkus Reviews critic called The Runaways a "convincing view of the sparking of a young person's social conscience," while Lucinda Lockwood, reviewing the novel for School Library Journal, called it "an interesting, sensitive portrayal of homeless citizens."

In The Gramma War, Butcher's main character, Annie, has had her life turned upside down. Her grandmother can no longer live alone and must move in with Annie and her family. This means that Annie now has to send her gerbils to the neighbors and share a room with her grumpy older sister. To make matters worse, Gramma is ill and difficult to live with. She picks on Annie and makes demands all day long. When Annie's favorite teacher leaves, she thinks her life is over, but suddenly she develops an interest her ancestors and joins the Junior Genealogical Society. She is able to enlist the help of her grandmother to find out about her family's history, and they soon develop a relationship of their own. Annie learns to deal with a wide range of emotions in this book that Debbie Feulner of School Library Journal called a "heartwarming story about change in a young person's life."

Butcher told CA: "I've noticed when I read author biographies, that many writers are or have been teachers. I'm not quite sure why that is, but it is—and I'm no exception. For me, teaching was good because it helped me to understand children better. You see, I never really was one myself. Children are active, and I've always been more of a watcher than a doer. Maybe that's why I never learned to swim or skate very well. Perhaps it's also why I was farmed off to the outfield during neighborhood baseball games. I shouldn't give the impression that I was a washout at everything. I could climb trees, though I was even better at falling out of them. And I rode a bike; I even have an assortment of scars to prove it.

"I may not have been overly athletic, but I did have a great imagination and super friends. We put on theatrical extravaganzas, produced magazines, ran detective agencies, held funerals for birds, operated roadside stands of many varieties, and conducted safaris in the woods behind our homes. I always think I grew up in a wonderful era, but perhaps it's all in the way I choose to remember it. But I do remember it—vividly—and that helps me in my writing. It's really not difficult to show a character's thoughts and feelings when you've experienced them yourself.

"I know this sounds crazy, but when I'm writing, I never really know what's going to happen until I write it. I begin with a general idea, and I mull it over for a while to see if it wants to go anywhere. When characters walk into my thoughts, I get to know them. They usually arrive with names. It's like I look at them in my head and they introduce themselves. I might not even like their names, but that's who they are, and I accept them. Then I talk to them. I ask them questions and listen to their answers. I put them in situations and watch what they do. Once I have at least two characters, I note how they interact with each other. I never have to question whether or not they are acting realistically, because I'm not making them do anything. I'm simply recording their thoughts, words, and actions. I think this is probably a lucky thing for a writer.

"For me then, writing is just as exciting as reading—maybe more exciting—because I'm the one doing it and it's still a surprise! Even when I think I know what's going to happen next, the characters can take the plot in a completely different direction than I had intended. And what they do is always better than what I had planned. That's when I look at my pen and wonder if the whole story is inside it or me."



Booklist, April 15, 1998, p. 1444; October 1, 2001, p. 318.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 2002, p. 166.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1998, review of The Runaways, p. 399.

Resource Links, June, 2001, p. 8; June, 2002, p. 10.

School Library Journal, April, 1998, Lucinda Lockwood, review of The Runaways, p. 128; September, 2001, Debbie Feulner, review of The Gramma War, p. 223.