For two years she worked with an ensemble group which toured the US and Europe but was based in New York City. During that time she became a substitute teacher to augment her income. Because she had no training in early education, she was forced to make up her own curriculum. ("Couldn't play the piano or sing," she sighs.)
"Within a year, she had changed directions. "From out of nowhere," she says, "I decided to pursue children's book illustration. I thought I could do original work, rather than go into advertising, or starve as an unproved painter."
Bottner never dreamed of becoming a writer. But after an award-winning playwright wrote a manuscript for her, which was not accepted, she decided to try for herself. "It was a big surprise, getting to meet editors and receive encouragement," she says. "That was the old days, when people really had time to foster new talent. I had a few book 'dummies' before the first one was accepted. I had so little encouragement as an artist, that I was astonished. It's really been a wonderful experience for me. The other things I've done, journalism, animation, television and script writing, book reviewing, humor essays, non-fiction, all were born from the careful guidance of my editors through the years.
"I also began to teach. Since I was really an uneducated writer, I had to figure out for myself why stories worked or not. I'm proud to say that many writers, full of talent, passed through my doors and through the doors of my heart and learned along with me."
Barbara Bottner has written and illustrated more than twenty books for children, including Bootsie Barker Bites, which was named a Junior Library Guild Selection for 1992. She also writes for both film and television.
Ms. Bottner lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Gerald, whose music can also cause changes in the weather.
copyright 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, July 25, 2011:
"Bottner's deadpan, minimalist text inspires Emberley to some terrific portraits in extremis--this isn't just an alphabet book, it's an encyclopedia of kindergarten deportment, from aggression to zealotry."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, October 2011:
Miss Mabel’s class roll includes an alphabetical assortment of children’s names. Readers meet each child in consecutive order, unfortunately engaged in a domino effect of unneighborly behavior. “It was a quiet morning until… Adelaide annoyed Bailey. Bailey blamed Clyde. Clyde cried. Dexter drooled on Eloise. Eloise elbowed Flora. Flora fumed,” etc. The great chain of misbehavior culminates in Adelaide’s head-to-toe soaking, having been “zapped” by Zelda with a hose. Everyone is astonished, and, finally, everyone apologizes. Emberley keeps the action rolling along with his horizontal chain of charismatic youngsters, set against long white pages and illustrated in his sketchlike pencil-and-watercolor style. He has a knack for portraying each child’s emotion in all its precocious intensity. Touches of whimsy, such as Adelaide’s tiger costume and Miss Mabel’s floral tank top over cargo shorts over polka-dot leggings ensemble, keep the whole crew endearing despite the chaos. Each letter is highlighted by a colored box, but a swiftly moving narrative that practically demands the insertion of a few sound effects during read-aloud broadens the appeal of this ABC beyond mere concept book. While storytime audiences will appreciate this well-paced tale, individual children may wish to slow down and take a closer look at Emberley’s spunky classmates than a large group reading would allow. Fortunately, the whole effect is much more pleasing than annoying.–Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2011
What’s annoying? Adelaide annoys Bailey when she runs at him wearing her tiger costume, scaring him and causing him to let the gerbil out of its cage.
So begins a rollicking preschool/early-elementary romp featuring kids who appear in alphabetical order with a corresponding action as Adelaide sets off a domino effect. “Bailey blamed Clyde. / Clyde cried. / Dexter drooled on Eloise. / Eloise elbowed Flora. / Flora fumed.” The pandemonium that ensues is a clever visual narrative loaded with details, such as the gerbil-escape subplot. The hilarity lies in the illustrations, typical Emberley style, done in mechanical pencil and watercolors. Children (and Miss Mabel, the teacher) in the alphabetical spotlight are rendered in full color, while the other characters are in black and white against colored backgrounds. The kids sport a variety of skin colors, hairdos and clothing, with one girl (Ida) in a wheelchair. How does the mayhem resolve? When Zelda zaps Adelaide with the water hose, Adelaide, as instigator, apologizes, and so does everyone else. For the trickier letters, Q is Quentin; X is Xavier; Y is Yves. One read-through will simply not be enough to enjoy all the fun. This would make a splendid project for a classroom to make up their own alphabetical list of names.
A is for one awesome, amusing, antic alphabet book. (Alphabet picture book. 4-8)