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Betty G. Birney

Biography

Betty G. Birney

From her website

I wrote my first "book" at age seven. It was called "Teddy Bear in the Woods" and was followed by a sequel. Luckily, my parents encouraged my writing and my sister, Janet, was a great writer and role model.

I didn't just write, however. When I wasn't roller-skating (my favorite pastime), I was riding my bike, playing piano, swimming, reading, playing cards and board games or just hanging out with my friends. I loved school, but I loved vacations, too! 

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From kindergarten through graduation, I attended school in Affton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Then I graduated from Webster College (now Webster University) in Webster Groves, Missouri. Of course, I majored in English and kept on writing.

After working in advertising in St. Louis, Missouri and in Chicago, Illinois, I eventually moved to Southern California. First, I worked for Disneyland (fun job!) in the advertising department. The monorail whizzed past my window all day long. Then I worked at the Disney Studio in Burbank, where I had another fun job, writing and producing television and radio commercials and theatrical trailers (previews of coming attractions) for everything from re-releases of "Cinderella" and "Fantasia" to "Tex."

When the Disney Channel was started, I became a writer and story editor for WELCOME TO POOH CORNER. Since then, I've written more than 200 episodes of animated and live-action television programs including MADELINE, DOUG, BOBBY'S WORLD, DUMBO'S CIRCUS, THE PUZZLE PLACE, CAMP CANDY, LITTLE MOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, WHERE'S WALDO, FRAGGLE ROCK and ZOOBILEE ZOO. That's right, I write cartoons! I also wrote a number of award-winning afterschool specials and many interactive CD-ROM programs, including the award-winning "Berenstain Bears on their Own," "Richard Scarry's Busiest Neighborhood Ever," and "The Crayon Factory."

A made-for-television family movie I wrote, MARY CHRISTMAS, starring John Schneider, Cynthia Gibb and Tom Bosley, aired on the PAX network in 2002. It was the highest rated movie in PAX history and has aired each Christmas season since then.

I have been fortunate enough to win a Writer's Guild of America Award, three Humanitas Prizes (as well as two other nominations.) I also won a Daytime Emmy Award for MADELINE, and two other Emmy nominations, a Christopher Award and many children's choice awards for THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY. I've been inducted into the Affton (MO) School District Hall of Fame and received the Outstanding Alumna Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at Webster University. I am also on the Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences.

 

But my first love - going back to age seven - is writing books. Over the years, I've written more than 35 children's books, many of them on Disney themes.

Some people find it strange that I've worked in so many mediums but to me, a story is a story and I am a story-teller. Some stories are better told in a small flap book. Others belong on the big screen. Once I get "inside the story," it doesn't matter whether I'm telling the story of a honey-loving bear or a confused teenager; the process of creating characters and plots is really the same and never boring.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an actress, as well as a writer. While I later changed my mind, I ended up marrying an actor, FRANK BIRNEY. Through the years, I have watched him play everything from a tango-dancing butler to a presidential cabinet member. Once he even played a children's book writer! For six seasons, he played Judge Warren West on the ABC show, THE PRACTICE and he portrayed Judge William Howe in several episodes of BOSTON LEGAL. He's also been in shows like CASTLE, THE OFFICE, FRANKLIN AND BASH, and on and on. He has also appeared in numerous commercials including Tostitos, VitaminWater, IBM, Halo 3 and more!. I have two wonderful stepdaughters, Rebecca Frank and Anna Ross, who are both talented artists, graphic designers and businesswomen, and a terrific son, Walshe, who lives in New York City and is a buyer for Murray's Cheese and happily engaged.. Then there's the youngest member of the family, now ten years old, Remy, daughter of Rebecca and her husband, Gary. Anna and her husband Tobias live in Minneapolis. 

But no matter what else is going on, I keep on writing!

Betty G. Birney

Books by Betty G. Birney

by Betty G. Birney - Animals , Children's, Children's 8-12, Fiction, Humor

When Og the Frog first comes to Room 26, he doesn't know what to think. He misses his friends from the pond, there are all kinds of strange noises, and the water is his tank just might be too clean. But the furry, squeaky fellow living next to him is endlessly entertaining, the kids sure are friendly and they put big fat crickets right into his tank. All of this gives Og lots of ideas for one of his favorite pastimes --- making up poems and songs. But he gets stumped when talk turns to sending him back to the pond. Will he have to say good-bye to all his new friends?

by Betty G. Birney - Children's 7-9, Friendship
Signs of spring are very exciting to everyone at Longfellow School. Mrs. Brisbane’s class has seen flowers poking out of snow and baby birds hatching, and Just-Joey even brought in tadpoles that are growing into frogs. It also means Family Fun Night is coming up, and all of the students’ families are involved in making amazing activities. 
 
Humphrey helps in many ways, of course, but he can’t stop wondering about his own family. He doesn’t know anything about his mom or dad. Luckily, all of his wonderful friends help him see that families come in many shapes and sizes, and Humphrey’s might be the biggest (and best!) one of all.
by Betty G. Birney - Animals , Children's 5-9
Class pets don’t usually go to the school fair, but of course Humphrey does!
 
Besides the usual bouncy castles, beanbag games, painted faces and delicious treats, Longfellow School’s fair is also having a contest for best class spirit. Of course everyone in Room 26 agrees that Humphrey and Og are the biggest reasons their class is so special, and they make costumes and signs to show everyone why. Humphrey is disappointed when he hears it will be too hot and sunny for a hamster or frog to go to the fair. Good thing they have friends who are full of good ideas!
by Betty G. Birney - Children's 8-12, Fiction, Humor, Pets

So many secrets are flying around Room 26 that Humphrey can barely keep track. Mrs. Brisbane knows a student is leaving, but Humphrey can't figure out which one. (Even more confusing, Mrs. Brisbane seems unsqueakably happy about it.) The class is studying the Ancient Egyptians, and some of the kids have made up secret clubs and secret codes. Even Aldo is holding back news from Humphrey.

by Betty G. Birney - Children's 8-12, Fiction, Humor, Pets

It’s pawsitively easy for Humphrey to picture exciting adventures with dragons and knights in the story Mrs. Brisbane is reading aloud. He has no trouble coming up with Plans to help his friends and tricks to entertain them. His imagination even goes a little too far when he wonders if Carlos’s imaginary friend might be a ghost.

by Betty G. Birney - Children's 8-12, Children's Nonfiction, Pets

This nonfiction companion to the bestselling Humphrey series teaches readers all about animals and pet care. Filled with great facts about a variety of different animals, this book serves as a fun introduction to anyone interested in taking care of a pet.

by Betty G. Birney - Children's 8-12, Fiction, Humor, Pets

The holidays are coming and Humphrey is unsqueakably excited. He loves to hear about all the different ways his friends in Room 26 celebrate and to watch them make costumes and learn songs for the Winter Wonderland pageant. (He even squeaks along!) But with so much to do, will the holidays go according to plan?

by Betty G. Birney - Children's 8-12, Fiction, Humor, Pets

Humphrey has always investigated things, like why Speak-Up-Sayeh was so quiet and Tall-Paul and Small-Paul didn't get along, but this is a true mystery --- Mrs. Brisbane is missing! She just didn't show up in Room 26 one morning and no one told Humphrey why.

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

Humphrey is excited to get back to Room 26 and see all his old classmates. But on the first day of school, a bunch of strange kids arrive and no matter how loudly he squeaks up, they don't realize they're in the wrong room! Once Humphrey gets over the shock of being with a whole new group of students, he gets busy learning all about them and their problems. 

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

When Humphrey hears that school is ending, he panics. School ends? What’s a classroom hamster to do if he’s not in school? But as it turns out, there’s something thrilling in store for Humphrey and Og the frog: going to Camp Happy Hollow with Ms. Mac and lots of the kids from Room 26! Camper Humphrey meets a friendly wild mouse, tracks down Og when he gets lost by the lake and uses his wily charm to help kids adjust to cabin life and make new friends

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

Humphrey is in for his biggest adventure yet! When his friends begin studying the ocean and sailing, he not only discovers the new and exciting world of the library, but also stows away aboard a model boat and takes a very perilous sail on Potter’s Pond. Even with all this excitement, he finds time to smooth rough waters between Gail and her free-spirited mom, help competitive Kirk see that winning isn’t everything, and investigate whether his pal Aldo is really planning to become a pirate and sail the high seas.

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

Being a classroom hamster means having to be ready for anything, but suddenly there are a lot of big surprises in Humphrey’s world. Some are exciting, like seeing the playground during a fire drill and getting to roll around in a hamster ball. But some aren’t so good, like a cat creeping around, a different janitor who might be from another planet and the most shocking thing of all --- the possibility of Mrs. Brisbane retiring.Even with all that’s going on, Humphrey makes time to help a few classmates with their problems. But could Mrs. Brisbane leaving school be one problem that’s just too big for this little guy to solve?

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

Humphrey usually helps solve problems, but now he’s caused a big one: Golden-Miranda gets in trouble when Humphrey is caught outside of his cage on her watch. No one knows about his lock-that-doesn’t-lock and he can’t exactly squeak up on her behalf. While Humphrey manages to show Pay-Attention-Art that math is important outside of class, help Sit-Still-Seth actually sit still, and survive a trip to the vet, can he clear Miranda’s name without giving up his freedom forever?

by Betty G. Birney - Friendship, Humor, Pets

After the holidays, Humphrey is shocked by a big surprise in Room 26 --- a new class pet! Humphrey tries to be welcoming, but Og the frog doesn't respond to any of his friendly squeaks or visits. Plus, the students are so interested in Og, they almost stop paying attention to Humphrey altogether. Humphrey doesn't like the mad-bad-sad feelings he's had since Og came, but luckily he still gets to have adventures with different kids on the weekends.Friendship can be tricky, but Humphrey is an intrepid problem-solver. If any hamster can become buddies with a frog, he can.

by Betty G. Birney - Humor, Pets

You can learn a lot about life by observing another species.  That's what Humphrey was told when he was first brought to Room 26.  And boy is it true!  There are always adventures in the classroom and each weekend he gets to sleep over with different students.  Humphrey learns to read, write, shoot rubber bands (only in self-defense, of course), turn off TVs, teach English as a second language and more.  With a lock-that-doesn't-lock and an adventurous spirit, what more could a mischievous hamster want?