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Blake, Jon 1954–

Blake, Jon 1954–

Personal

Born November 20, 1954, in Reading, England; son of Kenneth Thomas (an electrical contractor) and Ellen Jean (a sales assistant; maiden name, Bosley) Blake; partner's name Natalie (a journalist). Education: Attended York University, 1975–78. Hobbies and other interests: Music, "protest against things."

Addresses

Home—12 Comet St., Adamsdown, Cardiff, Wales CF2 1JA, England. Agent—Gina Pollinger, 222 Old Brompton Rd., London SW5 0B2, England.

Career

Teacher of English and drama in Peterborough, England, 1979–80, and Nottingham, England, 1980–84; International Community Centre, Nottingham, assistant warden, 1984–85; part-time community education worker in Cardiff, Wales, beginning 1988.

Awards, Honors

Childrens Book Award shortlist, 1996, for Little Stupendo; Writers Guild Best Script for Children shortlist, 1996, for Life (teleplay); BBC Radio Nations Comedy Cup winner, 2001, for Degrees R Us.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Oddly (juvenile novel), illustrated by John Farman, Kestrel (London, England), 1989.

Roboskool (juvenile novel), Blackie & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1990.

Roboskool: The Revenge (juvenile novel), Blackie & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1991.

The King of Rock and Roll (juvenile novel), Walker (London, England), 1991.

Daley B. (picture book), illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Walker (London, England), 1991, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1992, published as You're a Hero, Daley B.!, 1994.

Wriggly Pig (picture book), illustrated by Susie Jenkin-Pearce, Hutchinson (London, England), 1991, Tambourine Books (New York, NY), 1992.

The Likely Stories (juvenile novel), Kestrel (London, England), 1991.

Binka and the Banana Boat (picture book), Collins (London, England), 1991.

Pilot Bird and Gums (picture book), Collins (London, England), 1991.

The Melody of Oddly (juvenile novel), Kestrel (London, England), 1992.

Impo (picture book), illustrated by Arthur Robins, Walker (London, England), 1992.

The Hell Hound of Hooley Street (short stories), Walker (London, England), 1993.

The Ghost of Joseph Grey (early reader), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.

Little Stupendo (early reader), Walker (London, England), 1995.

How I Became a Star and Other Homework Excuses (short stories), Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.

FS3 (early reader), Heinemann (London, England), 1995, published as Danger Eyes, 1999.

Mark Two, Ginn (Oxford, England), 1995.

The Sandbag Secret (historical fiction), F. Watts (London, England), 1997.

Trick or Treat? (juvenile novel), illustrated by C. Ewen, Blackie & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1998.

Showdown (short stories), Kestrel (London, England), 1998.

The Supreme Dream Machine, Walker (London, England), 1998.

Sid's War (historical fiction), F. Watts (London, England), 1999.

Down the Drain (historical fiction), F. Watts (London, England), 1999.

The Canal Diggers (historical fiction), F. Watts (London, England), 1999.

Little Stupendo Rides Again (early reader), Walker (London, England), 1999.

Little Stupendo Flies High (early reader), Walker (London, England), 2001.

The Beast of Bobbin Moor (early reader), Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.

Space Rock and Five-a-side, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.

(Adaptor) William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.

One-Girl School Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001, published with new illustrations as I Rule Dogsbottom School, 2005.

The Deadly Secret of Dorothy W., Hodder (London, England), 2004.

The Mad Mission of Jasmin J., Hodder (London, England), 2004.

Dogsbottom School Goes Totally Mental, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

Dogsbottom School Loses the Plot, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2005.

Stinky Finger's House of Fun, Hodder (London, England), 2005.

Crazy Party at the House of Fun, Hodder (London, England), 2005.

Mystery Guest at the House of Fun, Hodder (London, England), 2006.

Contributor of short fiction to anthologies, including Misfits, edited by Woodford, Bodley Head, 1984; Electric Heroes, edited by Gowar, Bodley Head, 1988; The Trick of the Tale, edited by Julia Eccleshare, Viking, 1991; and It Isn't Over till The Fat Lady Sings, edited by Gowar, Bodley Head, 1992.

Author's works have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Japanese, Chinese, Welsh, and Danish.

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

Yatesy's Rap, Kestrel (London, England), 1986.

Geoffrey's First, Walker (London, England), 1988.

Holiday in Happy Street, Blackie & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1989.

Crush (graphic novel), Ginn (Oxford, England), 1995.

Escape from the Rave Police (graphic novel; "Crush" series), Ginn (Oxford, England), 1995.

Time Exchange (graphic novel; "Crush" series), Collins (London, England), 1996.

Broken Hearts and Rock and Roll (graphic novel; "Crush" series), Heinemann (London, England), 2002.

True Beautiful Game, Walker (London, England), 2002.

PLAYS

Direct Action (television play), broadcast on Dramarama, TVS, 1986.

Net (stage play), produced in Nottingham, England, 1986.

The Birdwoman of Normal Street (stage play), produced in Wrexham, England, 1991.

Life (teleplay), produced by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-TV), 1995.

(With others) The Mouse House (animated television series), produced by BBC-TV, 1995.

Honest (for young adults), Ginn (Oxford, England), 1997.

Cut and Shut (stage play), produced in Cardiff, Wales, 1997.

Arcade Games (for young adults), Heinemann (London, England), 1999.

King (for young adults), Heinemann (London, England), 2000.

Ghost Watch (for young adults), Heinemann (London, England), 2001.

Todd and Blod (teleplay), produced by BBC-TV, 2002.

Degrees R Us (radio series), produced by BBC-Radio, 2002–03.

Blow City Rollers (stage play), produced in Cardiff, Wales, 2003.

Nightmare on Clifton Street (radio play), produced by Star Radio, 2005.

Adaptations

Several of Blake's books have been adapted as audio-books, including The Deadly Secret of Dorothy W., Chivers Children's Audio, 2004.

Sidelights

Jon Blake is a playwright as well as an author of books for young people that are often noted for their humorous portrayal of common problems. In the easy-reader trilogy comprising Little Stupendo, Little Stupendo Flies High, and Little Stupendo Rides Again Blake introduces a spunky stunt girl, while the "Dogsbottom School" series presents the saga of a girl who finds it lonely at the head of the class because she is the only student in her small private school. Many of Blake's books feature characters and plots that teen boys find appealing; in his story collection Showdown, for example, he mixes realistic language and settings with comic elements and fast-paced action. In one story, "Be Honest," the main character gets into continual trouble by keeping his vow to be completely honest, including being falsely charged with assault. The novel series that begins with Stinky Finger's House of Fun also wins boy appeal due to Blake's use of gross-out humor in stories of children unfettered by rules or parental supervision. Teresa Scragg, reviewing Showdown for School Librarian, praised Blake's stories for their "realistic language and authentic, often very funny, dialogue."

Michael Lockwood, reviewing Blake's The King of Rock and Roll for School Librarian, noted the mythic and symbolic elements in the humorous novel, with its comments on class stereotypes and issues of identity. In the story three bored young people are invited to help out a local theater group by scavenging for props. In the process they meet the king of the title, who sits royally in a stuffed armchair in the local junkyard. The kids soon decide to stage a revival for their new aging-rock-star friend. Lockwood summarized: "The plot is skillfully worked out … and reads on one level as a jokey suspense story … but more experienced readers will realise other meanings."

Blake has penned several suspense novels for younger readers, including books in the "First Thrillers" series published by Scotland-based Blackie & Sons. Trick or Treat? concerns two young children sent to stay with their mother's aunt while their mother takes her final tests for her university degree. Upon their arrival at the great aunt's home, the children become convinced that the woman's handyman is a murderer. Sneaking around at night and snooping through the man's possessions, they ultimately rescue their aunt from being poisoned. In the middle-grade novel Holiday on Happy Street Ben Lewis pens a poem that wins him a trip to his favorite fast-food restaurant, Happy Street Burger Paradise. While enjoying himself, Ben wonders why he is not allowed to visit the nearby beach. The mystery is solved when a girl named Becky shows him that by making the bricks used to build Happy Street Burger Paradise from local beach sand, the cliff on which the restaurant rests is now likely to collapse. The Deadly Secret of Dorothy W. focuses on a writing school where talented students mysteriously vanish one by one after entering the office of the mysterious Mr. Collins. When Jasmin finds herself next in line for this dubious honor, she enlists the help of friends to save her from this terrible fate. A reviewer for Junior Bookshelf deemed Trick or Treat? "easily read and exciting," while Holiday on Happy Street showcases Blake's strong writing style. Deeming The Deadly Secret of Dorothy W. a "quick-paced mystery," School Library Journal reviewer Veronica Schwartz praised Jasmin as "a smart girl who remains undaunted no matter what challenge awaits her."

Blake's books capture a wide range of audiences, not only middle graders but toddlers and teens as well. Geared for the storybook set, Daley B.—also published as You're a Hero, Daley B.!—is about a rabbit who does not realize he is a rabbit until he tries on several identities that do not suit him, including one that almost makes him a meal for a weasel. Praising Blake's "endearing" protagonist, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that, "with its three distinguishing voices—a narrator's, Daley B.'s, and the sinister weasel's—Blake's lighthearted tale begs to be read aloud."

Several of Blake's stories for younger readers feature animals as their principal characters. Illustrated by Susie Jenkins-Pearce, Wriggly Pig garnered praise for its humorous depiction of a young pig who, unable to keep still, ruins a series of family outings for his perfectly behaved siblings and parents. At the end of an exhausting day, they decide to take their wriggly relative to the doctor to see what can be done about him, but Wriggly slips away, runs into the side of a mail box, and is knocked unconscious. When the porky hero finally awakens, he finds that his family is at last able to accept him the way he is, and they all wriggle happily home. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the story "thin," but also felt it contains "a gentle sweetness." Wilson Library Bulletin reviewers Donnarae MacCann and Olga Richard complimented Blake's "consistent whimsicality" in Wriggly Pig, adding that the author "writes a spare, rhythmic text with poetic precision."

Young-adult novels by Blake include Geoffrey's First, True Beautiful Game, and several graphic novels in the "Crush" series. In Geoffrey's First the main character deals with his feelings of inadequacy by being rude and eccentric until a budding relationship with a girl allows him to face the world more honestly. True Beautiful Game focuses on a junior champion pool player whose hopes for guidance from his talented father seem to evaporate due to Dad's shiftless lifestyle. David Bennett, reviewing Geoffrey's First for Books for Keeps, praised Blake's humor, but cautioned that it might make some parents angry. Oddly, another humorous novel aimed at boys, concerns a servant-robot two boys acquire from their aunt that allows them to quickly adapt to a life of leisure. In a Books for Keeps review, Pam Harwood noted the "frenetic pace" of "this zanily funny story" after one of the boys alters Oddly the robot's programming. This change causes Oddly to have feelings, changing the boys' view of their comfortable new lifestyle. School Librarian contributor Joyce Banks re-marked that, in characteristic fashion, Blake's "style is matter-of-fact, the content ridiculous, and the two combine to make a very enjoyable story."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Wriggly Pig, p. 1764.

Books for Keeps, January, 1990, David Bennett, review of Geoffrey's First; September, 1991, Pam Harwood, review of Oddly.

Children's Book Review Service, August, 1992, p. 157.

Junior Bookshelf, April, 1989, review of Trick or Treat?, p. 67; June, 1990, pp. 146-147.

Publishers Weekly, May 18, 1992, review of Wriggly Pig, p. 68; June 29, 1992, review of Daley B., pp. 61-62.

School Librarian, February, 1989, Teresa Scragg, review of Showdown, p. 27; May, 1990, Joyce Banks, review of Oddly, p. 67; August, 1991, Michael Lockwood, review of The King of Rock and Roll, p. 104; November, 1991, review of Wriggly Pig, p. 138; November, 1992, review of Daley B., p. 138; May, 1994, review of The Hell Hound of Hooley Street, p. 59; May, 1995, review of The Ghost of Joseph Grey, p. 63; August, 1995, review of How I Became a Star and Other Homework Excuses, p. 107; summer, 2000, review of Little Stupendo Rides Again, p. 79; spring, 2003, review of One Girl School, p. 23; summer, 2003, review of The Deadly Secret of Dorothy W., p. 74; summer, 2005, Joyce Banks, review of Stinky Finger's House of Fun, p. 79; autumn, 2005, Susan Elkins, review of Dogsbottom School Goes Totally Mental, p. 135.

School Library Journal, August, 1992, Jane Marino, review of Wriggly Pig, p. 132; September, 1992, Lori A. Janick, review of Daley B., p. 198.

Times Educational Supplement, February 14, 1992, p. 31.

Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1992, Donnarae Mac-Cann, and Olga Richard, review of Wriggly Pig, pp. 82-83.

ONLINE

Jon Blake Home Page, http://www.nboyd.net (June 3, 2006).

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