Cooper, Susan 1935–
Cooper, Susan 1935–
(Susan Mary Cooper)
PERSONAL: Born May 23, 1935, in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England; immigrated to the United States, 1963; daughter of John Richard (an employee of the Great Western Railway) and Ethel May (a teacher; maiden name, Field) Cooper; married Nicholas J. Grant (a scientist and college professor), August 3, 1963 (divorced, 1983); married Hume Cronyn (an actor and playwright), 1996; children: (first marriage) Jonathan, Katharine; Anne, Bill, Peter (stepchildren); (second marriage) Tandy (stepchild). Education: Somerville College, Oxford, M.A., 1956. Hobbies and other interests: Music, islands.
CAREER: Author, playwright, screenwriter, and journalist. Sunday Times, London, England, reporter and feature writer, 1956–63. Narrator, with others, of George Balanchine's Nutcracker, Warner Bros., 1993.
MEMBER: Society of Authors (United Kingdom), Authors League of America, Authors Guild, Writers Guild of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Horn Book Honor List citation for Over Sea, under Stone; Horn Book Honor List and American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book citations, both 1970, both for Dawn of Fear; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Carnegie Medal runner-up, and ALA Notable Book citation, all 1973, and Newbery Award Honor Book, 1974, all for The Dark Is Rising; ALA Notable Book citation, for Greenwitch; Newbery Medal, Tir na N'og Award (Wales), Carnegie Medal commendation, Horn Book Honor List, and ALA Notable Book citation, all 1976, all for The Grey King; Tir na N'og Award, 1978, for Silver on the Tree; Parents' Choice Award, 1983, for The Silver Cow; Janusz Korczak Award, B'nai B'rith, and Universe Award runner-up, both 1984, both for Seaward; (with Hume Cronyn) Christopher Award, Humanitas Prize, Writers Guild of America Award, and Emmy Award nomination from Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, all 1984, all for The Dollmaker; Emmy Award nomination, 1987, and Writers Guild of America Award, 1988, for teleplay Foxfire; Horn Book Honor List citation, 1987, for The Selkie Girl.
FOR CHILDREN; FICTION
Dawn of Fear (historical fiction), illustrated by Margery Gill, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1970.
Jethro and the Jumbie (fantasy), illustrated by Ashley Bryan, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1979.
Seaward (fantasy), Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.
(Reteller) The Silver Cow: A Welsh Tale, illustrated by Warwick Hutton, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.
(Reteller) The Selkie Girl, illustrated by Warwick Hutton, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1986.
(Reteller) Tam Lin, illustrated by Warwick Hutton, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1991.
Matthew's Dragon, illustrated by Joseph A. Smith, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1991.
The Boggart (fantasy), Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1992.
Danny and the Kings, illustrated by Joseph A. Smith, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1993.
The Boggart and the Monster (fantasy), Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Margaret Mahy, Uri Orlev, and Tjomg Khing) Don't Read This! and Other Tales of the Unnatural (short stories), Front Street, 1998.
King of Shadows (historical fiction), Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1999.
Frog, illustrated by Jane Browne, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2002.
Green Boy, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 2002.
The Magician's Boy, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to books, including When I Was Your Age, edited by Amy Ehrlich, Candlewick Press (New York, NY), 1996.
"DARK IS RISING" SERIES; FANTASY
Over Sea, under Stone, illustrated by Margery Gill, J. Cape (London, England), 1965, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1966.
The Dark Is Rising, illustrated by Alan E. Cober, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1973, illustrated by Lianne Payne, Puffin (London, England), 1994.
Greenwitch, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1974.
The Grey King, illustrated by Michael Heslop, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1975.
Silver on the Tree, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1977.
FOR ADULTS; NONFICTION, EXCEPT AS NOTED
Mandrake (science fiction), J. Cape (London, England), 1964.
Behind the Golden Curtain: A View of the U.S.A., Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1965, Scribner (New York, NY), 1966.
(Editor and author of preface) J.B. Priestley, Essays of Five Decades, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1968.
J.B. Priestley: Portrait of an Author, Heinemann (London, England), 1970, Harper (New York, NY), 1971.
Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children, Margaret K. McElderry (New York, NY), 1996.
Contributor to books, including Michael Sissons and Philip French, editors, The Age of Austerity: 1945–51, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1963, Scribner (New York, NY), 1966. Author of introductions to The Christmas Revels Songbook: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice, edited by John and Nancy Langstaff, David R. Godine, 1985, published as The Christmas Revels Songbook: Carols, Processions, Rounds, Ritual, and Children's Songs in Celebration of the Winter Solstice, 1995, and A Revels Garland of Song: In Celebration of Spring, Summer, and Autumn, edited by John Langstaff, Revels, Inc., 1996. Contributor of essays to The Phoenix and the Carpet by E. Nesbit, Dell, 1987, and to anthologies of children's literature criticism. Contributor to periodicals, including Horn Book, New York Times Book Review, Magpies, and Welsh Review.
(With Hume Cronyn) Foxfire (first produced in Stratford, Ontario, 1980; produced on Broadway at Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 1982; teleplay adaptation produced by Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. [CBS], 1987), S. French (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Hume Cronyn) The Dollmaker (teleplay; adapted from the novel by Harriette Arnow), American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC), 1984.
To Dance with the White Dog (teleplay), CBS, 1993.
Also author of the teleplay Dark Encounter, 1976.
Cooper's papers are housed in the Lillian H. Smith collection, Toronto Public Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
ADAPTATIONS: Cooper's Newbery Medal acceptance speech for The Grey King was released as a sound recording, Weston Woods, 1976; The Dark Is Rising was released on audio cassette, Miller-Brody, 1979; The Silver Cow was released as a filmstrip in 1985 and as a sound recording in 1986, both Weston Woods; The Selkie Girl was released as a filmstrip and on audio cassette, Weston Woods, 1988; The Boggart was released on audio cassette, Listening Library, 1994; The Boggart and the Monster was released on audio cassette, Listening Library, 1997.
SIDELIGHTS: Called "one of the most versatile, popular, and critically acclaimed children's writers of the twentieth century" by Joel D. Chaston in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Susan Cooper is considered an exceptional author for the young whose works—fantasy novels and realistic fiction for young adults and stories and picture books for children—reflect her keen insight into human nature, her knowledge of folklore, history, and archaeology, and her ability to evoke place with authenticity. Credited with a rich, poetic literary style, Cooper is also well regarded as a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and plays for adult readers.
Characteristically, Cooper draws on the myths and legends of the British Isles as the basis for her works, and she is often praised for her ability to mesh the real and the fantastic, the ancient and the contemporary. She is best known as the creator of "The Dark Is Rising" series, a quintet of epic fantasies for young adults that depicts how a group of modern-day English children become involved in a cosmic battle between good and evil, which Cooper calls the Light and the Dark. As in several of her other books, volumes in the series feature magical experiences designed to prepare Cooper's young protagonists for conflicts which will occur throughout their lives. Favorably compared to the fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Alan Garner, these works are rooted in the mythology of Britain and feature characters from and inspired by Arthurian legend, such as Merlin the great magician and Bran, the son of King Arthur and Guinevere. Cooper is often acknowledged for weaving social concerns within the supernatural events she depicts. In addition to her pervasive theme of the struggle between good and evil—a theme the author uses to explore the human potential for both qualities—Cooper addresses such issues as displacement, responsibility and choice, self-awareness, and the coexistence of magic and technology. Although her books include danger, violence, death, and a variety of manifestations of evil, Cooper is credited with presenting her readers with a positive view of human nature as well as with conclusions that demonstrate the ultimate triumph of good.
Critics have lauded Cooper as a gifted storyteller and superior craftsman whose works succeed in bringing together the ordinary and the extraordinary while capturing the thoughts and emotions of the young. Writing in Children's Books and Their Creators, Anne E. Deifendeifer noted that the "power of her fantasy for children places Cooper firmly among the best of children's authors…. The tremendous scope and intensity of Cooper's work marks her as a modern master of the high-fantasy genre." Commenting on what she called Cooper's "extraordinary prowess as an author of fantasy," Twentieth Century Young-Adult Writers contributor Karen Patricia Smith claimed that throughout her books "major themes resurface, allowing the reader to experience and internalize the depth of her commitment to her social ideals as well as to her art."
While often praised, Cooper has also been criticized by some reviewers for predictability and use of cliché in some of her books and for unevenness in "The Dark Is Rising" series; writing in School Librarian, David Rees claimed: "The whole quintet is shallow, relying on a box of magic tricks to disguise the poverty of the author's thinking and imagination." However, most observers view Cooper as the creator of rewarding, fascinating works with great relevance to their audience. Margaret K. McElderry wrote in Horn Book that Cooper is "one of the small and very select company of writers who—somehow, somewhere—have been touched by magic; the gift of creation is theirs, the power to bring to life, for ordinary mortals, 'the very best of symbolic high fantasy.'… Music and song, old tales and legends, prose and poetry, theater and reality, imagination and intellect, power and control, a strong sense of place and people both past and present—all are part of the magic that has touched Susan Cooper…. Her journeys add great luster to the world of literature."
When Cooper was four years old, World War II broke out in Great Britain, and would last until she was ten. By the time she was ten, Cooper had written original plays for a friend's puppet theater, a small illustrated book, and a weekly newspaper. She enjoyed reading, especially the books of Edith Nesbit, Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield, and Jack London, and was entranced by poetry and by the rich tradition of mythology of Great Britain. In addition, she listened faithfully to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio program The Children's Hour, which dramatized some of her favorite stories. Like her grandfather, Cooper was also enthralled by the theater, recalling, for example, the awe she felt when she saw her first pantomime at the age of three. At Slough High School, a school for girls, she was encouraged to develop her writing talent.
When she graduated, Cooper won a scholarship to Oxford, where she studied English literature and enjoyed what she later described as "a calm stretch of such good fortune that I can hardly describe it." While at Oxford, Cooper discovered and devoured the works of Shakespeare, Milton, and the English Metaphysical poets, heard lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and worked for the university newspaper, becoming its first female editor. She also published her first short story and, on her last day at Oxford, submitted a long essay describing her feelings about the end of university life to the editors of the London Times, who published it in its entirety.
After her graduation, Cooper worked as a temporary reporter at the London Sunday Express before being hired by the Sunday Times, where she worked as a news reporter and feature writer for seven years, one of which she spent working for Ian Fleming, the author of the "James Bond" novels. Cooper wrote articles for the Sunday Times column "Mainly for Children"; later, she would use some of her subjects—King Arthur, medieval castles, Roman Britain, and brass rubbings—in her books for young people. While at the Sunday Times, Cooper began writing novels for adults. Her second attempt, the science-fiction novel Mandrake, was published in 1964. A dystopian novel in the manner of Brave New World and 1984, the book addresses the concept of evil residing in ordinary people, a theme the author would later explore in her books for the young.
After completing Mandrake, Cooper began writing a children's story for a contest offered by publisher, Ernest Benn. The contest offered a prize in Victorian children's author Edith Nesbit's name for a family adventure story in the tradition of Nesbit's works. This project, Cooper once wrote, "offered the irresistible combination of a challenge, a deadline, and money, and I dived at it in delight." Cooper's story began, she noted, with the invention of "three rather Nesbitish children named Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, and I sent them on a train journey from London to Cornwall." However, with the introduction of the children's great-uncle Merriman Lyon—actually Merlin the magician—the book transformed into something quite different than its author originally intended. "Merry took over," Cooper once wrote. "He led the book out of realism, to myth-haunted layers of story that took me way past a 'family adventure' and way past my deadline. Now I was no longer writing for a deadline or for money. I was writing for me, or perhaps for the child I once was and in part still am." When the book was finished, Cooper cut the first chapter about the railway journey; the result was Over Sea, under Stone, the first volume of "The Dark Is Rising."
Rejected by more than twenty publishers before its acceptance by Jonathan Cape, Over Sea, under Stone describes how the Drew children, who have traveled to Trewissick, Cornwall, for a holiday with their scholarly, white-haired great-uncle, use an ancient map they find in an attic to recover the Holy Grail. Plunged into the battle between good and evil, the children become misled by members of the Dark posing as the local vicar and a pair of tourists and encounter dangerous situations such as the kidnapping of Barney Drew. However, the powers of Great-Uncle Merry and the initiative of the children win a victory for the Light. At the end of the story, the Grail is placed in the British Museum and an ancient magical manuscript—which interprets the writing on the Grail, gives the outcome of the battle between the Light and the Dark, and promises that King Arthur will come again—is sent to the bottom of the sea. Writing in Growing Point, Margery Fisher commented that "perhaps this is a book with a theme too big for itself, but it is a fascinating book to read and it has considerable literary quality." School Librarian contributor C.E.J. Smith added: "The children are credible and their adventures shift so cunningly from the plausible to the legendary as to be totally absorbing…. The final scene on the jagged rocks amid an incoming tide is a feast for any imaginative twelve-or thirteen-year-old."
The London Sunday Times hired Cooper to cover U.S.-based stories, including the trial of Jack Ruby in Dallas. She also began to contribute a weekly column to the Western Mail, the national morning newspaper of Wales. Her column led to a nonfiction book for adults, Behind the Golden Curtain: A View of the U.S.A., in which she explains the differences between the cultures of the United States and England. She also edited a collection of essays by friend J.B. Priestley, a notable English novelist, dramatist, and essayist, and later published a biography of Priestley. She also penned an autobiographical novel for adults about her childhood that was published in 1970 as Dawn of Fear.
Describing how a young boy is made aware of the horrors of World War II, Dawn of Fear outlines how Derek Brand—a middle grader who lives in a housing estate in the Thames Valley—learns the meaning of sadness, suffering, and fear when his best friend Peter and his family are killed by German bombs. Drawing parallels between Derek's private war—a rivalry between two gangs of local boys—and the larger one, Cooper is credited with evoking the pain of war while movingly describing the death of a child. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly commented that Cooper "has brought her insight and writing skills to creating another remarkable story." The critic concluded by calling Dawn of Fear a "moving chronicle of despair and of courage." Ethel L. Heins in Horn Book praised Dawn of Fear as "an uncommon kind of war story," and a reviewer in Junior Bookshelf claimed, "To date I have not come across a book which makes anything like the same impression."
In The Dark Is Rising Cooper continues the story she began in Over Sea, under Stone. In this work, Will Stanton, the seventh son of a seventh son, learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortal beings who serve the Light and who are committed to keeping the world safe from the Dark. Will undertakes a journey to find and join together the Six Signs of the Light—wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, and stone—to be used in a final battle against the Dark. In his quest, in which he is guided by the first of the Old Ones, Merriman Lyon, Will encounters evil forces who appear in different forms as he moves back and forth in time. Finally, the Dark rises during a winter filled with violent blizzards and floods, but Will, using both his intuition and the knowledge given him by Merry, successfully joins the Signs of the Light. A reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement noted, "With a cosmic struggle between good and evil as her subject, Susan Cooper invites comparison with Tolkien, and survives the comparison remarkably well." Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Virginia Haviland noted that the book "is exceptional by any standard," while S. William Alderson of the Children's Book Review commented that The Dark Is Rising "captures and holds one's imagination, almost as if the magic forces within the story were themselves reaching out to spellbind the reader." Ethel L. Heins in Horn Book noted the strength of Cooper's writing, which she described as "as rich and as eloquent as a Beethoven symphony," while Sally Emerson of Books and Bookmen concluded that anyone "who fears that they or their children are becoming rigidly sensible should buy this book to enrich imagination and recover wonderment."
The sequel to The Dark Is Rising, Greenwitch, again features the three Drew children, the protagonists of Over Sea, under Stone. The siblings work with their great-uncle Merry and Will Stanton, the main character from The Dark Is Rising, to recover the Holy Grail—which has been stolen from the British Museum by a painter who is an emissary of the Dark—as well as the ancient manuscript that accompanies it. As the children engage in their pursuit, the forces of Wild Magic embodied by the Greenwitch, a tree woman woven by Cornish villagers that is given life by an ocean goddess, come to their defense through the sympathies of middle child Jane Drew. Through her compassion, Jane obtains the manuscript from the Greenwitch, thus allowing the Old Ones to learn about the next part of their quest.
Writing in Growing Point, Margery Fisher claimed, "Fantasies like this depend most of all on the sheer power of the writing, on the literary synthesis between the sunlit world of here and now and the dark, misty otherwhere from which evil comes. The synthesis is less strong in this new book and the effect less consistent than in the other two books…. Nonetheless, it is a compelling story." A reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement predicted, "When Miss Cooper manages to knit her material into a single organic whole her achievement will be great."
The Grey King is often considered the most successful of the "Dark Is Rising" novels. In this book, Will Stanton has become ill with hepatitis and is sent to the seaside town of Tywyn, Wales, to recuperate. While in Wales, Will learns that he must undertake two quests: the recovery of a golden harp hidden in the nearby hills and the awakening of six ancient sleepers who are to be roused by the sound of the harp for the final battle between the Light and the Dark. Will is joined by Bran Davies, an albino boy who is revealed as the son of King Arthur, and Bran's white sheepdog Cafall. Bound by a preordained fate, the three retrieve the harp, but Will is thrust into a confrontation with the Grey King, an evil Lord of the High Magic who uses ghostly gray foxes and a crazed Welshman named Caradog Pritchard to carry out his wishes, which include the killing of Ca-fall. At the conclusion of the novel, the sleepers are raised and preparations begin for the final showdown between the opposing forces. Writing in Horn Book, Mary M. Burns called The Grey King a "spellbinding tour de force," while Zena Sutherland described it in her Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books review as a "compelling fantasy that is traditional in theme and components yet original in conception."
Two major fantasists, Natalie Babbitt and Jill Paton Walsh, also commented on The Grey King. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Babbitt noted, "It is useless to try to recreate the subtleties of Susan Cooper's plotting and language. Enough to say that this volume, like those preceding it, is brimful of mythic elements and is beautifully told." Paton Walsh, reviewing The Grey King in the Times Literary Supplement, noted the book's "authentic evocative power" and the fact that Cooper "commands, to a rare degree, the power to thrill the reader, to produce a particular tremor of excitement and fear, in response not only to Arthurian magic … but rather to haunted places, to landscape deeply embedded in ancient fable, to a sense of secret forces breaking through." In 1976 The Grey King was awarded the Newbery Medal and the Tir na N'og Award; it also received a commendation for the Carnegie Medal.
The final volume of the "Dark Is Rising" sequence, Silver on the Tree, brings together the protagonists from the preceding books. In this story, which is again set in Wales, Will Stanton summons the Old Ones for a final battle with the forces of the Dark. Will, Bran, Merriman, and the Drew children travel through time to acquire the weapons needed for combat. At the end of their adventures, which range from incredibly dangerous to extremely beautiful, the children and the Old Ones find the legendary Midsummer Tree, the silver fruit of which determines the victor of the battle. At the end of the novel, the Six Sleepers finally defeat the Lords of the Dark, Will completes his tasks as the last of the Old Ones, and Bran, who is offered immortality, bids a final farewell to his father King Arthur by choosing to remain human. Writing in Horn Book, Ann A. Flowers called Silver on the Tree a "triumphant conclusion," while a reviewer for Junior Bookshelf commented that here, "crafted by the hand of a master, is a story of the ageless battle of good and evil, a book in one of the great traditions of children's literature and destined, perhaps, to become one of the high peaks of that tradition." Writing in Growing Point, Margery Fisher commented that the series "has given readers many moments of startled awareness and now that it is complete it deserves more deliberate consideration as a whole." Shirley Wilton of School Library Journal noted that Cooper "maintains a masterly control over the complex strands of her story sweeping readers along on a fantastic journey. It is an experience not to be missed and, for Cooper fans, a fitting wrap-up to the unfolding saga."
Following the completion of her fantasy quintet, Cooper began writing stories and picture books for younger children, an audience to whom most of her subsequent books have been directed. She returned to the genre of young-adult fantasy with her novel Seaward. Written during a particularly difficult period in her life—the author was dealing with a divorce from Nicholas Grant and the death of both her parents—Seaward describes how two teenagers, the girl Cally and the boy West, cross the borders of time as they try to reach the sea. Each involved with personal quests prompted by the deaths of their respective parents, Cally and West enter the world of Lady Taramis, who is actually Death, and her twin brother Lugan—Life—and encounter many dangers before they reach their destination. At the sea, the teens, who have fallen in love, learn the identity of Taramis and Lugan as well as the fact that Cally is the descendant of a selkie, a seal who can turn into a human. At the end of the novel Cally decides not to become a selkie and West decides to return to his own world; as a result, the friends are promised that, although they live in different countries, they will meet again and will spend their lives together. Writing in Horn Book, Paul Heins called Seaward an "uncanny, unconventional fantasy" and concluded that, like Scottish novelist and poet George MacDonald, Cooper "has endowed the concept of human responsibility—of human choice—with the face of fantasy." M. Hobbs noted in Junior Bookshelf that it "is a rare treat to have another novel from Susan Cooper" and concluded that Seaward is a "deeply moving, splendid novel, of unearthly beauty, and worthy of its predecessors."
The myths and legends of the British Isles have always been an important part of Cooper's novels. In 1983 she published The Silver Cow: A Welsh Tale, the first of several volumes of retellings illustrated by English artist Warwick Hutton. Another of Cooper's retellings, The Selkie Girl, is a story taken from the folk tales of Ireland and the Scottish Isles that, like Seaward, draws on the legends of seal maidens. The tale outlines how the lonely fisherman Donallan catches a beautiful selkie with whom he has fallen in love by stealing her seal skin so that she cannot go back to the sea. The couple has five children; when the youngest child finds the seal skin and tells his mother where it is hidden, she returns to her home in the water, where she also has five seal children. Before she goes, the selkie promises to meet with her land family once a year and blesses them with fine catches from their fishing. Writing in the Junior Bookshelf, Marcus Crouch noted that "Here, even in this small exercise, a master story-teller is at work, covering the bare bones of the story with living flesh." Ethel R. Twitchell concurred in her review for Horn Book, adding that Cooper "remains faithful to the spirit and magic of the story but gives it a fullness and inevitability that only a true storyteller can evoke."
Based on a Scottish ballad, Tam Lin is the third collaboration between Cooper and illustrator Hutton. The story outlines how Margaret, the spirited daughter of a king, runs away to a forbidden wood where she meets an enchanted knight, Tam Lin. Learning that Tam Lin is under a spell that can only be broken by the love of a mortal, Margaret holds on to Tam Lin on Midsummer's Eve as the fairy queen who cast the spell on him transforms him into a wolf, a snake, a deer, and a red-hot bar of iron; through Margaret's love, the enchantment of Tam Lin is broken. Writing in Horn Book, Heins called Tam Lin "a beautifully paced literary fairy tale, told and pictured with precision and restraint." Helen Gregory of School Library Journal noted that Cooper's version of the tale "is alive with dialogue." Critics also acknowledged the feminist slant brought by Cooper to her retelling.
With The Boggart, a humorous fantasy for middle graders, Cooper created one of her most popular books. The title character, a Scottish trickster spirit, has lived in Castle Keep as a companion of the MacDevon clan, who are the recipients of its lighthearted practical jokes. When the last MacDevon passes away, the Boggart is griefstricken until the Volnik family of Toronto—distant relatives of the MacDevons—come to the castle they have inherited. After arrangements are made for the castle's sale, the boggart is accidentally shipped back to Canada in an old desk. Emily Volnik and her younger brother Jessup, a computer whiz, recognize the spirit's presence when it starts playing practical jokes on the family, tricks that become dangerous when they begin to involve electricity. Although the children have become fond of the mischievous sprite, they realize it needs to return home to Scotland, so, in conjunction with their Scottish friend Tommy, they ship the spirit back to its castle on diskette via a computer game created by Jessup. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Rafael Yglesias commented that while the "plot of a mysterious and possibly ancient being befriending modern kids and making trouble in their world will be familiar to any reader" familiar with modern movies, "that doesn't make its working out in The Boggart any less suspenseful or … surprising and moving." "The inevitable failure of a spirit to coexist with our dreary practical world isn't a new theme," Yglesias added, "although in The Boggart it seems fresher than ever." Calling the title creature "fascinating …, sly, ingenious, and endearing—as long as he belongs to someone else," Ann A. Flowers of Horn Book added that what "is most admirable is Susan Cooper's seamless fusion of the newest technology and one of the oldest forms of wild magic." Writing in Five Owls, Gary D. Schmidt noted that Cooper makes "rich distinctions between the bustle of Toronto and the quiet of Scotland, between the new technology and the Old Magic, between imagination and pseudo-scientific pretension." Schmidt concluded, "The result is a delightful and quick read, with a conclusion perhaps not as high and noble and cosmic as that of Silver on the Tree but in its own way just as satisfying and just as complete."
In addition to penning novels and picture books, Cooper has often written about her craft in books and magazines and has spoken to groups about both the genre of fantasy and her own literary career. In 1996 she published Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children, a collection of fourteen essays drawn from various speeches in which she explores the craft of writing, outlines the nature of fantasy, and recalls her experiences as an author and reporter. Writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, Mary Ann Capan commented that, "Through these major speeches, the reader gains insight into the author's personal life as well as her creative process." A critic in Publishers Weekly called Dreams and Wishes "essential reading not just for fans of Cooper or of fantasy novels, but for devotees of children's literature." Citing one of Cooper's anecdotes, the reviewer wrote that when a hurricane destroyed the author's family vacation home, her college-age son Jonathan nervously asked his mother if his favorite books from childhood, stories by the English writer Richmal Crompton, were unharmed. "I suspect," the critic concluded, "that under similar circumstances many other children might inquire worriedly about the safety of their Susan Cooper titles."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Celebrating Children's Books: Essays on Children's Literature in Honor of Zena Sutherland, edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1981.
Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 4, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1982.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 161: British Children's Writers since 1960, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 6, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Speaking for Ourselves: Autobiographical Sketches by Notable Authors of Books for Young Adults, Volume 1, edited by Donald Gallo, National Council of Teachers of English, 1990.
Twentieth-Century Young-Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, October 15, 1993, Deborah Abbott, review of Danny and the Kings, p. 451; March 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Boggart and the Monster, p. 1162; September 15, 1997, p. 226; October 15, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of King of Shadows, p. 442.
Books and Bookmen, October, 1973, Sally Emerson, review of The Dark Is Rising, pp. 130-131.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1975, Zena Sutherland, review of The Grey King, p. 41; January, 1980, Zena Sutherland, review of Jethro and the Jumbie, p. 91; March, 1983, Zena Sutherland, review of The Silver Cow, p. 124; February, 1994, Betsy Hearne, review of Danny and the Kings, p. 184; December, 1999, Janice M. Del Negro, review of King of Shadows, p. 126.
Children's Book Review, September, 1973, S. William Alderson, review of The Dark Is Rising, p. 112.
Five Owls, May-June, 1993, Gary D. Schmidt, review of The Boggart, p. 117.
Growing Point, September, 1965, Margery Fisher, "Arthurian Echoes," pp. 545-555; January, 1975, Margery Fisher, review of Greenwitch, pp. 2555-2556; March, 1978, Margery Fisher, "Dual Worlds," p. 3277.
Horn Book, October, 1970, Ethel L. Heins, review of Dawn of Fear, p. 477; June, 1973, Ethel L. Heins, review of The Dark Is Rising, p. 286; October, 1975, Mary M. Burns, review of The Grey King, p. 461; August, 1976, Margaret K. McElderry, "Susan Cooper," pp. 367-372; December, 1977, Ann A. Flower, review of Silver on the Tree, pp. 660-661; June, 1983, Mary M. Burns, review of The Silver Cow, pp. 287-288; February, 1984, Paul Heins, review of Seaward, pp. 59-60; November-December, 1986, Ethel R. Twitchell, review of The Selkie Girl, pp. 731-732; May-June, 1991, Ethel L. Heins, review of Tam Lin, pp. 340-341; May-June, 199 3, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Boggart, p. 330; JanuaryFebruary, 1997, p. 83; November-December, 1999, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of King of Shadows, p. 735.
Journal of Youth Services, spring, 1997, p. 305.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1972, review of Dawn of Fear, p. 241; April, 1978, review of Silver on the Tree, pp. 99-100; April, 1984, M. Hobbs, review of Seaward, p. 80; April, 1988, Marcus Crouch, review of The Selkie Girl, pp. 77-78.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1980, review of Jethro and the Jumbie, p. 120.
New York Times Book Review, November 28, 1975, Natalie Babbitt, review of The Grey King, pp. 10, 12; May 18, 1997, Jim Gladstone, "Magical Mysteries," p. 29; November 10, 1991, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, "There's No Escaping Them," p. 53; May 16, 1993, Rafael Yglesias, "The Gremlin on the Floppy Disk," p. 23; January 16, 2000, David Paterson, review of King of Shadows, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, August 31, 1970, Review of Dawn of Fear, p. 279; July 12, 1991, review of Matthew's Dragon, p. 65; May 27, 1996, review of Dreams and Wishes, p. 81.
School Librarian, December, 1965, C.E.J. Smith, review of Over Sea, under Stone, p. 358; September, 1984, David Rees, "Susan Cooper," pp. 197-205.
School Library Journal, December, 1977, Shirley Wilton, review of Silver on the Tree, p. 48; May, 1991, Helen Gregory, review of Tam Lin, p. 88; May June, 1997, p. 315; November, 1999, Sally Margolis, review of King of Shadows, p. 156.
Times Educational Supplement, June 20, 1980, Virginia Makins, "Blithe Spirits," p. 44.
Times Literary Supplement, July 5, 1974, review of Greenwitch, p. 721; June 15, 1975, review of The Grey King, p. 685; December 5, 1975, Jill Paton Walsh, "Evoking Dark Powers," p. 1457.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1996, Mary Ann Ca-pan, review of Dreams and Wishes, p. 187.
Washington Post Book World, July 8, 1973, Virginia Haviland, "A Child's Garden of Ghosts, Poltergeists, and Werewolves," p. 13; July 7, 1996, p. 15.