PERSONAL: Born in Kirkintilloch, Dunbarton, Scotland; daughter of Thomas and Sarah (Walsh) Green; married Thomas Breslin (a teacher), August 29, 1970; children: John, Patricia, Kathleen, Caroline. Education: Attended the University of Aston. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, reading, traveling, studying old graveyards and tombstones.
ADDRESSES: Home—5 Regent Square, Lenzie, Kirkintilloch, Glasgow G66 5AE, Scotland. Agent—c/o Random House Children's Books, 61-63 Uxbridge Rd., London W5 5SA, England.
CAREER: Librarian and children's author. Strathkelvin, Scotland, librarian beginning 1980; author of children's books. Associate of Scottish Library Association.
MEMBER: Society of Authors, PEN.
AWARDS, HONORS: Kathleen Fidler Award, 1988, and Book Trust's Best of the Decade Award, 1992, both for Simon's Challenge; Children's Book Award and Booklist "Pick of the Year," both 1990, both for Different Directions; Carnegie Gold Medal, 1994, for Whispers in the Graveyard; Sheffield Book Award in longer novel category, 1997, for Death or Glory Boys; American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults designation and New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age 2003 designation, both 2003, both for Remembrance; lifelong honorary membership, Scottish Library Association, for distinguished services to children's literature and librarianship.
Simon's Challenge, Blackie & Son (London, England), 1988.
Different Directions, Blackie & Son (London, England), 1989.
A Time to Reap, Blackie & Son (London, England), 1991.
New School Blues, Canongate (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1992.
Kezzie, Methuen (London, England), 1993.
Bullies at School, Canongate (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1994.
Whispers in the Graveyard, Methuen (London, England), 1994.
Alien Force, illustrated by Bob Harvey, Dutton (London, England), 1995.
A Homecoming for Kezzie, Methuen (London, England), 1995.
Missing, Mammoth (London, England), 1995.
Death or Glory Boys, Methuen (London, England), 1996.
Across the Roman Wall, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1997.
Blair the Winner!, illustrated by Ken Cox, Mammoth (London, England), 1997.
Name Games, illustrated by Kay Widdowson, Mammoth (London, England), 1997.
Bodyparts, illustrated by Janek Matysiak, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1998.
Blair Makes a Splash, illustrated by Ken Cox, Mammoth (London, England), 1999.
Duncan of Carrick, Pearson Schools (London, England), 2000.
The Dream Master, Corgi/Yearling (London, England), 2000.
Starship Rescue, Barrington Stoke (London, England), 2001.
The Dream Master: Nightmare!, Corgi/Yearling, 2001.
Remembrance, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2002.
The Dream Master: Gladiator, Corgi/Yearling (London, England), 2004.
The Dream Master: Arabian Nights, Doubleday (London, England), 2005.
Power Pack: Active Guide to Libraries, Library Association (London, England), 1995.
Also author of Saskia's Journey and Prisoner in Alcatraz. Simon's Challenge is available in a South African dual-language edition.
ADAPTATIONS: Simon's Challenge was adapted for television for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-TV) in 1990, with Elaine C. Smith, Dave Anderson, Dorothy Paul, and Tony Roper; Different Directions was broadcast on BBC-Radio in 1991; the "Dream Master" series were broadcast on radio, 2000–04.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "Divided City, set in Glasgow, against a backdrop of the rapidly changing modern world, with themes of racism and sectarianism, is a tale of two boys from opposite sides of the divide—Graham supports Glasgow Rangers, Joe follows Glasgow Celtic … the two boys come together to find their own answers and their own way forward in a world divided by differences."
SIDELIGHTS: Theresa Breslin won the Fidler Award for her first novel for older children, Simon's Challenge. Part of the prize included publication, which set the stage for future books. Breslin commented, "I was a mobile librarian for a rural district, visiting small communities. After I witnessed the closure of a major industry in one area with devastating results, I wrote Simon's Challenge as a therapeutic exercise and also to bear witness. I tried to show the helplessness of children being affected by decisions that adults make."
In Simon's Challenge, Simon desperately wants a computer, but money is tight after his father loses his job because his company considered him redundant. When Simon witnesses a robbery at his favorite computer store, he helps police catch the thieves. "This is a pretty straightforward adventure, but Theresa Breslin offers pertinent insights into the ways in which parental relationships affect children," noted a contributor in the St. James Guide to Children's Writers. The same reviewer remarked that the ending of Simon's Challenge "is perhaps a little contrived" because Simon gets his computer, but concluded that "overall the book is a satisfying read for the age-group for which it is intended."
In New School Blues and Bullies at School Breslin captures the feelings of secondary-school students in difficult, yet common, situations. In New School Blues, Mary, the new girl, befriends the rebellious Jamie. "The way she befriends him and how they find a mutual interest in archaeology makes a good plot on which to hang the detail of relationships among secondary school children," observed a St. James Guide to Children's Writers contributor. In Bullies at School, Breslin portrays the feelings of a clumsy girl who is often teased by her classmates. A compassionate teacher realizes that the girl's problem is really a lack of self-confidence and helps her find something for which she can feel good about herself. Remarked the same contributor: "Both these books show accurate observations of children, their conversations, and relationships, and manage to convey a real sense of their emotions."
A Time to Reap ponders whether people are responsible in old age for mistakes made in their youth. The story concerns a Scottish Jewish boy and a French girl who find their lives altered by events which took place before they were born.
Breslin was awarded the 1994 Carnegie Medal for Whispers in the Graveyard, in which a dyslexic boy lives with his alcoholic father. When the boy's mother leaves and his teachers nearly give up on him, he seeks solace in a graveyard where an evil force emerges. The "tension is superbly built to a horrifying climax, with such forceful and exciting writing that it is impossible to put [the book] down," a reviewer wrote in the St. James Guide to Children's Writers.
Breslin ventures into historical fiction with Kezzie and its sequel, Kezzie's Homecoming. In the first book, Kezzie leaves her home in Scotland to search for her younger sister, Lucy. After she finds Lucy, who has suffered a traumatic experience, the two sisters recover together in Canada. In Kezzie's Homecoming, the girls return to Scotland to reunite with their beloved grandfather, who has now moved to a tenement block in Cydebank in Glasgow. Kezzie struggles to adjust to this new environment as the threat of war looms. When the Italian café where Kezzie works is bombed, she and Lucy seek shelter in the country.
In Death or Glory Boys a group of teens contemplate joining the British army and attend a series of recruiting evenings. While some members of the group are sure that the army is the right place for them, others have doubts. Around the same time, a series of mysterious terrorist attacks plague the area. A St. James Guide to Children's Writers reviewer wrote that the story "throws out a lot of thought-provoking ideas and captures particularly well the effects of terrorism on ordinary people."
Remembrance is an epic tale of youth during World War I, as told through the personal experiences of five teenagers. To escape the confines of her rigid, upper-class family, Charlotte volunteers as a nurse in France. While her brother Francis strongly opposes the war, he nevertheless fights in it. Francis has fallen in love with working-class Maggie, whom Charlotte befriends. Maggie's younger brother also enlists, but later has a change of heart when he witnesses the horrors of war firsthand. "This thought-provoking examination of the nature that war and that world results in splendid historical fiction," observed Kathleen Isaacs in School Library Journal. Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman noted that the novel is somewhat overlong, but added that the "characters are beautifully drawn." Rochman also pointed out: "The drama is in the detail, not only about the battlefield slaughter but also about the revolutionary changes the war brought for women, whatever their class." A Manchester Guardian contributor noted that in Remembrance, as well as in the author's other books, Breslin "works hard and meticulously to get to the core of her subject." The same contributor praised the novelist for "constantly challenging readers' assumptions."
As Breslin explained, "The ability to empathize is peculiar to human beings. The most intense method is by reading. We are aroused to anger, pity, joy, and fear, and are able to understand and appreciate others and ourselves more." She also told CA: "One of the most rewarding aspects about being a writer is the opportunity to travel. I receive invitations to give presentations all over the world and have spoken to young people in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, and New Zealand. It's amazing to meet up with readers and writers whose backgrounds are so different, yet we all share the same love of stories."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, December 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Remembrance, pp. 752-754.
Books, December, 1998, review of Kezzie, p. 20; January, 1999, review of The Dream Master, p. 25.
Books for Keeps, January, 1990, p. 7; September, 1993, review of Bullies at School, p. 8; January, 1995, review of Kezzie, p. 10; May, 1995, review of Bullies at School, p. 13; November, 1995, review of Whispers in a Graveyard, p. 12; March, 1997, p. 27; July, 1997, review of Blair the Winner!, p. 22; November, 1997, review of Across the Roman Wall, p. 24; May, 1998, review of Death or Glory Boys, p. 18; September, 1998, review of Bodyparts, p. 23; November, 1999, review of Missing, p. 27.
Books for Young Children, spring, 1993, review of New School Blues, p. 25; spring, 1994, review of Kezzie, p. 24; summer, 1994, review of Kezzie, p. 12.
Children's Book, July 23, 1995, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 13.
Children's Bookwatch, June, 2001, review of Dream Master Nightmare!, p. 2.
Emergency Librarian, March, 1994, review of Kezzie, p. 17.
Glasgow Herald, March 17, 1990; June 5, 1990.
Guardian (Manchester, England), January 8, 2002, review of Remembrance, p. 63; January 14, 2003, review of The Dream Master Gladiator, p. 69.
Guardian Weekly, December 18, 1994, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 28.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, March, 1996, review of Whistle in the Graveyard, p. 517.
Junior Bookshelf, December, 1993, review of Kezzie, p. 238; February, 1995, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Remembrance, p. 1384.
Magpies, March, 1996, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 44.
New Statesman, July 14, 1995, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 40.
New York Times Book Review, January 19, 2003, review of Remembrance, p. 16.
Observer (London, England), February 14, 1999, review of The Dream Maker, p. 15; February 17, 2002, review of Remembrance, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, October 28, 2002, review of Remembrance, p. 73.
Reading Teacher, February, 1997, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 423.
School Librarian, February, 1994, review of Kezzie, p. 30; November, 1994, review of Whispers in the Graveyard, p. 162; February, 1997, review of Death or Glory Boys, p. 44; August, 1997, review of Blair the Winner!, p. 136; spring, 1998, review of Name Games, p. 23; autumn, 1998, review of Bodyparts, p. 135; winter, 1999, review of Blair Makes a Splash, p. 184; summer, 1999, review of The Dream Master, p. 79.
School Library Journal, November, 1988, p. 136; February, 1990, p. 26; October, 2002, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Remembrance, p. 158.
Sunday Times (London, England), March 18, 1990.
Times Educational Supplement, November 12, 1993, review of Kezzie, p. R12; July 11, 1997, review of Blair the Winner, p. 14; November 14, 1997, review of Name Games, p. 14; September 24, 1999, review of Name Games, p. 84, review of Blair the Winner, p. 48; January 11, 2002, review of Remembrance, p. 20.
Times Literary Supplement, April 15, 1988, p. 433.
Theresa Breslin Web site, http://www.theresabreslin.co.uk (March 28, 2005).