Fine, Anne 1947–
Fine, Anne 1947–
PERSONAL: Born December 7, 1947, in Leicester, England; daughter of Brian (a chief scientific experimental officer) and Mary Laker; married Kit Fine (a university professor), 1968; children: two daughters. Education: University of Warwick, B.A. (with honors), 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Volunteering for Amnesty International.
ADDRESSES: Home—County Durham, England. Agent—David Higham Associates, Limited, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1R 4HA, England.
CAREER: English teacher at Cardinal Wiseman Girls' Secondary School, 1968–70; Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, Oxford, England, assistant information officer, 1970–71; Saughton Jail, Edinburgh, Scotland, teacher, 1971–72; freelance writer, 1973–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Scottish Arts Council Book Award, 1986, for The Killjoy; Smarties (6-8) Award, 1989, for Bill's New Frock; Guardian Award for Children's Fiction, 1989, and Carnegie Medal, 1990, both for Goggle Eyes; Children's Author of the Year, British Book Awards, 1990, 1993; Notable Book from American Library Association (ALA), Best Books citation from School Library Journal, and International Reading Association Young Adult Choice citations, all 1991, all for My War with Goggle-Eyes; Carnegie Medal, 1992, and Whitbread Children's Novel award, 1993, both for Flour Babies; Whitbread Children's Book of the Year, 1996, Notable Book from ALA, 1997, and Booklist Award for Youth Fiction, 1997, all for The Tulip Touch; Nasen Special Educational Needs Book Award, 1996, for How to Write Really Badly; Hans Christian Andersen Award nomination, 1998; Prix Versele (Belgium) and Prix Sorcières (France), both 1998, both for Diary of a Cat; Prix Versele (Belgium), 2000, for Loudmouth Louis; named Child Laureate (Great Britain), 2001; Boston Globe-Horn Book Award in fiction and poetry category, 2003, for Jamie & Angus Stories; Carnegie Medal high commendation, 2003, for Up on Cloud Nine; Royal Society of Literature fellow, 2001–03; named to the Order of the British Empire, 2003. Honorary degrees include Doctor of the University, University of Central England in Birmingham, 2003, and Degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa, University of Warwick, 2005.
FICTION; FOR CHILDREN
The Summer-House Loon, Methuen (London, England), 1978.
The Other, Darker Ned, Methuen (London, England), 1979.
The Stone Menagerie, Methuen (London, England), 1980.
Round behind the Ice-House, Methuen (London, England), 1981.
The Granny Project, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, Egmont (London, England), 2002.
Scaredy-Cat, illustrated by Vanessa Julian-Ottie, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 1985, new edition, illustrated by Nick War, Egmont, (London, England), 2002.
Anneli the Art Hater, Methuen (London, England), 1986.
Madame Doubtfire, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987, published as Alias Madame Doubtfire, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1988.
Crummy Mummy and Me, illustrated by David Higham, Deutsch (London, England), 1988.
A Pack of Liars, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1988.
My War with Goggle Eyes, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1989, published as Goggle Eyes, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989.
Stranger Danger?, illustrated by Jean Baylis, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989.
Bill's New Frock, illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier, Methuen (London, England), 1989.
A Sudden Puff of Glittering Smoke, illustrated by Adriano Gon, Picadilly Press (London, England), 1989.
Only a Show, illustrated by Valerie Littlewood, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990.
A Sudden Swirl of Icy Wind, illustrated by Higham, Picadilly Press (London, England), 1990.
The Country Pancake, illustrated by Dupasquier, Methuen (London, England), 1990.
Poor Monty, illustrated by Clara Vulliamy, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1991.
A Sudden Glow of Gold, Picadilly Press (London, England), 1991.
The Book of the Banshee, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991.
The Worst Child I Ever Had, illustrated by Vulliamy, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991.
Design-a-Pram, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 1991.
The Book of the Banshee, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991, Joy Street, 1992.
The Same Old Story Every Year, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1992.
The Genie Trilogy (contains A Sudden Puff of Glittering Smoke, A Sudden Swirl of Icy Wind, and A Sudden Glow of Gold), Mammoth (London, England), 1992.
The Angel of Nitshill Road, illustrated by K. Aldous, Methuen Children's (London, England), 1992.
The Haunting of Pip Parker, Walker (London, England), 1992.
Chicken Gave It to Me, illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier, Methuen Children's, 1992, illustrated by Cynthia Fisher, Joy Street (Boston, MA), 1993.
Flour Babies, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1992, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1994.
The Diary of a Killer Cat, illustrated by Steve Cox, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1994.
Press Play, Picadilly Press (London, England), 1994.
Celebrity Chicken, illustrated by Tim Archbold, Longman (New York, NY), 1995.
Step by Wicked Step, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1995, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996.
Keep It in the Family, Penguin UK (London, England), 1996.
Countdown, illustrated by David Higham, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 1996.
How to Write Really Badly, illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier, Methuen (London, England), 1996.
Care of Henry, illustrated by Paul Howard, Walker (London, England), 1997.
The Tulip Touch, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1996, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1997.
Loudmouth Louis, illustrated by Kate Aldous, Puffin (London, England), 1998.
(Reteller) The Twelve Dancing Princesses, illustrated by Debi Gliori, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.
Ruggles, Mammoth (London, England), 1998.
Charm School, illustrated by Ros Asquith, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.
Roll Over, Roly, illustrated by Phillipe Dupasquier, Puffin (London, England), 1999.
Telling Liddy: A Sour Comedy, Black Swab (London, England), 1999.
Bad Dreams, illustrated by Susan Winter, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
Up on Cloud Nine, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2002.
Jamie & Angus Stories, illustrated by Penny Dale, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
How to Write Really Badly, Egmont (London, England), 2002.
How to Cross the Road and Not Turn into a Pizza, illustrated by Tony Ross, Walker (London, England), 2002.
Bill's New Frock, Egmont (London, England), 2002.
The More the Merrier, Doubleday (London, England), 2003.
The Return of the Killer Cat, illustrated by Steve Cox, Puffin (London, England), 2003.
The True Story of Christmas, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2003.
Frozen Billy, illustrated by Georgina McBain, Doubleday (London, England), 2004.
Nag Club, illustrations by Arthur Robins, Walker Books (London, England), 2004.
Raking the Ashes, Bantam Press (London, England), 2005.
It Moved, illustrated by Katharine McEwen, Walker (London, England), 2006.
Notso Hotso, illustrated by Tony Ross, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2006.
The Road of Bones, Doubleday (London, England), 2006.
The Granny Project (play; based on Fine's story of the same title), Collins, 1986.
The Killjoy (novel), Bantam (London, England), 1986, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.
The Captain's Court Case, 1987.
Taking the Devil's Advice (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1990.
(Selector) A Shame to Miss (poetry; for young adults), Corgi (London, England), 2003.
Also contributor of short stories to periodicals.
ADAPTATIONS: Goggle-Eyes was adapted to audio cassette by Chivers Sound & Vision, 1992, and adapted as a British television series; Alias Madame Doubtfire was made into a motion picture titled Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams, Sally Field, and Pierce Brosnan, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1993.
SIDELIGHTS: So respected is Anne Fine as a children's writer that she was named Great Britain's second Child Laureate in 2001. The appointment, according to Julia Eccleshare in Publishers Weekly, "comes in recognition of her wide-ranging and influential contribution" to children's literature since the late 1970s. In such children's books as The Summer-House Loon, Alias Madame Doubtfire, and My War with Goggle-Eyes, Fine brings a keen comic insight to bear on family problems.
Fine's first book, The Summer-House Loon, presents teenager Ione Muffet, the daughter of a blind college professor who is sometimes oblivious to her. The novel portrays a single, farcical day in Ione's life as she attempts to match her father's secretary with an intelligent yet fumbling graduate student. Calling the novel "original and engaging … mischievous, inventive and very funny," Times Literary Supplement writer Peter Hollindale praised Fine for "a fine emotional delicacy which sensitively captures, among all the comic upheaval, the passionate solitude of adolescence." The Summer-House Loon is "not just a funny book, although it is certainly that," Marcus Crouch similarly commented in the Junior Bookshelf. "Here is a book with deep understanding, wisdom and compassion. It tosses the reader between laughter and tears with expert dexterity."
A sequel, The Other, Darker Ned, finds Ione organizing a charity benefit for famine victims. "Through [Ione's] observations of other people" in both these works, Margery Fisher commented in Growing Point, "we have that delighted sense of recognition which comes in reading novels whose characters burst noisily and eccentrically out of the pages." Many of Fine's novels directly examine such social issues as homelessness and care of the elderly. The Stone Menagerie, in which a boy discovers that a couple is living on the grounds of a mental hospital, is "devised with a strict economy of words, an acute sense of personality and a shrewd, ironic humour that once more shows Anne Fine to be one of the sharpest and humorous observers of the human condition writing today for the young," according to Fisher in Growing Point.
Using humor while "tackling the aged and infirm," Fine's The Granny Project "against all the odds contrives to be both audacious and heart-warming," Charles Fox remarked in the New Statesman. The story of how four siblings conspire to keep their grandmother out of a nursing home by making caring for her a school assignment, The Granny Project is "mordantly funny, ruthlessly honest, yet compassionate in its concern," Nancy C. Hammond noted in Horn Book.
Alias Madame Doubtfire brings a more farcical approach to a serious theme, this time the breaking up of a family. "Novels about divorce for children are rarely funny," Roger Sutton observed in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, but Fine's work "will have readers laughing from the first page." To gain more time with his children, out-of-work actor Daniel poses as Madame Doubtfire, a supremely capable housekeeper, and gets a job in his ex-wife Miranda's household. Miranda remains blind to her housekeeper's identity, while the children quickly catch on, leading to several amusing incidents. However, "beneath the farce, the story deals with a serious subject," Mark Geller stated in the New York Times Book Review: "the pain children experience when their parents divorce and then keep on battling." "The comedy of disguise allows the author to skate over the sexual hates and impulses inherent in the situation without lessening the candour of her insights into the irreconcilable feelings of both adults and children," Fisher observed. "Readers of the teenage novel, weary of perfunctory blue-prints of reality, should be thankful to Anne Fine for giving them such nourishing food for thought within an entertaining piece of fiction."
Crummy Mummy and Me and A Pack of Liars "are two more books whose prime intent is to make young people laugh," Chris Powling reported in the Times Educational Supplement. "Both exploit the standard comic techniques of taking a familiar situation, turning it on its head, and shaking it vigorously to see what giggles and insights fall into the reader's lap." A Pack of Liars recounts how a school assignment to write to a pen pal turns into a mystery of sorts, while Crummy Mummy and Me presents a role-reversal in the relationship between an irresponsible mother and her capable daughter. Powling commented that "once again the narrative shamelessly favours ingenuity over plausibility on the pretty safe assumption that a reader can't complain effectively while grinning broadly." Both books, the critic concluded, "offer welcome confirmation that humour is closer to humanity than apostles of high seriousness care to admit."
In My War with Goggle-Eyes Fine offers yet another "comic yet perceptive look at life after marriage," Ilene Cooper stated in Booklist. From the opening, in which young Kitty relates to a schoolmate how her mother's boyfriend "Goggle-Eyes" came into her life, "to the happy-ever-after-maybe ending, Fine conveys a story about relationships filled with humor that does not ridicule and sensitivity that is not cloying," Susan Schuller commented in School Library Journal. In showing how Kitty gradually learns to accept her mother's new relationship, "Anne Fine writes some of the funniest—and truest—family fight scenes to be found," Sutton observed in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. The result is "a book that is thoroughly delightful to read," Schuller concluded.
The Tulip Touch "takes Anne Fine into new territory," reported a St. James Guide to Children's Writers essayist. "Gone is the wry humour, although the sharp detailed observation of human behavior remains." In this highly praised work Fine tells the story of Natalie, who lives in rural England, where her family manages a grand hotel called the Palace that caters to well-heeled out-of-towners. With children her age at a premium, Natalie is eager to become friends with Tulip, a local farm girl whose eccentric behavior eventually reveals a bitter, dark side to her personality. Only gradually does self-effacing Natalie realize she has lost confidence in herself, as a result of her participation in the increasingly dangerous games initiated by her unusual and strong-willed new friend. "This complex and compelling book hits hard at a society which is aware of child abuse that is just within the limits of the law and so, feeling powerless to act, does nothing about it," explained Magpies contributor Joan Zahnleiter, describing Tulip as a victim of a "sadistic father," and "neglected and deeply disturbed with a need to possess and humiliate." Noting that Fine only hints at the state of affairs that brought Tulip to her current emotional state, Booklist critic Hazel Rochman wrote that, "with thrilling intensity, she dramatizes the attraction the good girl feels for the dangerous outsider." Rochman added that the author's "message grows right out of an action-packed story that not only humanizes the bully but also reveals the ugly secrets of the respectable." Concluding her laudatory review of The Tulip Touch in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Deborah Stevenson asserted that "while many children's books underestimate the intensity of youthful friendship and the seriousness of its repercussions, this one goes right to the heart of the matter."
The Tulip Touch was written during a particularly bleak year. As Fine explained in an interview with Booklist writer Hazel Rochman, the novel was sparked by an incident where two young adolescents kidnapped a toddler from a English shopping mall and killed him. While, like her fellow Britons, Fine was horrified by the murder itself, it was the public reaction that upset her even more. "Everybody had this sense that our culture—what was left of it—was absolutely in free fall." Fine went on: "There were some horrible, horrible, horrible cases, probably as psychologically damaging to the British as that 'wilding' in Central Park [where a gang of boys murdered another teen] was in the U.S. People were saying, 'We can't have a society like this anymore.'" While Fine usually injects a healthy dose of humor into her children's books, writing about violence perpetrated by young people was a subject where comedy seemed inappropriate; she admitted that The Tulip Touch is likely her darkest novel. But she also maintained that the novel successfully makes the point that, although things are bad, each individual is free to make the personal choice whether to go along with evil or act according to his or her own conscience, and each of us also has the ability to "hold sympathy and responsibility for the ones that fall."
Though some critics considered several of Fine's subsequent novels, such as Telling Liddy and Bad Dreams, less ambitious than The Tulip Touch, they nevertheless acknowledged that the author's storytelling instincts in these books remain strong. Telling Liddy explores family dynamics among four sisters who battle rumor and miscommunication; Bad Dreams is a thriller about the supernatural.
In Up on Cloud Nine Fine tells the story of a young boy visiting his unconscious friend in the hospital and contemplating their friendship, as well as his friend's darker nature. Ruggles focuses on the dog Ruggles, who likes to roam from home and enjoy a beautiful spring day. Carolyn Phelan, writing in Booklist, called Ruggles "engaging," adding that it is "sure to appeal to dog lovers everywhere."
Fine presents six stories illustrated by Penny Dale in the award-winning The Jamie and Angus Stories. Each story revolves around Jamie, his toy bull, and their various adventures, such as doing laundry. Referring to the stories as "heartwarming," School Library Journal contributor Cathie Bashaw Morton also called the work an "excellent choice for beginning chapter-book readers." Julie Cummins, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "turns a gentle hand" with her tales. In The True Story of Christmas Fine tells the tale of a young boy confined to bed on Christmas who makes observations about his large visiting family while they feud with each other. Writing in Booklist, Ilene Cooper believed that "kids who get the bitter, ironic tone will find this very funny." A Publishers Weekly contributor observed that "beneath her satire, rich veins of sympathy flow."
Tillie the cat explains her purpose in life in The Diary of a Killer Cat. Tillie brings home a dead bird and then a dead mouse. Her owners are horrified, however, when the cat brings home the neighbors' pet rabbit, which they later discover, much to their relief, died of natural causes. In Notso Hotso, Fine tells the story of Anthony the dog who goes from cowering mongrel to confident pet. Commenting on both books in Booklist, Hazel Rochman pointed out how they reflect the author's "delicious wickedness" in telling stories. The Road of Bones tackles the topic of totalitarianism as readers follow Yuri and the suffering he encounters under a repressive regime. A Bookseller contributor wrote that the book "carries lessons to be re-assimilated by young readers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 25, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Hollindal, Peter, An Interview with Anne Fine, Egmont (London, England,) 2002.
St. James Guide to Children's Writers, 5th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 15, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.
Booklist, April 15, 1989, Ilene Cooper, review of My War with Goggle-Eyes, p. 1465; September 15, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of The Tulip Touch, p. 230; January 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, "British Author Wins Booklist Award for Youth Fiction," interview with Anne Fine, pp. 810-811; November 15, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of The Jamie and Angus Stories, p. 609; January 1, 2003, review of Up on Cloud Nine, p. 796; September 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of The True Story of Christmas, p. 133; May 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ruggles, p. 1562; January 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of The Diary of a Killer Cat, p. 111.
Bookseller, February 17, 2006, review of The Road of Bones, p. 34.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 1988, Roger Sutton, review of Alias Madame Doubtfire, p. 155; May, 1989, Roger Sutton, review of My War with Goggle-Eyes, p. 222; February, 1992, p. 154; September, 1997, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Tulip Touch, pp. 3-4.
Emergency Librarian, January-February, 1998, review of Care of Henry, p. 45.
Growing Point, September, 1980, Margery Fisher, review of The Stone Menagerie, p. 3756; September, 1987, Margery Fisher, review of Madame Doubtfire, p. 4858; September, 1988; May, 1990, Margery Fisher, reviews of The Summer-House Loon and The Other, Darker Ned, pp. 5343-5344.
Horn Book, October, 1983, Nancy C. Hammond, review of The Granny Project, p. 573; March-April, 1992, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of The Book of the Banshee, p. 209; January-February, 2003, Susan P. Bloom, review of The Jamie and Angus Stories, p. 71; November-December, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of The True Story of Christmas, p. 743.
Junior Bookshelf, August, 1978, Marcus Crouch, review of The Summer-House Loon, pp. 202-203; October, 1996, p. 200.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2003, review of The True Story of Christmas, p. 1316; March 15, 2004, review of Ruggles, p. 268; January 1, 2006, review of The Diary of a Killer Cat, p. 40; February 15, 2006, review of Notso Hotso, p. 182.
Library Journal, March 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of Gawain and Lady Green, p. 93.
Magpies, March, 1997, Joan Zahnleiter, review of The Tulip Touch, p. 36.
New Statesman, December 2, 1983, Charles Fox, "Beyond Tact," p. 26.
New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1988, Mark Geller, review of Alias Madame Doubtfire, p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, March 21, 1994, review of Flour Babies, p. 73; May 28, 2001, Julie Eccleshare, "Children's Laureate Named in U.K. (Anne Fine Receives Appointment)," p. 34; September 22, 2003, review of The True Story of Christmas, p. 72; November 17, 2003, review of Up on Cloud Nine, p. 68; February 20, 2006, review of The Diary of a Killer Cat, p. 157.
School Library Journal, May, 1989, Susan Schuller, review of My War with Goggle-Eyes, p. 104; December, 1991, Connie Tyrrell Burns, review of The Book of the Banshee, pp. 135-136; June, 1996, Julie Cummins, review of Step by Wicked Step, pp. 121-122; September, 2002, Cathie Bashaw Morton, review of The Jamie and Angus Stories, p. 190; October, 2003, Susan Patron, review of The True Story of Christmas, p. 63; October, 2003, review of The Jamie and Angus Stories, p. S37; February, 2006, Diane Eddington, review of The Diary of a Killer Cat, p. 97; March, 2006, Catherine Threadgill, review of Notso Hotso, p. 187.
Times Educational Supplement, June 3, 1988, Chris Powling, "Relative Values," p. 49.
Times Literary Supplement, July 7, 1978, Peter Hollindale, "Teenage Tensions," p. 767.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1996, Jamie S. Hansen, review of Step by Wicked Step, p. 156.
Anne Fine Home Page, http://www.annefine.co.uk (October 7, 2006).
Contemporary Writers, http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (October 7, 2006), biography, awards, and publications information on Anne Fine.