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Mason, Simon 1962-

Mason, Simon 1962-

PERSONAL:

Born 1962, in Sheffield, England; married; children: two. Education: Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, earned degree.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Oxford, England. Agent—Anthony Goff, David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1F 9HA, England.

CAREER:

Writer and editor. ABC-Clio, Oxford, England, senior acquisitions editor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Betty Trask Award, 1990, for The Great English Nude; Branford Boase Award Highly Commended citation, 2003, for The Quigleys.

WRITINGS:

FOR CHILDREN

Adventures in the Time Tunnel, illustrated by Ian Sutherland, Desktop Publications (Scunthorpe, England), 1994.

"THE QUIGLEYS" NOVEL SERIES

The Quigleys, illustrated by Helen Stephens, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Quigleys at Large, illustrated by Helen Stephens, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2003.

The Quigleys Not for Sale, illustrated by Helen Stephens, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Quigleys in a Spin, illustrated by Helen Stephens, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2005.

NONFICTION

Agrarian Britain, 1700-1980, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1984.

Social Problems, 1760-1914, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1986.

Trade Unions and Social Change, 1750-1980, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1987.

Work out Social and Economic History GCSE, Macmillan Education (Basingstoke, England), 1988.

Education, 1760-1990, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1989.

British Social and Economic History: Sources, Coursework, Questions, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1990.

The Roman Empire, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1991.

The Making of the U.K., Nelson Thornes (Cheltenham, England), 1992.

Castles and Cathedrals, Nelson Thornes (Cheltenham, England), 1992.

The French Revolution, Simon & Schuster Education (Hempstead, England), 1993.

ADULT FICTION

The Great English Nude, Constable (London, England), 1990, published as Portrait of the Artist with My Wife, Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.

Death of a Fantasist, Abacus (London, England), 1995.

Lives of the Dog-Stranglers, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1998.

SIDELIGHTS:

Simon Mason has ranged widely in his writing career: he is the author of historical nonfiction titles, dark comedic novels for adults, a picture book for children, and "The Quigleys" series of humorous children's books. Born in Sheffield, England, in 1962, Mason studied at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and published his first work, Agrarian Britain, 1700-1980, in 1984. In 1990 he garnered the Betty Trask Award for his debut novel, The Great English Nude, then went on to produce two other adult novels before The Quigleys appeared in 2002.

In The Quigleys, Mason introduces readers to an entertainingly eccentric British family that includes Dad, Mum, Will, and Lucy. Each chapter focuses on the exploits of a different character. In one episode, Dad agrees to baby-sit for his neighbors even though he desperately wants to watch the big soccer game on television; as a result, he loses track of one of the children. In another chapter, Lucy insists on wearing a bumblebee costume to the wedding of her mum's friend. "Mason captures with deadly accuracy the often-conflicting states of childhood and parenthood; as a result, characters and situations will be immediately recognizable as well as organically humorous," noted Horn Book critic Martha V. Parravano of Mason's series opener. "Children will enjoy the plentiful dialogue, likable family, [and] mixture of low-key and over-the-top humor" in The Quigleys, Susan Hepler wrote in her School Library Journal review.

In The Quigleys at Large, Mason "paints a picture of a remarkably recognizable, but totally unique family," according to a critic in Kirkus Reviews. In the opening tale, Dad constructs a bizarre, elaborate trap to snare Deathwing, Lord of the Skies, the family's escaped parakeet. Will also finds himself in a predicament after he becomes locked in his school while delivering invitations to his birthday party. The family grows overprotective of Mum while she recovers from dental surgery, and Lucy overcomes the language barrier to make a new friend during a vacation in France. "The humor is all human foible-based," Parravano stated in Horn Book, "and so very warm and not at all brittle." According to Ed Sullivan, reviewing The Quigleys at Large in Booklist, "readers will find much to love in this warm, often hilarious family romp."

The third book in the series, The Quigleys Not for Sale, follows the quartet as they stay at a posh hotel, weather a financial crisis, go hiking on Mother's Day, and attempt to sell their home. Will and Lucy play a larger role in this book, sabotaging Dad and Mum's efforts to showcase the house by pointing out flaws to prospective buyers and embarrassing a sauna full of adults with their astonished reactions to the strangers' naked bodies. A number of critics praised Mason's droll humor, School Library Journal reviewer Edith Ching commenting that "the events are related with lots of understatement." "With a flat, understated reporting style," a Kirkus Reviews contributor similarly noted, the author "makes these silly, nearly tall-tale experiences seem normal."

The Quigleys in a Spin contains five related stories, including one devoted to the rescue of a neighbor's cat. In addition, Dad has a run-in with a bottle of purple nail polish, Mum meets her match when she boards a wild ride at a fair, Will endures a visit from an incredibly rude child, and Lucy salvages a disastrous birthday party. The tales "are impossible to read without making loud guffaws as each storyline veers off the beaten path," observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews, and Parravano stated in Horn Book that Mason studs his family saga with "humor … of the bellylaugh variety."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of The Quigleys, p. 1848; December 1, 2003, Ed Sullivan, review of The Quigleys at Large, p. 667; December 1, 2004, review of The Quigleys Not for Sale, p. 653; January 1, 2006, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Quigleys in a Spin, p. 88.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 2002, review of The Quigleys, p. 26; December, 2003, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Quigleys at Large, p. 159; January, 2005, Deborah Stevenson, review of The Quigleys Not for Sale, p. 215.

Horn Book, July-August, 2002, Martha V. Parravano, review of The Quigleys, p. 468; September-October, 2003, Martha V. Parravano, review of The Quigleys at Large, p. 615; March-April, 2006, Martha V. Parravano, review of The Quigleys in a Spin, p. 193.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2002, review of The Quigleys, p. 661; September 15, 2003, review of The Quigleys at Large, p. 1178; November 1, 2004, review of The Quigleys Not for Sale, p. 1045; January 15, 2006, review of The Quigleys in a Spin, p. 87.

Library Media Connection, March, 2006, Susan Raben, review of The Quigleys in a Spin, p. 63.

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 2002, review of The Quigleys, p. 64.

School Librarian, August, 1993, review of Castles and Cathedrals, p. 127; autumn, 2002, review of The Quigleys, p. 146; autumn, 2004, review of The Quigleys Not for Sale, p. 146.

School Library Journal, June, 2002, Susan Hepler, review of The Quigleys, p. 104; December, 2003, Jean Gaffney, review of The Quigleys at Large, p. 120; December, 2004, Edith Ching, review of The Quigleys Not for Sale, p. 113; April, 2006, Cheryl Ashton, review of The Quigleys in a Spin, p. 112.

Times Educational Supplement, June 14, 2002, review of The Quigleys, p. 10.

Times Literary Supplement, June 12, 1998, David Irving, review of Lives of the Dog-Stranglers, p. 21.

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