Newbery, Linda 1952–

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Newbery, Linda 1952–

PERSONAL:

Born August 12, 1952, in Romford, Essex, England; married. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, gardening, swimming, going to the cinema and theatre, walking, wildlife.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Northamptonshire, England. Agent—Patrick Janson-Smith, Christopher Little Literary Agency Ltd., 125 Moore Park Rd., London SW6 4PS, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer and reviewer. Taught English in an Oxfordshire comprehensive school until 2000; tutor for Arvon Foundation. Worked variously as a secretary, riding instructor, and camp counselor.

MEMBER:

Scattered Authors' Society, Society of Authors, Royal Society of Arts.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Writers' Guild Award nomination, for The Wearing of the Green; Carnegie Medal nomination, Birmingham Book Award shortlist, and Pick of the Year selection, Federation of Children's Book Groups, all 1995, all for The Shouting Wind; Carnegie Medal nomination, for From E to You, Sisterland, and At the Firefly Gate; Carnegie Medal nomination, and London Guardian Children's Fiction Prize shortlist, both for The Shell House; Calderdale Book of the Year shortlist, for Polly's March; Nestlé Children's Book Prize shortlist, for Catcall; Costa Children's Book of the Year, 2006, for Set in Stone.

WRITINGS:

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

Run with the Hare, Armada (London, England), 1988.

Hard and Fast, Armada (London, England), 1989.

Some Other War, Armada (London, England), 1990.

The Kind Ghosts, Lions (London, England), 1991.

The Wearing of the Green, Lions (London, England), 1992.

Riddle Me This, Lions (London, England), 1993.

The Shouting Wind, Collins (London, England), 1995.

The Cliff Path, Collins (London, England), 1995.

A Fear of Heights, Collins (London, England), 1996.

The Nowhere Girl, Adlib (London, England), 1997.

Flightsend, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.

(With Chris d'Lacey) From E to You, Scholastic (London, England), 2000.

The Damage Done, Scholastic (London, England), 2001.

No Way Back, Orchard (London, England), 2001.

Break Time, Orchard (London, England), 2001.

The Shell House, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2002.

Windfall, Orchard (London, England), 2002.

Sisterland, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Lost Boy, Orion (London, England), 2005, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2008.

Set in Stone, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Nevermore, Orion (London, England), 2008.

FOR CHILDREN

The Marmalade Pony, Hippo (London, England), 1994, published in The Big Animal Magic Book, Hippo (London, England), 1998.

Smoke Cat, illustrated by Anne Sharp, Hippo (London, England), 1995, published in The Big Animal Ghost Book, Scholastic (London, England), 1999.

Ice Cat, illustrated by Peter Kavanaugh, Scholastic (London, England), 1997.

Whistling Jack, illustrated by Anthony Lewis, Collins (London, England), 1997.

Star's Turn, Corgi Pups (London, England), 1999.

The Cat with Two Names, Hippo (London, England), 2000.

Blitz Boys, A. & C. Black (London, England), 2000.

(Reteller) Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid, illustrated by Bee Willey, Scholastic (London, England), 2001.

Mr. Darwin and the Ape Boy, illustrated by Dave Hopkins, Pearson Longman (Harlow, England), 2004.

Polly's March, Usborne (London, England), 2004.

At the Firefly Gate, Orion (London, England), 2004, David Fickling Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Catcall, Orion (London, England), 2006.

A Dog Called Whatnot, illustrated by Georgie Ripper, Crabtree (New York, NY), 2006.

Andie's Moon, Usborne (London, England), 2007.

Posy, illustrated by Catherine Rayner, Orchard (London, England), 2008.

OTHER

Contributor to short story and poetry anthologies. Reviewer for School Librarian, Armadillo, London Guardian, and Times Educational Supplement.

SIDELIGHTS:

Linda Newbery is an award-winning British author of fiction for children and young adults. A former educator, she published her debut work, Run with the Hare, in 1988. Since then, her young-adult titles have earned five Carnegie Medal nominations, and her 2006 novel Set in Stone earned the prestigious Costa Children's Book of the Year award.

Newbery's road to becoming a published author was a circuitous one. As she once commented: "When I started at secondary school, the strict headmistress took my form for a weekly lesson. One week, she asked us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. My answer, without hesitation, was: ‘I want to be a writer, and have lots of cats.’ Everyone laughed at this, and the headmistress looked rather disapproving. Not a real job, evidently." Newbery was determined to pursue her dream, however, and began keeping a journal of stories and, later, poems. "I didn't discover teenage fiction until I was in my twenties and training to be a teacher," she added. "As soon as I came across marvelous writers like Robert Cormier, Jill Paton Walsh, K.M. Peyton, and Aidan Cambers, the urge to write fiction returned."

Newbery first gained critical attention for novels such as Some Other War and The Nowhere Girl, which explore connections between Britain's past—especially during World War I and II—and its present. "Both wars interest me because they were a time of tremendous social change and upheaval, the First World War in particular," the author noted in an interview on the Achuka Web site. "That's why I began Some Other War with a very traditional set-up—the Essex village, the large country house and the twin brother and sister who are employed there as groom and maidservant. That very English way of life, for which we have a kind of collective nostalgia in spite of its blatant social inequalities, was about to disappear." In other works, Newbery added, "I wanted to show how the past brushes against the present; in The Nowhere Girl, it's the impact of the German occupation on a village in rural Normandy, rather than actual combat."

Newbery has also written a number of picture books for young readers, including Ice Cat and Mr. Darwin and the Ape Boy. "I've written for younger children, but I keep returning to young adult fiction because I love the scope it offers," Newbery once explained. "I always enjoy learning or doing something new while I write; besides a great deal of background reading, I've traveled for research purposes to Dublin, Normandy, Berlin, and the First World War battlefields in France and Belgium."

A novel with a contemporary setting, From E to You, coauthored by Chris d'Lacey, tells the story of the friendship that grows between Guy and Annabelle through their frequent e-mails. In the beginning, both teens closely guard their feelings, as they have been thrown together by their fathers, but as they gradually reveal painful events of the present and recent past, the two build trust in each other and the friendship blossoms. A contributor to Publishers Weekly, who noted that the male coauthor contributed the female character's missives while Newbery created the voice of the character Guy, concluded that the authors had "shaped two very distinct and likable characters and a cleverly composite tale."

Newbery's first book to be widely reviewed in the United States was The Shell House, an intertwining novel in which two storylines center on Graveney Hall. In 1917, the time-setting for one of the stories, the Hall was a beautiful English country home, but by the early twenty-first century, wherein the second story is set, it has become the burned-out shell of the title. Both stories center on a young man's quest for identity. Greg, at the center of the contemporary plot, is a seventeen-year-old student whose attraction to one of his fellow students, a beautiful young athlete named Jordan, has him confused. Greg meets Faith, a young Christian teenager, on the grounds of the burned-out estate, and the two challenge each other on spiritual matters. Greg eventually connects with Jordan, who is more comfortable with his homosexuality, and Greg reveals his sexual preferences to his parents. Greg's story is intertwined with scenes from an earlier era that center on Edmund. Destined to inherit Graveney Hall, Edmund is a soldier in World War I when he meets Alex, another soldier, and falls in love. The feeling is mutual, and the two form a relationship that ends with Alex's death on the battlefield. Edmund returns home to Graveney Hall utterly changed by the war, and his attempts to return to normality, by becoming engaged or seeking solace from the church vicar, ultimately end in disaster.

While Newbery has frequently been praised for her sensitive yet evocative handling of the quest for sexual identity among young men past and present, a few aspects of The Shell House were not universally admired. A contributor to Publishers Weekly, for example, dubbed Greg's story "a pitch perfect tale of contemporary teenage life," but faulted the parallel story of Edmund in 1917 as "overly dramatic if occasionally moving." For a contributor to Kirkus Reviews, on the other hand, "the parallel stories play off each other perfectly." The occasionally awkward rendering of the issues at hand, especially faith in God and sexual orientation, are easily overlooked in relation to the book's overall accomplishment, the critic added: "flaws aside, it stands as an ambitious, multilayered, and above all literary contribution to a literature that all too often seeks to dodge complexity." In her Booklist review, Michelle Kaske offered a similar opinion of the book's two narratives, claiming that, "woven together, the strands coalesce into a dramatic, if not complex, combination of both contemporary and historical fiction."

Sisterland, dubbed a "long, powerful story of love, anger, racism, loss, and guilt across generations" by Booklist critic Hazel Rochman, centers on a contemporary British family. Seventeen-year-old Hilly, whose life is already complicated by her father's infidelity and her sister's skinhead boyfriend, faces even more changes when Heidigran, her senile grandmother, moves into the family home. One day, as Hilly plays the piano for her grandmother, the music triggers the elderly woman's long-suppressed memories of a lost sister and a secret past. "The sheer abundance of plots and subplots keeps the pages turning," noted a contributor in Publishers Weekly, and Miriam Budin Lang stated in School Library Journal that the "combination of complex issues is undeniably ambitious." According to a critic in Kirkus Reviews, "Newbery smoothly weaves together past and present in two distinct, gripping storylines that eventually merge."

Newbery's supernatural tale At the Firefly Gate concerns Henry, a timid young boy who has moved with his family from London to a quiet English village. Henry strikes up an unlikely friendship with Dottie, an elderly neighbor, who regales the youngster with tales of her fiancée, a Royal Air Force navigator (also named Henry) who disappeared during a World War II mission. Soon young Henry notices a spectral figure waiting at the orchard gate during the evenings, and he also begins having strange dreams of himself as a wartime pilot. The author "writes well, drawing readers into Henry's shifting reality slowly and letting his puzzlement work itself out," noted Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan. "An abundance of small satisfactions await readers attuned to this novel's gentle cadences," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.

In the gothic tradition, Set in Stone follows Samuel Godwin, an aspiring artist who is hired to tutor Juliana and Marianne Farrow, the daughters of wealthy widower and landowner Ernest Farrow. Samuel soon learns that the despondent Juliana and the unpredictable Marianne are harboring a terrible secret, one that appears to be shared by their governess, Charlotte Agnew. "Newbery's touch is graceful as she unveils layers of the mystery to Samuel, Charlotte and readers," a critic observed in a Kirkus Reviews appraisal, and School Library Journal reviewer Carolyn Lehman wrote that Newbery's conclusion offers "a look back on the compromises and losses throughout the characters' lives." "Evocatively written and carefully crafted," Set in Stone "will tantalize readers," remarked Ilene Cooper in Booklist.

"One of the delights of writing for young people is that you can range widely in terms of subject matter and age group," Newbery commented: "I enjoy the freedom of working on a long and complex novel one month, a picture book or a poem the next."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2002, Michelle Kaske, review of The Shell House, p. 1946; March 1, 2004, Hazel Rochman, review of Sisterland, p. 1202; September 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Set in Stone, p. 111; February 15, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 78.

Bookseller, February 17, 2006, review of Set in Stone, p. 34.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 2002, review of The Shell House, p. 119; June, 2004, Karen Coats, review of Sisterland, p. 431; December, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of Set in Stone, p. 183; April, 2007, Elizabeth Bush, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 341.

Horn Book, March-April, 2004, Susan P. Bloom, review of Sisterland, p. 185; March-April, 2007, Joanna Rudge Long, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 199.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of The Shell House, p. 960; March 15, 2004, review of Sisterland, p. 275; October 15, 2006, review of Set in Stone, p. 1076; February 1, 2007, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 127.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Sisterland, p. 15; September, 2004, Myra Marler, review of The Shell House, p. 24; November, 2006, Claire Rosser, review of Set in Stone, p. 14.

New York Times Book Review, June 17, 2007, Julie Just, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2001, review of From E to You, p. 73; June 24, 2002, review of The Shell House, p. 59; March 29, 2004, review of Sisterland, p. 64; February 19, 2007, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 170.

School Librarian, summer, 2001, Chris Brown, review of The Cat with Two Names, p. 90.

School Library Journal, August, 2002, Joanne K. Cecere, review of The Shell House, p. 196; April, 2004, Miriam Lang Budin, review of Sisterland, p. 160; February, 2007, Carolyn Lehman, review of Set in Stone, p. 124; March, 2007, Connie Tyrell Burns, review of At the Firefly Gate, p. 216.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 2006, Chris Carlson, review of Set in Stone, p. 430.

ONLINE

Achuka Web site,http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (June, 1999), "Achuka Interview: Linda Newbery."

Linda Newbery Home Page,http://www.lindanewbery.co.uk (October 31, 2007).

Orion Books Web site,http://www.orionbooks.co.uk/ (October 31, 2007), interview with Newbery.

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