PERSONAL: Married; children: two daughters. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, painting, daydreaming, reading, and gardening.
ADDRESSES: Home—Hertfordshire, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon St., Oxford OX2 6DP, England.
CAREER: Writer and piano teacher. Has worked at a paper mill.
AWARDS, HONORS: Branford Boase Award for most prominent new writer of 2002, for Cold Tom; Smarties Prize, 2002, for Cold Tom.
Cold Tom, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2003.
Ryland's Footsteps, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003.
The Devil's Toenail, illustrated by David Caplan and Marijka Kostiw, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2004.
Goldkeeper, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2004.
The Path of Finn McCool, A & C Black (London, England), 2004.
James and the Alien Experiment, A & C Black (London, England), 2005.
The Kaleidoscope, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2006.
Author's works have been adapted to audio cassette.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Homegoing for Oxford University Press, expected 2007.
SIDELIGHTS: English author and piano teacher Sally Prue's fascination with making up stories began when she was still a teenager. Today, her novels have been favorably reviewed and have received multiple awards. Prue told an interviewer on the Oxford University PressWeb site that the best thing about being an author is "Exploring, without having to get wet or cold. And having people listen to what I'm saying for once."
In Cold Tom, Prue's first novel, title character Tom finds himself more and more isolated from the other members of his tribe, a race of elves who "though splendidly beautiful … are governed by hate," commented Joanna Rudge Long in Horn Book. Tom's differences and defects cause him to be rejected by his kin. His clumsiness and lack of sensitive hearing make him a danger to the tribe's safety, threatening to expose their existence to the race of demons—humans—that live in the wide world outside the haven of the tribe's community. Fleeing from his merciless father and mother, who intend to kill him, Tom barges into the bewildering, repulsive world of the demons. Though Tom can still call upon the stars for the power to become invisible and hide from the humans all around him, he finds himself under the protection of Anna and her irritating stepbrother Joe. Tom abhors the emotional attachments that are a primary characteristic of the demons; he sees them as thick, tangling vines binding one demon to the other. A nosy neighbor woman seems to have the answers Tom needs—she knows what he must eat and how he can protect himself from the tribe. Despite all efforts, the menace from his cold-blooded kinsmen follows him wherever he goes.
Cold Tom is based on the legend of Tam Lin, a human who was seduced by an elf queen and who lived among the elves for seven years before being rescued by his true love, Janet. School Library Journal contributor Beth L. Meister called Cold Tom "A thoughtful and engaging fantasy that explores multiple real-life themes while telling a compelling story." A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the "lyricism of her prose," in tandem with the "startlingly raw and sympathetic views of human behavior," make Cold Tom "both original and gripping." Prue "effectively contrasts the fierce beauty and ferocious integrity of the Tribe with the contradictory warmth and pain of human relationships," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic. Claire Rosser, writing in Kliatt, commented that "The climactic scenes are challenging, wonderfully realized, and exquisitely written."
Stevie Saunders, the thirteen-year-old protagonist of The Devil's Toenail, is desperate to fit in at his new school—so desperate that he will even stoop to vandalism to impress the gang of "cool boys" that he wants to join. The victim of a near-fatal episode of bullying gone out of control at his former school, Stevie is scarred physically and psychologically by burns suffered during the incident. When gang leader Daniel asks him to set a fire as his initiation into the group, Stevie is confronted with a line he cannot cross, even if it means further misery and social isolation. While pondering his dilemma at the beach during a family vacation, Stevie finds a fossil called a devil's toenail. For Stevie, the rock contains a strong power that could solve his problems. Soon the rock begins to speak to him, persuading him to commit crimes and self-destructive acts, reassuring him that it will protect him with its power. As his dark side becomes more and more prominent, Stevie faces the possibility of redemption when his sister is endangered and he is the only one who can save her.
In Prue's "psychologically astute storytelling, his decision cannot be easily foretold," observed a Publishers Weekly critic of The Devil's Toenail. Kliatt reviewer Paula Rohrlick called the book "a dark, suspenseful story about bullying and self-confidence," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that Prue's "powerful tale is both real and thought-provoking."
Prue told CA: "A very dull and lonely childhood got me interested in stories, and leaving school before taking my exams, and ending up with no qualifications and no money, made me decide to write a book and become a rich and famous author. Always the optimist….
"There are very many authors I admire hugely—Austen, Damon Runyon, Dorothy L. Sayers, Diana Wynne Jones—but it would be a cheek even to try to write like them. What I'm doing is watching my characters explore the world, though the most important thing remains making people want to turn the page. It only takes me a couple dozen [drafts], hundreds of cups of tea, and a huge amount of worrying to produce a manuscript. I think my favourite of my books is probable Ryland's Footsteps, because there's a character in it I personally really fancy; but the surprising thing about having books published is that each reader finds what he or she needs to find, whether it's actually in the book or not. Sometimes this can make writing seem a bit pointless; but mostly I reckon it's all just part of the magic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Cold Tom, p. 241; April 15, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of The Devil's Toenail, p. 1451.
Bookseller, October 12, 2001, Sheila Wood, review of Cold Tom, p. 41; August 30, 2002, p. SSS35.
Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Joanna Rudge, review of Cold Tom, p. 466.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of Cold Tom, p. 863; June 15, 2004, review of The Devil's Toenail, p. 579.
Kliatt, May, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Cold Tom, p. 13; May, 2004, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Devil's Toenail, p. 12; September, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Cold Tom, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, June 16, 2003, review of Cold Tom, p. 72; July 12, 2004, review of The Devil's Toenail, p. 65.
School Library Journal, September, 2003, Beth L. Meister, review of Cold Tom, p. 219; August, 2004, Ellen Fader, review of The Devil's Toenail, p. 128.
Oxford University Press Web site, http://www.oup.co.uk/ (May 21, 2005), "Sally Prue."
Reading Matters Web site, http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/ (May 21, 2005), review of Cold Tom.