Sedgwick, Marcus 1968–
Sedgwick, Marcus 1968–
PERSONAL: Born 1968, in Kent, England; children: Alice.
CAREER: Writer and illustrator. Formerly worked as a bookseller; Walker Books, London, England, area sales manager for outer London. Also works as a wood and stone carver; drummer for International Band of Mystery.
AWARDS, HONORS: Branford-Boase Award for best first children's novel, 2000, for Floodland.
(And illustrator) Floodland, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2001.
(And illustrator) Witch Hill, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Dark Horse, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2003.
The Book of Dead Days, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Dark Flight Down, Wendy Lamb Books (New York, NY), 2005.
A Christmas Wish (picture book), illustrated by Simon Bartram, Dutton Children's Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Cowards: The True Story of the Men Who Refused to Fight (nonfiction), Hodder Children's Books (London, England), 2003.
(Reteller) The Emperor's New Clothes, illustrated by Alison Jay, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel titled Foreshadowing, for Orion.
SIDELIGHTS: Marcus Sedgwick began writing in 1994 and finished several unpublished manuscripts before his first book, Floodland, was published in 2001. A tale of the future, Floodland focuses on a world where global warming has drastically altered the landscape, placing much of the world's habitable land under water. When Zoe becomes separated from her parents during an evacuation, the girl must survive on her own. Finding a rowboat, she sets out to find her parents and makes it to the Ely, only to face the deranged hoodlum Dooby and his gang, who terrorize the town and do away with newcomers.
Writing in Horn Book, a reviewer felt that while Sedgwick needs to create "more fully realized characters," Floodland "is sufficiently taut, accessible, and swift moving to make it an effective cautionary tale." A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that "Zoe and her story lack credibility to sustain readers through the contradictory themes and sometimes unimaginative prose," but Ellen Fader, writing in School Library Journal, averred, "Most readers will enjoy this survival story for its heart-pounding plot and dystopic setting." A reviewer for the Reading Matters Web site concluded that Floodland is destined to be "one of those books you will think about for a long time after you have read it."
In Witch Hill Sedgwick presents a young narrator name Jamie, who fails to rescue his baby sister from a burning house. Sent away to stay with an aunt so he can recover from the trauma, Jamie begins having nightmares involving a hideous old crone. He soon becomes involved in the town's history of witchcraft, which includes a witch-burning episode that took place centuries earlier. While sorting out the town's mystery, Jamie also continues to deal with his own inner demons.
In a review for School Library Journal, Janet Hilbun felt that "Jamie's story is forced and too slowly revealed," adding that the lessons in Witch Hill are "much too preachy and obvious." Manchester Guardian contributor Lyn Gardner liked the author's illustrations better than his writing, but still called the novel a "pacy thriller" and "a page-turner." In a more positive review, Booklist contributor John Peters wrote that "Sedgwick draws all these strands together in a wild, fiery … climax," and cautioned: "Don't read this suspenseful tale at bedtime."
The Dark Horse tells the coming-of-age story of Sigurd, who lives with a primitive tribe in a northern Atlantic region. Sig and his close friend Mouse, who was first raised by wolves and then adopted into Sig's family, find a mysterious box that belongs to an old magician. When Mouse accidentally unleashes the box's magic, Sig must lead his people against the war-like Dark Horse tribe, whose members hold the secret to Mouse's true identity.
In a review for Publishers Weekly, a contributor called The Dark Horse an "eerie, mythic novel." Coop Rennet, writing in the School Library Journal, noted that, "making no concessions to moralizing or romanticizing, Sedgwick's tale is rich, involving, and vivifying," while Booklist reviewer Debbie Carton predicted that the novel will "find a solid readership among historical fiction fans, thanks to the fast pace, hint of magic, and satisfyingly enigmatic conclusion."
The Dark Flight Down is a story about a magician named Valerian who has made a Faustian bargain with evil so he can gain power. Valerian's time is up on December 31, when payment for his pact comes due, and together with his young assistant, "Boy," and Boy's friend Willow, the magician undertakes a dangerous journey to search for a book that can save him. Of this story, School Library Journal critic Bruce Anne Shook said, "Unexpected twists keep the action moving, and the suspense never flags." Although Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper noticed some "loose ends" in the tale, she added, "This is a haunting novel, and the possibility of more is definitely enticing."
Sedgwick's first picture book, A Christmas Wish, revolves around a little boy in a warm, sunny part of the world who fervently wishes for snow at Christmas. When he wakes up to find that his wish has come true, the boy encounters a menagerie of strange and interesting characters blown in with the cold weather, including polar bears who can skateboard and Mohawk, a snowman with a punk haircut. A Publishers Weekly contributor felt the text, with illustrations by Simon Bartram, is somewhat "tedious," but Jessica Bruder, writing in the Washington Post, called A Christmas Wish "a joyful offering."
Sedgwick takes on a different genre with Cowards: The True Story of the Men Who Refused to Fight. The book relates the stories of two men who refused to fight in World War I because they were conscientious objectors. Writing in the Guardian, Lindsey Fraser called the book "a fascinating and accessible piece of social and military history." Sedgwick is also the reteller of Hans Christian Andersen's classic story The Emperor's New Clothes. Although a Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book a "fairly ho-hum rhymed version," a Publishers Weekly critic declared it a "buoyant" rendition.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2001, John Peters, review of Witch Hill, p. 320; February 1, 2003, Debbie Carton, review of The Dark Horse, p. 995; September 15, 2003, Karin Snelson, review of A Christmas Wish, p. 248; September 1, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 123; October 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Emperor's New Clothes, p. 338.
Bookseller, May 2, 2003, "Shortlist Hat-Trick for Sedgwick," p. 6; January 16, 2004, Claudia Mody, reviews of The Book of Dead Days and The Dark Flight Down, p. 37
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2001, Deborah Stevenson, review of Floodland, p. 278; October, 2001, Fern Kory, review of Witch Hill, p. 75; June, 2003, Janice M. Del Negro, review of The Dark Horse, p. 421, December, 2004, Timnah Card, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 183.
Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2004, Mary Harris Russell, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 2.
Guardian (Manchester, England), March 7, 2001, Lyn Gardner, review of Witch Hill, p. 7; July 20, 2002, Julia Eccleshare, review of The Dark Horse, p. 21; March 25, 2003, Lindsey Fraser, review of Cowards: The True Story of the Men Who Refused to Fight p. 59; December 20, 2003, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 33.
Horn Book, Lynne T. Burke, review of Floodland, p. 32; March-April, 2003, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Dark Horse, p. 217; November-December, 2004, Joanna Rudge Long, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 718.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of The Dark Horse, p. 1773; November 1, 2003, review of A Christmas Wish, p. 1320; September 1, 2004, review of The Emperor's New Clothes, p. 874; October 1, 2004, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 968.
Publishers Weekly, January 29, 2001, review of Floodland, p. 90; December 23, 2002, review of The Dark Horse, p. 72; September 22, 2003, review of A Christmas Wish, p. 71; September 6, 2004, review of The Emperor's New Clothes, p. 61.
School Library Journal, March, 2001, Ellen Fader, review of Floodland, p. 256; September, 2001, Janet Hilbun, review of Witch Hill, p. 232; March, 2003, Coop Rennet, review of The Dark Horse, p. 237; October, 2003, Susan Patron, review of A Christmas Wish, p. 67; April, 2004, review of The Dark Horse, p. S48; October, 2004, review of The Emperor's New Clothes, p. 129; November, 2004, Bruce Anne Shook, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 154.
Teacher Librarian, April, 2004, Helen Moore, review of The Book of Dead Days, p. 60.
Washington Post, December 14, 2003, Jessica Bruder, review of A Christmas Wish, p. T10.
BookLoon.com, http://www.bookloons.com/ (March 9, 2005), J. A. Kaszuba Locke, review of The Book of Dead Days.
Fantastic Fiction Web site, http://www.fantastifiction.com/ (March 9, 2005), "Marcus Sedgwick."
Marcus Sedgwick Home Page, http://www.marcussedgwick.com/ (March 8, 2005).
Reading Matters Web site, http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/ (March 9, 2005), review of Floodland.
Write Away Web site, http://improbability.ultralab.net./writeaway/ (March 9, 2005), interview with Sedgwick.