Blackman, Malorie 1962-
Blackman, Malorie 1962-
Born February 8, 1962, in London, England; daughter of Joe (a carpenter) and Ruby (a linen worker); married Neil Morrison (a computer programmer), c. 1990s; children: Elizabeth. Education: Thames Polytechnic, H.N.C. (computer science; with distinction), 1984; National Film and Television School, graduated. Religion: Christian. Hobbies and other interests: Playing the saxophone, reading, film, theater, listening to music, collecting horror story comics.
Home—London, England. Agent—Michael Thomas, A.M. Heath Co., 79 St. Martin's Ln., London WC2N 4AA, England.
Reuters, London, England, computer programmer, 1983-85, database manager, 1986-90; Digital Equipment, London, England, software specialist, 1985-86; fulltime writer, 1990—. Has volunteered as a reader's helper at local schools.
Feminist Book Fortnight Top 20 Title citation (young adult), 1991, for Not So Stupid!; Young Telegraph/Gimme 5 Children's Book of the Year citation, and Mind Boggling Book Award, W.H. Smith, both 1994, both for Hacker; Young Telegraph/Fully Booked Children's Book of the Year Award, 1996, for Thief!; Stockport Children's Book of the Year Award, and Stockton-on-Tees Children's Book Award shortlist, both 1997, and Sheffield Children's Book Award Highly Commended designation, 1998, all for A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E.; Carnegie Medal shortlist, and UKRA Award, both 1998, and Lancashire Children's Book of the Year shortlist, and Wirral Paperback of the Year Award, both 1999, all for Pig-Heart Boy; British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Drama, Royal Television Society Award (children's drama category), and Race and Media Best Drama Award, all 2000, all for television adaptation of Pig-Heart Boy; Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, Sheffield Children's Book Award, and Red House Children's Book Award, all 2002, all for Noughts and Crosses; Fantastic Fiction Award, and Nestlé Smarties Book Prize Silver Award, both 2004, and Redbridge Children's Book Award shortlist, and Stockport Schools Book Award shortlist, both 2005, all for Cloud Busting; Berkshire Book Award shortlist, and Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award shortlist, both 2005; Eleanor Farjeon Award, British Children's Book Circle, 2005, for body of work; Lancashire Children's Book of the Year shortlist, and Staffordshire Young People's Book of the Year designation, both 2006; named officer, Order of the British Empire, 2008.
Not So Stupid!: Incredible Stories, Livewire Books, 1990.
Trust Me, Livewire Books, 1992.
Words Last Forever, Heinemann (Oxford, England), 1997.
The Stuff of Nightmares, Doubleday (London, England), 2007.
(Collector) Unheard Voices: A Collection of Stories and Poems to Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, Corgi (London, England), 2007.
"NOUGHTS AND CROSSES" YOUNG-ADULT NOVEL SERIES
Noughts and Crosses, Doubleday (London, England), 2001, published as Black and White, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
An Eye for an Eye (excerpt from Noughts and Crosses), Corgi (London, England), 2003.
Knife Edge, Doubleday (London, England), 2004, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
Checkmate, Doubleday (London, England), 2005.
Double Cross, Doubleday (London, England), 2008.
Author's works have been translated into several languages, including Welsh, Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and Danish.
That New Dress!, illustrated by Rhian Nest James, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991, published as A New Dress for Maya, Gareth Stevens (Milwaukee, WI), 1992.
Elaine, You're a Brat!, illustrated by Doffy Weir, Orchard Books (London, England), 1991, published as Ellie and the Cat, illustrated by Sue Mason, Orchard (London, England), 2005.
Hacker (novel), Corgi (London, England), 1992.
Operation Gadgetman! (novel), illustrated by Derek Brazell, Corgi (London, England), 1993.
Rachel vs. Bonecrusher the Mighty, Longman Education (London, England), 1994.
Rachel and the Difference Thieves, illustrated by Kim Harley, Longman Education (London, England), 1994.
My Friend's a Gris-Quok!, illustrated by Philip Hopman, Scholastic (London, England), 1994.
Eddie and the Treasure Hunt Rap, Tamarind Press, 1995.
Deadly Dare (also see below), Scholastic (London, England), 1995.
Thief! (novel), Corgi (London, England), 1995.
Whizziwig, illustrated by Stephen Lee, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
Jack Sweettooth, the 73rd (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
Mrs Spoon's Family, illustrated by Jan McCafferty, Andersen (London, England), 1995.
A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E (novel), Corgi (London, England), 1996.
Pig-Heart Boy (novel), Corgi (London, England), 1997.
Computer Ghost (also see below), Hippo (London, England), 1997.
Space Race, illustrated by Colin Mier, Corgi (London, England), 1997.
Lie Detectives (also see below), Hippo (London, England), 1998.
(Reteller) Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Scholastic (London, England), 1998.
Fangs, illustrated by Tony Blundell, Orchard (London, England), 1998.
Dizzy's Walk, illustrated by Pamela Venus, Tamarind Press, 1999.
Whizziwig Returns, illustrated by Stephen Lee, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
Dangerous Reality (novel), Corgi (London, England), 1999.
Tell Me No Lies (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1999.
Forbidden Game, Puffin (London, England), 1999.
Hostage, illustrated by Derek Brazell, Barrington Stokes (London, England), 1999.
Marty Monster, illustrated by Kim Harley, Tamarind Press, 1999.
Animal Avengers (graphic novel; part of "Epix" series), illustrated by Stik, Mammoth (London, England), 1999.
Snow Dog, illustrated by Sami Sweeten, Corgi Pups (London, England), 2001.
I Want a Cuddle!, illustrated by Joanne Partis, Orchard (London, England), 2001.
The Monster Crisp-Guzzler, illustrated by Sami Sweeten, Corgi Pups (London, England), 2002.
Dead Gorgeous (ghost stories), Doubleday (London, England), 2002.
Jessica Strange, illustrated by Alison Bartlett, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2002.
Sinclair, Wonder Bear, illustrated by Deborah Allwright, Egmont (London, England), 2003, Crabtree (New York, NY), 2006.
Cloud Busting, illustrated by Helen van Vliet, Doubleday (London, England), 2004.
The Deadly Dare Mysteries, (includes Deadly Dare, Computer Ghost, and Lie Detectives), illustrated by Neil Chapman, Corgi (London, England), 2005.
Also contributor of short stories and poems to anthologies, including The Crew and Other Teen Fiction, Heinemann; Out of This World: Stories of Virtual Reality, Dolphin, 1997; Peacemaker and Other Stories, Heinemann, 1999; Dare to Be Different, Bloomsbury, 1999; A Christmas Tree of Stories, Scholastic, 1999; and Shining On: A Collection of Stories in Aid of the Teen Cancer Trust, Piccadilly Press, 2006. Author of television scripts, including Byker Grove; Whizziwig (adapted from her book); and Pig-Heart Boy (adapted from her novel), 2000. Author of stage play The Amazing Birthday.
"BETSEY BIGGALOW CARIBBEAN STORIES" READERS SERIES
Betsey Biggalow the Detective, illustrated by Lis Toft, Mammoth (London, England), 1992.
Betsey Biggalow Is Here!, illustrated by Lis Toft, Mammoth (London, England), 1992.
Hurricane Betsey, illustrated by Lis Toft, Mammoth (London, England), 1993.
Magic Betsey, illustrated by Lis Toft, Mammoth (London, England), 1994.
Betsey's Birthday Surprise, illustrated by Lis Toft, Mammoth (London, England), 1996.
"GIRL WONDER" READERS SERIES
Girl Wonder and the Terrific Twins, illustrated by Pat Ludlow, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
Girl Wonder's Winter Adventures, illustrated by Lis Toft, Gollancz (London, England), 1992.
Girl Wonder to the Rescue, illustrated by Lis Toft, Gollancz (London, England), 1994.
The Amazing Adventures of Girl Wonder, illustrated by Lis Toft, Barn Owl (London, England), 2003.
"PUZZLE PLANET" READERS SERIES
Peril on Planet Pellia, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Orchard (London, England), 1996.
The Mellion Moon Mystery, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Orchard (London, England), 1996.
The Quasar Quartz Quest, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Orchard (London, England), 1996.
The Secret of the Terrible Hand, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Orchard (London, England), 1996.
Hacker was dramatized on British national radio. Whizziwig Returns was recorded as an audiobook, 1999. Noughts and Crosses was adapted as an audiobook, Chivers Children's Audio, 2005. Deadly Dare was adapted for audiobook, Chivers Audio, 2007. The Stuff of Nightmares was adapted as an audiobook, BBC Audiobooks, 2008.
Award-winning British author Malorie Blackman often draws on her own background as an Englishwoman of color in writing for children. In her adventure novels for teen readers, Blackman weaves science-fiction elements into stories that challenge stereotypes and illuminate social issues, while her picture books and easy readers for younger children feature entertaining stories. "Part of the reason I started writing children's books," she once told SATA, "was because of the dearth of children's books which featured black children as the protagonists. As a child I was an avid reader and read thousands of books, but not one featured a black child like me in any manner, shape, or form that I could recognise. I was invisible." The author of critically praised books such as Pig-Heart Boy and Thief!, as well as the "Noughts and Crosses" novel series, Blackman has been hailed by a Books for Keeps reviewer for her "instinct for what … readers love … and the talent to create unputdownable adventures." In 2008 the author was honored by the British Crown when she was named a companion of the Order of the British Empire.
Blackman was born in 1962 in London, England, where her father worked as a carpenter. "My parents were born in Barbados," she once explained to SATA. "I feel this gives me three sources of inspiration to tap into—Britain, Barbados, and Africa." When she was planning her college education, Blackman wanted to be an English teacher. "I wanted that more than anything else in the world," she recalled. "My careers [counselor] told me that she didn't feel she could give me a good reference for the university I wanted to go to because she didn't feel I would pass my English A-Level examination. My reaction was, ‘I'll show you, you old cow!’—and I passed!"
Accepted at Thames Polytechnic, Blackman eventually switched majors and was awarded a computer-science degree with distinction. Even during a successful career
working in the computer field, she knew she still wanted to be involved with young people. "I'd always written stories and poems for myself but it never occurred to me that I could get anything published," she recalled. "I worked in the computing industry for ten years, becoming more and more unhappy because I wanted to write. So I started sending off my stories to publishers. Eighty-two rejection slips later, I finally got my first book accepted for publication." That first book, which was destined to change the course of Blackman's career, was Not So Stupid! Incredible Stories. "I decided [at that point] to go for it," Blackman explained, "so I gave up my job as a database manager and have been a fulltime writer ever since."
Blackman's novel Hacker draws on her experience with computers, as its teen protagonist uses her knowledge of computer language to help her solve a mystery. Similar in theme but written for younger readers, A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. finds thirteen-year-old Elliot Gaines worried about his secretary mother's involvement in Action Now Thwarts Immoral Destruction of the Environment, a radical environmental-protest organization. Elliot's concern deepens after his mom is caught breaking into a pharmaceutical company and subsequently disappears. Cracking the password on the woman's computer and hacking into the A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. database help Elliot sort out the puzzle and determine who to trust to help him find his mother. A Books for Keeps contributor called A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E. "reminiscent of a TV spy-thriller in pace and style." While noting that Blackman includes a good amount of computerese in her story, a Junior Bookshelf reviewer believed it would not deter readers from "a long good read" full of "scares and disappointments in a racy atmosphere."
At the start of Blackman's novel Dangerous Reality, Dominic's life seems perfect: His mother is a famous inventor of a robot used in dangerous situations, and Dominic is about to get a new stepdad. Then, suddenly,
everything falls apart when the robot suspiciously malfunctions and his mom is suspected as a saboteur. It is soon up to Dominic to put his own computer knowledge to use to save his mother and find the actual culprit. Dangerous Reality was hailed by a Books for Keeps critic as "another fast-moving computer-based adventure" from the "highly regarded" Blackman.
Like Hacker, Thief! features a young female protagonist, but in this book the mystery involves human emotions rather than computers. The new girl in a rural Yorkshire school, London-born Lydia soon finds herself the target of someone's animosity when she is framed for stealing the school's sports trophy. In an effort to escape her troubles, Lydia runs away onto the moors. Taking shelter during a violent storm, the preteen is transported forward in time to the year 2032, and finds that England is now a police state ruled by an evil tyrant. With her school crime now over forty years in the past and her fellow students now in their fifties, Lydia determines to find a way to change the past to avoid this unpleasant future. Praising the novel as unique and "spellbinding," as well as a "narrative of continuous interest," a Junior Bookshelf contributor added that Thief! "must surely establish Malorie Blackman as one of today's outstandingly imaginative and convincing writers." Vivienne Grant added her praise for the work in School Librarian, calling the novel a "gripping and fast-moving" work of fiction that "deals successfully with issues of betrayal, honesty, friendship and hate."
Winner of Nestlé's Smarties Children's Book Silver Award, Cloud Busting is a novel describing the ups and downs of friendship and getting along that is told entirely in verse. Blackman uses a variety of poetic forms to share her story, blank verse, haikus, limericks, and rhyming couplets, and shape poems among them. Another of Blackman's teen novels exploring social issues, Tell Me No Lies focuses on a girl named Gemma. A troubled young woman, Gemma turns the pain and anger she feels into hateful acts that hurt another. Called "an absorbing and moving thriller" by a Books for Keeps contributor, Tell Me No Lies takes a compassionate stance toward both the hurtful girl and her victim, a boy named Mike whom Gemma viciously bullies, by allowing both young people to take turns narrating their story.
Harassment of a different sort is the focus of Pig-Heart Boy, one of several novels Blackman has also adapted for film. In this work, a young teen suffering from heart disease is offered the chance to prolong his life through the implantation of a genetically re-engineered pig's heart when no human hearts can be found. While considering the controversial procedure and its many risks, the young man and his family are hounded by both tenacious reporters and a group of angry animal-rights activists. In her School Librarian review, Diane Southcombe praised Blackman for using "clear, unequivocal writing" to prompt readers to consider what they would do in such a difficult situation. Calling Pig-Heart Boy "unflinching" in its consideration of right and wrong,
Amanda Craig added in a review for New Statesman that Blackman's "writing is brisk" and she possesses "a sharp ear for the way this age-group talks."
Blackman has found science fiction to be a useful medium for expressing her concerns regarding racism and other social issues. The first volume of a series that draws readers into a fictional dystopia, her novel Noughts and Crosses (also published as Black and White) is set in a world where pale-skinned people—called Noughts—are the focus of political and economic discrimination on the part of the darker-skinned Crosses. Raised as friends, white teen Callum McGregor falls in love with Persephone (Sephy) Hadley—a Cross—but their secret, naïve love is tested by the racism within their society. Through the intertwined narratives of Callum and Sephy, arranged in short chapters, readers watch as social pressures such as the forced integration of Sephy's high school erupt in an act of terrorism that drives the lovers apart. "The premise—what would happen if societal roles were reversed—is not unfamiliar," wrote Booklist critic Ilene Cooper, "but the way Blackman personalizes it makes for a thrilling, heartbreaking story." Describing Noughts and Crosses as a "modern-day Romeo and Juliet story," Kliatt reviewer Michele Winship added that the author "pulls no punches in taking readers inside the terrorist psyche."
Knife Edge finds Sephy pregnant and living on her own after her politician father arranged for Callum's execution. Her sister Minerva continues to support her, concerned for Sephy's future, but when Callum's older brother Jude makes an appearance his motive is less caring: he is armed with a gun and intent on vengeance. When Jude becomes romantically involved with a black woman and racial tensions again rise, Sephy must make a decision which side to support: nought or cross? While noting that Blackman's "ideological message is heavy handed," a Kirkus Reviews writer maintained that in Knife Edge "the personal tragedies of Sephy and Jude's lives in a broken world … are rich and genuine." Calling the prose "keenly incisive" and the story sobering, Cooper predicted that fans of Blackman's first novel "will want to see how the trilogy is resolved and whether hope … manages to emerge." In Horn Book Michelle H. Martin praised Blackman for her "provocative re-visioning of contemporary social issues" within the "Noughts and Crosses" series, which continues Sephy's story with Checkmate and Double Cross.
Blackman's Caribbean heritage forms the foundation of her "Betsey Biggalow" books, a series of beginning readers that includes Betsey Biggalow Is Here!, Betsey Biggalow the Detective, Hurricane Betsey, and Magic Betsey. Betsey is a spunky six-year-old Caribbean girl who is being raised in a close family with brothers and sisters, loving parents, and her Gran'ma Liz. Each book contains several episodes which convey life in the Caribbean as seen through Betsey's eyes. In Magic Betsey, for example, young readers empathize with Betsey's frustration over not being able to run as fast as her friends, and the fear she experiences after getting lost in a busy local marketplace.
The "Betsey Biggalow" books have been highly praised for their ability to imbue everyday events with what a Junior Bookshelf reviewer termed "much childhood magic." In School Librarian Celia Gibbs noted that "the dialogue and pace are excellent" and added that the "cheerful atmosphere" is one that "many children will enjoy." In Books for Keeps an equally pleased critic called Blackman's "Betsey Biggalow" tales "a delight—the books look enticing and the stories are fun, moving and very real."
In addition to teen novels and easy-readers, Blackman has authored a number of picture books geared toward young children of color. In Dizzy's Walk a young boy and his dad are shooed out of the house by Mom and told to walk the family dog. Their trip starts quietly enough but soon escalates into an adventure when the mischievous Dizzy stirs up all sorts of innocent trouble. Called a "funny, engaging story" by a Books for Keeps reviewer and featuring humorous illustrations by artist Kim Harley, Marty Monster introduces an imaginative young boy who dreams up all sorts of monsters living in his home on the trip upstairs to fetch his dad for dinner. In Mrs Spoon's Family, illustrator Jan McCafferty brings to life Blackman's story of a cat, a dog, and an old woman whose peaceful existence is threatened by a battle between rival gangs: the cats against the dogs. Praising the "straightforward storyline, vernacular banter and engaging humour" in Blackman's tale, School Librarian reviewer Catriona Nicholson noted that Mrs Spoon's Family contains a worthwhile message about tolerance and friendship.
Whether in picture books or in her more mature novels for teens, Blackman continues to write, in her words, "for the child in myself." As she told SATA, "The biggest thrill for me is receiving a letter from a child who has enjoyed one of my books. For me that's what it's all about; that's why I'm doing it." Her advice to aspiring writers: "DON'T GIVE UP! And if writing is really what you want to do, then don't let anyone else tell you that you can't do it. GO FOR IT! Only you know what you're really capable of—and you might even surprise yourself!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, September 1, 1993, Ouraysh Ali, review of Girl Wonder and the Terrific Twins, pp. 59-60; June 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 1796; July 1, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Knife Edge, p. 49.
Books for Keeps, May, 1995, review of Operation Gadgetman!, p. 11; January, 1996, review of Deadly Dare, p. 12; March, 1996, review of Thief!, p. 11; May, 1997, review of Magic Betsey, p. 22; May, 1997, review of A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E., p. 24; May, 1999, review of Dangerous Reality, p. 28; July, 1999, review of Marty Monster, p. 20; November, 1999, review of Animal Avengers, p. 27, and review of Tell Me No Lies, p. 29.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 1993, review of Girl Wonder and the Terrific Twins, pp. 205-206.
Horn Book, July-August, 2005, Michelle Martin, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 466; July-August, 2007, Michelle H. Martin, review of Knife Edge, p. 390.
Junior Bookshelf, April, 1995, review of Thief!, p. 76; June, 1996, review of A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E., p. 116; August, 1996, review of Betsey's Birthday Surprise, p. 145.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2005, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 584; July 1, 2007, review of Knife Edge.
Kliatt, May, 2006, Michele Winship, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 8.
New Statesman, December 5, 1997, Amanda Craig, review of Pig-Heart Boy, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly, June 20, 2005, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 1796.
School Librarian, August, 1995, Vivienne Grand, review of Thief!, p. 116; May, 1996, Catriona Nicholson, review of Mrs Spoon's Family, p. 56; August, 1996, Janice Weir, review of A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E.; August, 1996, Celia Gibbs, review of Betsey's Birthday Surprise, p. 104; February, 1997, Sybil Hannavy, reviews of The Quasar Quartz Quest and The Mellion Moon Mystery, p. 23; November, 1997, Marie Imeson, review of Space Race, p. 190; summer, 1998, Diane Southcombe, review of Pig-Heart Boy, p. 99; spring, 1999, Sarah McNicol, review of Aesop's Fables, p. 22; autumn, 1999, Rachel Ayers-Nelson, review of Tell Me No Lies, p. 154; spring, 2001, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 44; autumn, 2002, review of The Monster Crisp-Guzzler, p. 129; winter, 2005, review of Cloud Busting, p. 191, and Tricia Adams, review of Checkmate, p. 210; winter, 2007, Roz Charlish, review of Unheard Voices, p. 218; spring, 2008, Rosemary Woodman, review of The Stuff of Nightmares, p. 47.
School Library Journal, January, 1994, Mary Lou Budd, review of Girl Wonder and the Terrific Twins, p. 82; June, 2005, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 148; September, 2007, Ann Crewdson, review of Deadly Dare, p. 72, and Chris Shoemaker, review of Knife Edge, p. 190.
Times (London, England), January, 2004, Amanda Craig, "Malorie Blackman: The World in Photographic Negative."
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 2005, Sophie Brookover, review of Noughts and Crosses, p. 230; October, 2007, Roxy Ekstrom, review of Knife Edge, p. 8.
Malorie Blackman Home Page,http://www.malorieblackman.co.uk (January 5, 2009).