Gifford, Griselda 1931–

views updated

Gifford, Griselda 1931–

(Mary Macdonald)


Born May 26, 1931, in Monte Carlo, Monaco; daughter of James A. and Jill (Denton) Willoughby; married Paul Julian David Gifford (a sales executive), March 18, 1955 (divorced, 1987); married; second husband's name Jim; children: Mark Richard, Nicola Jane. Education: Attended schools in England. Religion: Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Community activities, animals, jazz and classical music, reading modern children's books and adult fiction.


Home—Leighton Buzzard, England. Agent—Watson, Little Ltd., Ste. 8, 26 Charing Cross Rd., London WC2H 0DG, England. E-mail[email protected].


Writer. Worked as a secretary for various British businesses and organizations, including Foreign Office, London, England, 1950–53, Festival of Britain, 1951, A.M. Heath & Co. (publisher), London, 1955, and Constable & Co. (publisher). Adult education teacher of writing, beginning 1980; lecturer and workshop presenter at schools.


International PEN, Society of Authors.


The Youngest Taylor, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, Bodley Head (London, England), 1963.

(With Helen Calre) The Mystery of the Wooden Legs, Bodley Head (London, England), 1964.

Ben's Expedition, illustrated by Robert Micklewright, Bodley Head (London, England), 1965.

The Story of Ranald (historical novel), illustrated by Edward Gage, Bodley Head (London, England), 1968.

Jenny and the Sheep Thieves, illustrated by Carol Lawson, Gollancz (London, England), 1975.

Mirabelle's Secret, illustrated by Jael Jordon, Gollancz (London, England), 1976.

Because of Blunder, illustrated by Mary Rayner, Gollancz (London, England), 1978.

Cass the Brave, illustrated by Mary Rayner, Gollancz (London, England), 1978.

The Rescue, Gollancz (London, England), 1980.

Silver's Day, illustrated by Mary Rayner, Gollancz (London, England), 1980.

Earwig and Beetle, illustrated by Jill Bennett, Gollancz (London, England), 1981.

The Magic Mitre, illustrated by Sally Holmes, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1982.

Pete and the Doodle-bug, and Other Stories, illustrated by P. Rush, Macmillan (London, England), 1983.

Two of a Kind, Macmillan (London, England), 1985.

Miranda's Monster (picture book), illustrated by Julie Park, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1987.

Clarence the Crocodile, illustrated by Frances Thatcher, Macmillan Educational (Basingstoke, England), 1987.

Trapped!, illustrated by Beryl Sanders, Macmillan Educational (Basingstoke, England), 1987.

Not too Young, and Other Stories, illustrated by Jill Kent, Macmillan Educational (Basingstoke, England), 1987.

Revenge of the Wildcat, illustrated by Mary Rayner, Cannongate, 1989.

The Skeleton Upstairs, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1993.

Danger at the Doghouse, Andersen Press (London, England), 2000.

River of Secrets, Andersen Press (London, England), 2002.

The Secret of Monks Island, Longman (Harlow, England), 2003.

Second Sight, Andersen Press (London, England), 2003.

Francis the Hero, illustrated by Angela Thompson, Pearson/Longman (Harlow, England), 2004.

House of Spies, Andersen Press (London, England), 2005.

The Silent Pool, Andersen Press (London, England), 2005.

Contributor of adult fiction to magazines, under pseudonym Mary Macdonald.

Author's works have been translated into German and Swedish.


Several of Gifford's stories were broadcast on British Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Work in Progress

The Three White Feathers, a children's book.


Griselda Gifford is the author of dozens of books for readers in both the upper elementary and middle grades, and she also teaches aspiring young and older writers in her native England. Among her book for middle-grade readers is Second Sight, about a girl named Jo who is bullied after she and her family move to a new town, then given the opportunity to take revenge on her attackers when a strange talisman gives her the power of second sight. Also mixing adventure and everyday life, The Secret of Monk's Island finds Sam vacationing with her family in a remote island guest house, where the discovery of an ancient wooden chest summons forth a mystery that must be solved. Praising Second Sight in School Librarian, a reviewer deemed Jo "an appealing" narrator.

When Charlie and Cass's parents spit up and fracture the family in Gifford's middle-grade novel The Silent Pool, the twin sisters go to stay with their grandmother while trying to deal with their feelings and their anger toward each other. When distraught spirits appear to Charlie and act out the events leading up to an unsolved murder from the family's past, the twin sisters reconcile to solve the ghostly murder. In Gifford's younger-grade novel River of Secrets, Fran also returns to the home of her beloved grandmother, but under less-than-happy circumstances: Gran is now dead and Fran's mom is moving back to the family home with her new husband and Fran's new stepbrother in tow. However, family tensions cease to matter when mystery rears its head in the form of a strange neighbor and charges of magic. Reviewing River of Secrets, a School Librarian reviewer praised the novel as "highly readable," with a "surprising climax."

Gifford once discussed the elements that have influenced her children's books, telling SATA: "I had always wanted to write, and when the British Broadcasting Corporation aired my short stories, I was encouraged to write my first book for children. This was based on my mother's family, but I brought it up to date. Many of my ideas have come from experience; from meeting an old lady, for instance, who kept a herd of sheep and knew them all by name or from the legends about a fig tree that grew against a small Cornish church.

"I suppose being an only child is often a little lonely, so most of my stories are about families, except for one in which a mother and daughter live in a basement flat, just as I once did, and my novel Earwig and Beetle, about a boy whose parents divorce. I am more interested in my characters than in the plot, although, of course, plot is obviously important. In Cass the Brave I wondered what it would be like to be an identical twin and yet want to assert oneself as an individual.

"I think girls can be leaders just as well as boys, so several of my stories have girl heroines. I am a struggling Christian, and I feel that right and wrong and the joy of life should be shown in books, but without any kind of preaching. And children can be shown how to be sympathetic toward people with problems. I also think children's books should have plenty of humor, because I like laughing!

[Image Not Available]

"What I find most difficult is disciplining myself to work. There are so many distractions—running the house, looking after the family, friends, going for walks, reading, church, and other meetings—that I do admire those writers who settle down, come what may, and do a specified number of hours each day."

Biographical and Critical Sources


School Librarian, May, 1994, review of The Skeleton Upstairs, p. 60; autumn, 2002, review of River of Secrets, p. 155; autumn, 2003, review of Second Sight, p. 155; autumn, 2005, Janet Fisher, review of The Silent Pool, p. 155.

School Library Journal, September, 1990, Molly Kinney, review of Revenge of the Wildcat, p. 226.

Times Educational Supplement, March 12, 1982; April 15, 1994, review of The Skeleton Upstairs, p. 17.

Times Literary Supplement, September 19, 1975; July 16, 1976; March 25, 1977.


Griselda Gifford Home Page, (June 14, 2006).