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Ridley, Philip 1967–

Ridley, Philip 1967–

Personal

Born December, 1967, in London, England. Education: Studied painting at St. Martin's School of Art.

Addresses

Office—c/o British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 195 Piccadilly, London W1, England.

Awards, Honors

Parents' Choice award, 1991, for Dakota of the White Flats; Smarties Book Prize (Ages 9-11), 1991; W.H. Smith Mind-Boggling Book Award, both for Krindle-krax; Whitbread Award shortlist for Best Children's Novel, 1994, for Meteorite Spoon; Carnegie Medal shortlist, 1997, for Scribbleboy; Blue Peter Book of the Year Award shortlist, BBC Children's Program, 2002, for Mighty Fizz Chilla.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

Dakota of the White Flats, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.

Krindlekrax; or, How Rushkin Splinter Battled a Horrible Monster and Saved His Entire Neighborhood, illustrated by Mark Robinson, J. Cape (London, England), 1991, illustrated by Gary Hovland, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.

Meteorite Spoon, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.

Dreamboat Zing, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Puffin (London, England), 1996.

The Hooligan's Shampoo, Penguin (London, England), 1996.

Mercedes Ice: An Urban Fairy Story for Modern Children, Puffin (London, England), 1996.

Kasper in the Glitter, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Viking (London, England), 1997.

Scribbleboy, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Dutton (New York, NY), 1997.

ZinderZunder, illustrated by Chris Riddell, Puffin (London, England), 1998.

Vincent River, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2000.

Vinegar Street, Puffin (London, England), 2000.

Brokenville, Faber & Faber (London, England), 2001.

Mighty Fizz Chilla, illustrated by Stephen Lee, Puffin (New York, NY), 2002.

Zip's Apollo, Penguin (London, England), 2005.

ADULT FICTION

Crocodilia, Brillance Books (London, England), 1988.

In the Eyes of My Fury (novel), Penguin (New York, NY), 1989.

Flamingoes in Orbit (short stories), Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1990, Penguin (New York, NY) 1991.

PLAYS

The Pitchfork Disney (produced, 1991), Methuen Drama (London, England), 1991.

The Krays (screenplay), Miramax, 1991.

(And director) The Reflecting Skin (screenplay), Miramax, 1991.

The Fastest Clock in the Universe, Methuen Drama (London, England), 1992.

Apocalyptica, Methuen Drama (London, England), 1994.

Ghost from a Perfect Place, Methuen Drama (London, England), 1994.

(And director) The Passion of Darkly Noon (screenplay), Fugitive Features, 1995.

The American Dreams: Two Screenplays, Meuthuen Film (London, England), 1997.

Plays, Methuen Drama (London, England), 1997.

Sparkleshark, Samuel French (London, England), 1997.

Two Plays for Young People, Faber & Faber (London, England), 1998.

Daffodil Scissors, Barrington Stoke (Edinburgh, England), 2004.

Mercury Fur, Meuthen Drama (London, England), 2005.

Adaptations

Mercedes Ice: An Urban Fairy Story for Modern Children was adapted for audio cassette, read by Josie Lawrence, BBC Audiobooks, 2001. Krindlekrax; or, How Rushkin Splinter Battled a Horrible Monster and Saved His Entire Neighborhood was adapted for film.

Sidelights

Born in East London, England, Philip Ridley developed a talent for theatre, writing, and art at a very young age. By age six he had formed his own theatre group, and at seven he was busy writing his first novel. His knack for storytelling developed when he began creating tales as a means to calm his younger brother, who suffered from bouts of nervousness. In an interview with Dina Rabinovitch for the London Guardian, the author revealed that as a youth he suffered from an extreme case of asthma, which often left him home-bound and bedridden. It was these times of infirmity that fostered Ridley's ravenous imagination, allowed him the opportunity to indulge in horror novels, and honed his skills of observation. Ridley was especially keen in regards to dialogue, often placing a tape recorder in his family's couch to capture their house guests' conversations. As a celebrated writer, Ridley is still intrigued by dialogue and habitually captures in a notebook snippets of conversations that he encounters on a daily basis; a revelation to how Ridley is able to create emotionally complex characters with a realistic edge.

Ridley's creative genius was also evident during his adolescence: by the time he was fourteen he showcased his first art exhibition; at seventeen, he was enrolled in the St. Martin's School of Art where he studied painting; and at nineteen he was a published author. As an adult, Ridley has become well known for plays and film scripts that include The Krays and for adult novels. With his energetic wit and engaging, out-of-kilter characters, Ridley has also found an outlet for his offbeat humor in children's books. Focusing on the most dreary households, he manages to turn the negative aspects of family dysfunction into a springboard, moving the reader toward hope and brighter possibilities in such books as Dakota of the White Flats, Meteorite Spoon, and the comic Krindlekrax; or, How Rushkin Splinter Battled a Horrible Monster and Saved His Entire Neighborhood.

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Ridley began his writing career in 1989, with In the Eyes of My Fury, an adult novel about a boy who uncovers some unsettling information about his mother's past and, in the process, also begins to view the strict morality of his fellow townspeople in a new, more critical, light. In the Eyes of My Fury was followed by Flamingoes in Orbit, a collection of childhood horror stories written for an adult audience, as well as several plays. In 1990 he wrote the screenplay for director Peter Medak's The Krays, the true story of mobster twins who dominated London streets during the 1950s. Childhood has also figured prominently in several of his plays, including The Pitchfork Disney and The Reflecting Skin, the latter produced as a film in 1991.

While Ridley's work for adults has been noted for its depiction of childhood trauma, his books for younger readers showcase his personal insights into growing up in a much more upbeat manner. In Dakota of the White Flats, first published in 1991, Ridley surrounds his protagonist, a young girl named Dakota Pink, with a comical parody of traditional friends and family. There is the couch-potato mother who has not left her favorite chair in almost a decade, but sits, content to consume endless quantities of dumplings and romance novels; the shifty-eyed, loathsome Henry Twig, who rooms with the Pink family; and a classic absentee father who turns out to be the villain of the piece in more ways than one. Along with her best friend, Treacle, spunky Dakota manages to get by in this futuristic, broken-down vision of lower-class London until she becomes caught up in solving a crime: discovering the whereabouts of a turtle and some stolen jewelry. Remarking on the poignant humor in the story, reviewer Susan Oliver noted in School Library Journal that Dakota of the White Flats "is a very black comedy pulled out of the depths of despair by a character who is funny, smart, and always in control."

Far sillier is Ridley's second opus, Krindlekrax. A work of heroic proportions, the award-winning novel features everything from a hero (weak-limbed, nine-year-old Rushkin Splinter, who longs to play the hero in the school play), a dragon (the crocodile rumored to be inhabiting the sewers below Rushkin's neighborhood), and a villain (none other than the class bully, the immensely unpopular Elvis Cave). After losing the wished-for role in the school play to the dastardly Elvis, Rush-kin decides to go on a quest of his own, and seeks out the crocodile Krindlekrax by entering his murky lair beneath the city streets. With the help of the kindly Corky, the school janitor and the one sane adult in the book, Rushkin confronts his dragon and even learns to make friends with it. "Clearly meant to be read aloud," Hazel Rochman observed in Booklist, "the story is absurd, theatrical, and occasionally touching."

In characteristic Ridley fashion, Kasper in the Glitter takes place in a grey, uninviting environment that is home to several strange characters. Ten-year-old Kasper lives with his mother, Pumpkin, who, because of her need to feel special, has left to her son the mundane job of keeping the household together—cleaning, cooking, and generally getting things done. Venturing to the nearby city, Kasper meets up with a band of street kids and their charismatic leader, who tempt the young boy to leave his home and join them. Noting that numerous positive clichs could apply to Kasper in the Glitter, reviewer Ray Turton described the work in Magpies as "fast-paced adventure" that is "uproariously funny," yet added that none of these descriptions could do justice to this "weird, unique book that plays with the ridiculous to highlight a very serious topic."

Meteorite Spoon, published in 1994, marked Ridley's fourth foray into the world of children's literature. Filly and Fergal Thunder wake up every morning to the sound of their parents arguing—until one day a magical spoon crashes through the roof, knocking the family home to the ground and freeing the children to take a trip into the fantasy kingdom of Honeymoonia. Compared by a Junior Bookshelf critic to the work of noted writer Roald Dahl, Meteorite Spoon reveals Ridley's knack for putting an imaginative, humorous spin on sometimes trying family situations. The Junior Bookshelf critic asserted that Ridley "really can tell a tale vivid and strong enough to keep the reader glued to the page" and concluded that Meteorite Spoon "further establishes him as a top-flight writer for young readers."

Ridley continues his legacy of creating surrealistic children's literature in Zip's Apollo. Christina Hardyment, writing in the London Independent, praising the book's "fast-moving prose" and noting that Ridley's "ebullient imagination is firmly rooted in telling characterisation." Zip's Apollo centers on Zip Jingle, as he joins his mother and younger brother Newt in a move from their comfortable forest home into the city. Their new house is on "Yet to Be Named Street in New Town," and after arriving, the Jingle family has a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings. Everything is plastic in the city, including the trees and grass, and there is also a boring sameness. Things get more exciting for Zip and Newt after they go to the supermarket and bring home a shopping cart, which they name Apollo. Soon after, the boys discover that the rolling metal cart has the capability to read their minds and is able to communicate with the Jingle family telepathically and through speech. Apollo helps the Jingles cope with their new surroundings and teaches them how to appreciate life once again. An Achuka online reviewer acknowledged Zip's Apollo as "an impressive tale encompassing life, loss, change … and a coming to terms with one's past," while also noting that the book "contains one of the most beautiful … and life-affirming speeches to be found in children's literature."

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Ridley, Philip, Zip's Apollo, Penguin (London, England), 2005.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 1, 1992, Hazel Rochman, review of Krindlekrax; or, How Rushkin Splinter Battled a Horrible Monster and Saved His Entire Neighborhood, pp. 1280-1281.

Guardian (London, England), April 27, 2005, Dina Rabinovitch, "Author of the Month: Philip Ridley."

Independent (London, England), July 22, 2005, Christina Hardyment, review of Zip's Apollo.

Junior Bookshelf, October, 1994, review of Meteorite Spoon, p. 184.

Magpies, March, 1995, Ray Turton, review of Kasper in the Glitter, p. 13.

School Library Journal, May, 1991, Susan Oliver, review of Dakota of the White Flats, p. 94.

ONLINE

Achuka Web site, http://www.achuka.co.uk/ (October 31, 2005), review of Zip's Apollo.

Acquis Web site, http://www.acquis.org.uk/ (May 4, 2006), review of Sparkleshark.

British Broadcasting Corporation Web site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (May 4, 2006), "Philip Ridley."

Internet Movie Database, http://www.imbd.com/ (May 4, 2006), "Philip Ridley."

I-Theatre Web site, http://www.itheatre.org/ (May 4, 2006), "Philip Ridley."

Penguin UK Web site, http://www.penguin.co.uk/ (May 4, 2006), "Philip Ridley."

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