- Philippa Pearce
Born in 1920, the youngest of four children, she was brought up in the Mill House in the village of
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire. Starting school late at the age of eight because of illness, she went to the Perse School for Girls, Cambridge, and went on to Girton College, Cambridge, after winning a scholarship to read English and History there.
After gaining her degree, she left university and moved to
Londonwere she found work as a civil servantbefore beginning to write and produce schools radio programmes for the BBC, where she remained for thirteen years. From 1958 to 1960 she was children’s editor at the Oxford University Pressand then, 1960 to 1967 at the Andre Deutschpublishing house.
She married Martin Christie in 1962, who never having fully recovered from being a Japanese
prisoner of war, died two years later, shortly after the birth of their only child, Sally, who was to become a children's author herself. From 1973 until she died from complications of a stroke in 2006, the author lived once again in Great Shelford, down the same lane where she was brought up.
In 1951 she spent a long while in hospital, recovering from
tuberculosis; during this stay she passed the time thinking about a canoe trip she had taken many years before. This was the inspiration for her first book, "Minnow on the Say", published in 1955. Like several of her subsequent books, it was inspired very clearly by the area where she had been raised, with the villages of Great and Little Shelfordbecoming Great and Little Barley, Cambridge becoming "Castleford" (nothing to do with the real town of the same name in West Yorkshire) and losing its university, and the River Cambecoming the River Say.
Her next and most famous book, "
Tom's Midnight Garden" (1958), has become one of the classic "time stories," inspiring a film, a stage play, and three TV versions. It was awarded the Carnegie Medalin 1959. The "midnight garden" was, in fact, based directly on the garden of the Mill House where she had grown up. She wrote over 30 books, including "A Dog So Small" (1962), "The Battle of Bubble and Squeak" (1978) and "The Way To Sattin Shore" (1983). "The Battle of Bubble and Squeak" inspired a two part television adaptation in Channel 4's " Talk, Write and Read" series of educational programming.
Although not a prolific author of full-length books, Philippa Pearce continued to work over the decades, speaking at conferences, editing anthologies and writing short stories, as well as attending a reception for children's authors at Number
10 Downing Street– the London home of the British Prime Minister– in 2002.
In 2004 she published her first new full-length book for two decades, "The Little Gentleman".
* [http://www.pearcelecture.com/ The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture]
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