21 July 1913
Kensington, London, England
|Died||8 January 2001
|Education||St Paul's Girls' School
Newnham College, Cambridge
|Notable work(s)||Marianne Dreams|
|Spouse(s)||Anthony Storr (1942–70)
Lord Balogh (1970–85)
Catherine Storr (born Catherine Cole; 21 July 1913 – 8 January 2001,) was an English children's writer, best known for her novel Marianne Dreams and for a series of books about a wolf ineptly pursuing a young girl, beginning with Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf.
She was born in Kensington, London, one of three children of a barrister, Arthur Frederick Andrew Cole (1883–1968), and his wife, Margaret Henrietta, born Gaselee (1882–1971). She attended St Paul's Girls' School, where she was taught music by Gustav Holst and became the school's organist. She went on to study English literature at Newnham College, Cambridge, and at first pursued a career as a novelist without success. Without giving up this ambition she studied medicine, qualifying as a doctor in 1944. From 1950 to 1963 she worked as a Senior Medical Officer in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Middlesex Hospital. Afterwards, while regularly producing new children's books, she also worked as an editorial assistant for Penguin Books, from 1966 to the early seventies.
She had met the psychiatrist and author Anthony Storr (1920–2001) during her training and married him in 1942. She had three daughters by this marriage, Sophia, Polly and Emma. They divorced in 1970 and she subsequently married the economist Lord Balogh (1905–1985).
Unusually among the leading children's writers of her time, much of her work was for younger children, at the start of their reading, notably the series of stories about Polly and the wolf, which were written for her daughter, Polly. The stories, starting with the collection Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf (1955), feature a wolf trying to catch a little girl: the wolf, himself a fairy tale figure, takes his always impractical subterfuges from fairy tales, but is outmatched by Polly every time. A novel for slightly older children Marianne Dreams (1958) is more disturbing: a young girl, being tutored at home during sickness, travels in dreams to the house she has drawn while awake and meets there another pupil of her tutor; in a moment of jealousy she draws stones with eyes around the house to keep him prisoner and must then undo her actions. It was made into the TV series Escape Into Night and the film Paperhouse; Storr was not fond of the latter, and particularly disliked the ending.
Storr's books often involve confronting fears, even in the lighthearted Polly stories, and she was aware that she wrote frightening stories. On the subject, she writes: "We should show them that evil is something they already know about or half know. It's not something right outside themselves and this immediately puts it, not only into their comprehension, but it also gives them a degree of power".
- Eccleshare (2005) gives the date of her death as January 8; Eccleshare (2001) and Thwaite (2001) give it as January 6.
- Eccleshare (2001); Thwaite (2001).
- Thwaite (2001).
- Eccleshare (2001); Eccleshare (2005); Thwaite (2001).
- Storr (1970), 36 "I wrote them to amuse Polly — not that I told them to her. She read them when I had written them, because she was one of the children who always had a wolf under the bed and she was frightened of it."
- Townsend (1987), 246, "Marianne Dreams is strong stuff for children of the fairly low age-group (about nine to twelve) for which I have seen it suggested. But I would not say it is unsuitable. The realization that we all have power for evil must come some time, and could take far more disturbing forms than this."
- Storr (1970), 22 "I know I do write frightening books. I write to frighten myself."
- Storr (1970), 31.
- Starting Out on the Broadcast for Schools website
- Storr, Catherine (1970). "Fear and evil in children's books". Children's literature in education 1: 22–40.
- Julia Eccleshare, "Catherine Storr", The Guardian, 11 January 2001 (obituary).
- Julia Eccleshare, "Storr, Catherine", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, Oxford: OUP, January 2005 accessed 28 June 2008
- Ann Thwaite, "Catherine Storr", The Independent, 12 January 2001 (obituary).
- John Rowe Townsend, Written for Children. London and Harmondsworth: Penguin, ed. 3, 1987. ISBN 0-14-010688-X