Cynthia Harnett (22 June 1893 – 25 October 1981) was an English author and illustrator of children's books, mainly. She is best known for six historical novels that feature ordinary teen-age children in events of English national significance, four in the 15th century. They are characterised by meticulous background research and exceptionally detailed and vivid evocation of history. For one of them, The Wool-Pack, she won the 1951 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. Another, The Load of Unicorn was a commended runner-up for the 1959 Carnegie.[a]
She collaborated more than a dozen times with the painter and etcher George Vernon Stokes (1873–1954). Several of their books about dogs or the countryside, or both, simply credited Vernon Stokes and Cynthia Harnett as co-authors.
The British librarians say, in retrospective citation of Harnett's 1951 Carnegie Medal, "Cynthia Harnett wrote about families at times of historical change which affected everyday life. She wrote about the development of the wool trade, the advent of printing and the development of new styles of architecture. In total she wrote six children's novels between 1949 and 1971."
These six books were published by Methuen and the first five were illustrated by Harnett.
In the U.S. these six books were first published as The Great House (1968), Nicholas and the Wool-Pack (1953), The Drawbridge Gate (1953), Stars of Fortune (1956), Caxton's Challenge (1960), and The Writing on the Hearth (1973). At least three were re-titled again in the 1980s.
- Since 1995 there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU some runners up through 2002 were Commended (from 1954) or Highly Commended (from 1966). There were about 160 commendations of both kinds in 49 years including five for 1959.
- "Harnett, Cynthia". Bridget Carrington. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. Jack Zipes, ed. Oxford University Press. 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- "Harnett, Cynthia". The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Dinah Birch, ed. Oxford University Press. 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
- (Carnegie Winner 1951). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 21 August 2012.
- WorldCat identities: Harnett, C. M.; Harnett, Cynthia; Stokes, George Vernon; Stokes, Vernon. Retrieved 17 November 2012.