Philippa Pearce

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Philippa Pearce
Born Ann Philippa Pearce
(1920-01-22)22 January 1920[1][2]
Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England
Died 21 December 2006(2006-12-21) (aged 86)
Durham, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Period 1955–2008
Genres Children's fantasy and supernatural fiction
Notable work(s) Tom's Midnight Garden
Notable award(s) Carnegie Medal
1958

Ann Philippa Pearce OBE (22 January 1920 – 21 December 2006) was an English author of children's books. Her most famous work is the time slip fantasy novel Tom's Midnight Garden, which won the 1958 Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's outstanding children's book by a British subject.[3] Pearce was four times a commended runner up for the Medal.[4][a]

Early life[edit]

The youngest of the four children of a flour miller and corn merchant, Ernest Alexander Pearce, and his wife Gertrude Alice née Ramsden, Philippa Pearce was born in the village of Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire and brought up there on the River Cam at the Mill House.[5] Starting school late at the age of eight because of illness, she was educated at the Perse School for Girls in 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 London where she found work as a civil servant. She wrote and produced schools radio programmes for the BBC, where she remained for thirteen years. She was children's editor at the Oxford University Press from 1958 to 1960 and at the André Deutsch publishing house from 1960 to 1967.[clarification needed]

Writing career[edit]

In 1951 Pearce spent a long while in hospital, recovering from tuberculosis. She passed the time thinking about a canoe trip she had taken many years before, which became the inspiration for her first book, a 241-page novel Minnow on the Say, published by Oxford in 1955 with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone. It was a commended runner up for the annual Carnegie Medal.[4][a] Like several of her subsequent books, it was clearly inspired by the area where she had been raised: the villages of Great and Little Shelford became Great and Little Barley; Cambridge became Castleford (nothing to do with the real town of the same name in West Yorkshire) and lost its university; the River Cam became the River Say. Minnow was published in the U.S. as The Minnow Leads to Treasure (1958),[6] adapted in Canada as a 1960 TV series with the original title, and adapted for British television in 1972 as Treasure over the Water.

Her second book was Tom's Midnight Garden, published by Oxford in 1958. Its "midnight garden" was based directly on the garden of the Mill House where Pearce was raised. Tom has become one of the classic "time stories" (specifically time slip), inspiring a film, a stage play, and three TV versions. It won the annual Carnegie Medal and for the 70th anniversary celebration in 2007, a panel named it one of the top ten Medal-winning works, which composed the ballot for a public election of the nation's favourite.[7] Tom's Midnight Garden finished second in the vote from that shortlist, between two books that were about 40 years younger.[8][b]

She wrote over 30 books, including A Dog So Small (1962), The Squirrel Wife (1971), The Battle of Bubble and Squeak (1978), and The Way To Sattin Shore (1983). The Shadow Cage and other tales of the supernatural (1977), Bubble and Squeak, and Sattin Shore were the later three of her four Carnegie Medal runners up.[4][a] 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 following years, speaking at conferences, editing anthologies and writing short stories. She attended a 2002 reception for children's authors at Number 10 Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister.

In 2004 she published her first new full-length book for two decades, The Little Gentleman. One more children's novel was published posthumously in 2008, A Finder's Magic.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Pearce married Martin Christie in 1962. They had one child, who became a children's author herself, Sally Pearce. Christie, who had never fully recovered from being a Japanese prisoner of war, died in 1964. From 1973 until her death from complications of a stroke in 2006, Philippa Pearce lived once again in Great Shelford, down the same lane where she was raised.[citation needed]

Legacy[edit]

Every September from 2008, the Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture at Homerton College, Cambridge, celebrates "excellence in writing for children and to emphasize its continuing vital importance." The lecturers are children's literature authors, scholars, or critics and most of the lectures are published online.[10]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 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 1955, three 1977, three 1978, and three 1983 (one highly commended).
  2. ^ Among votes cast from the U.K., Northern Lights polled 40%, Tom's Midnight Garden 16%; Skellig 8%. The winning author, Philip Pullman, generously said: "Personally I feel they got the initials right but not the name. I don't know if the result would be the same in a hundred years' time; maybe Philippa Pearce would win then."
    • Ezard (2007).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nettell, Stephanie (2 January 2007). "Obituary: Philippa Pearce". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  2. ^ Tucker, Nicholas (23 December 2006). "Obituary: Philippa Pearce". The Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2009.
  3. ^ (Carnegie Winner 1958). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  5. ^ Biography on the flyleaf of a 1987 reprint of the Puffin Books edition of her first children's novel, Minnow on the Say; ODNB entry by Nicholas Tucker retrieved 22 July 2013. Pay/walled.
  6. ^ "The Minnow leads to treasure". Library of Congress Catalog record. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  7. ^ "70 Years Celebration: Anniversary Top Tens". The CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards. CILIP. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  8. ^ Ezard, John (21 June 2007). "Pullman children's book voted best in 70 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  9. ^ Pearce, A Finder's Magic, Walker Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-4063-0922-5.
  10. ^ "The Philippa Pearce Memorial Lecture: celebrating excellence in children's literature". Retrieved 18 November 2012.

External links[edit]