Robin McKinley

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Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley photo.jpg
Born Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley
(1952-11-16) November 16, 1952 (age 63)
Warren, Ohio, US
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 1978–
Genre Children's fantasy novels, Bildungsroman, fairy tales
Notable works
Notable awards Newbery Medal
World Fantasy Award
Spouse Peter Dickinson (1991-2015)

Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley (born November 16, 1952), known as Robin McKinley, is an American author of fantasy and children's books. Her 1984 novel The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as the year's best new American children's book.

As of 2015 McKinley has written or contributed to twenty books. Her most recent novel is Shadows (2013), and her next anticipated novel is Ebon.[1]


Robin McKinley was born as Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley on November 16, 1952 in Warren, Ohio. Her father William McKinley was an officer in the United States Navy and her mother Jeanne Turrell McKinley was a teacher. As a result of her father's changing naval posts, McKinley grew up all over the world including in California, New York, Japan, and Maine. She was educated at Gould Academy, a preparatory school in Bethel, Maine. McKinley went on to attend college, first at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1970–1972. She finished her college education at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and graduated summa cum laude in 1975.

Robin McKinley currently lives in Hampshire, England. Her husband was author Peter Dickinson; they were married from 1991 until his death in 2015. They had no children, though Dickinson had children from a previous relationship.[2] McKinley has two dogs nicknamed Chaos and Darkness.[3] Her "obsessions" include learning how to play the piano, horseback riding, gardening, cooking, and bell ringing.[4]


After graduating from college, she remained in Maine for several years working as a research assistant and later in a bookstore. During this time, she completed her first book, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. It was accepted for publication by the first publisher it was sent to and upon publication immediately pushed McKinley to prominence. The book was named an American Library Association Notable Children's Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.[5]


Robin McKinley has written a variety of novels, mostly in the fantasy genre. Several of her novels are her own personal renditions of classic fairy tales with a "feminist twist".[6] These retellings usually feature a strong female protagonist who does not wait to be rescued but instead takes an active role in determining the course of her own life. Beauty and Rose Daughter are both versions of Beauty and the Beast, Spindle's End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folk-tales. Besides adapting classic fairy tales, McKinley wrote her own rendition of the Robin Hood story in her novel The Outlaws of Sherwood.

McKinley has written two novels set in the imaginary land of Damar, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Her contribution to the Imaginary Lands anthology and the stories in A Knot in the Grain are also set there. She describes herself as a "scribe" and "Damar's historian", because the stories "happen to her" and she is only responsible for writing them down. The stories of Damar have been occurring to her since before she wrote Beauty, and The Blue Sword was intended to be the first of a series about this land.[7]

McKinley's standalone novels include Sunshine and Dragonhaven.

The heroines in McKinley's books reflect certain qualities that she saw in herself as a young woman: clumsiness, plainness, bookishness, and disinterest in the usual social games that involve flirting and dating. She has said, "I didn't discover boys because they didn't discover me, and because their standards of discovery seemed to me too odd to be aspired to. They were the ones who got to have adventures, while we got to—well, not have adventures."[8]

McKinley says she writes about strong heroines because she feels very strongly about the potential for girls to be "doing things", and she feels that the selection of fantasy literature featuring girls is scarce and unsatisfactory. According to biographer Marilyn H. Karrenbrock, "McKinley's females do not simper; they do not betray their own nature to win a man's approval. But neither do they take love lightly or put their own desires before anything else. In McKinley's books, the romance, like the adventure, is based upon ideals of faithfulness, duty, and honor."[5]


  • 1983 Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword.
  • 1985 Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown.
  • 1986 World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor.[9]
  • 1998 Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty.[10]
  • 2004 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine.[11]



Collections and anthologies[edit]

  • Imaginary Lands (1986), editor and contributor
  • A Knot in the Grain (1994)
  • Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits (2004), by Peter Dickinson and McKinley
  • Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits (2009), by Dickinson and McKinley

Children's picture books[edit]

  • Rowan (1992)
  • My Father Is in the Navy (1992)
  • The Stone Fey (1998)

Selected scholarly works about McKinley[edit]

  • Altmann, Anna E. "Welding Brass Tits on the Armor: An Examination of the Quest Metaphor in Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown". Children's Literature in Education 23.3 (Sept. 1992): 143–56. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Cadden, Michael. "The Illusion of Control: Narrative Authority in Robin McKinley's Beauty and The Blue Sword". Mythlore 20.2 (Spring 1994): 16–19. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Cadden, Mike. "Home Is a Matter of Blood, Time, and Genre: Essentialism in Burnett and McKinley". ARIEL 28.1 (Jan. 1997): 53–67. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Hearne, Betsy. "Beauty and the Beast: Visions and Revisions of an Old Tale: 1950–1985". Lion and the Unicorn 12.2 (Dec. 1988): 74–111. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Maryellen, Harris. "Beauty and the Beast: 20th Century Romance?". Merveilles and Contes 3.1 (May 1989): 75–83. Reprint Children's Literature Review. Ed. Scot Peacock. Vol. 81. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web.[full citation needed] Retrieved May 26, 2011.
  • Rutledge, Amelia A. "Robin McKinley's Deerskin: Challenging Narcissisms". Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tales Studies 15.2 (2001): 168–82. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Sackelman, Ellen R. "More Than Skin Deep: Robin McKinley's Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast". Women in Literature: Reading Through the Lens of Gender. Ed. Jerilyn Fisher and Ellen S. Silber. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003. 32–34. Reprint in CLR 127.
  • Sanders, Lynn Moss. "Girls Who Do Things: The Protagonists of Robin McKinley's Fantasy Fiction". ALAN Review 24.1 (Fall 1996): 38–42. Reprint in CLR 127.

Children's Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 127. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web.[full citation needed] Retrieved May 26, 2011.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robin McKinley (October 18, 2011). "the announcement you don't want to hear". Days in the Life. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Robin McKinley. "Are you married? Do you have any children?". FAQ. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Robin McKinley. "Do you have any pets?". FAQ. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Robin McKinley. "What do you do with your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?". FAQ. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Karrenbock, Marilyn H. (1986). "(Jennifer) (Carolyn) Robin McKinley". American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction. 52. 
  6. ^ "Robin McKinley". Contemporary Authors Online. Gale. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Robin McKinley. "When are you going to write another Damar book?". FAQ. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Robin McKinley. "Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech. 1985.". Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Award Winners & Nominees". World Fantasy Awards. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Phoenix Award" (brochure). ChLA. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
  11. ^ "Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Winners". Mythopoeic Society. Retrieved 3 June 2011. 

External links[edit]