Peter Dickinson, born in 1927, has written more than fifty novels for adults and young readers; and has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Award twice.
He is a tall, elderly, bony, beaky, wrinkled sort of fellow, with a lot of untidy gray hair and a weird hooting voice in fact he looks and sounds a bit like Gandalfs crazy twin, but hes only rather absent-minded, probably because hes thinking about something else. Day-dreaming, mostly.
He was born in the middle of Africa, within earshot of the Victoria Falls. Baboons sometimes came into the school playground. When people went swimming in the Zambezi they did it in a big wooden cage let down into the water, so that the crocs couldnt get at them. For the hot weather the family went south to his grandfathers ostrich farm in South Africa.
Then the family came back to England so that he and his brothers could go to English Schools, where they taught him mostly Latin and Greek. He didnt have an English lesson after he was twelve, and nobody ever told him to write a story. He was fairly good at games.
Hes led an ordinary kind of life not much by way of adventures, but some silly things. Such as? Well, when he had to join the army, just after World War II, they managed to turn him into two people; so he was bashing away at infantry training at a camp in Northern Ireland when two sea-sick military policemen showed up and arrested him for being a deserter from a different camp in the south of England, where his other self was supposed to be bashing away.
He was tutoring a boy in a huge old castle in Scotland when the butler (it was that sort of household) said to him at dinner one day "Ah, sir, its a long time since we heard screams coming from the West Wing!" (Peters screams, not the boys.)
And he was knocked down by a tram on his way to the interview for his first job and arrived all covered with blood and dirt, but they gave him the job because he was the only candidate. He stayed there seventeen years.
He and his first wife had two daughters and two sons, and he now has six grandchildren. He and his second wife, the American writer Robin McKinley, live in an almost-too-pretty country town in England.
Peter Dickinson's website
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An essay by Peter Dickinson entitled 'A Defense of Rubbish'
The danger of living in a golden age of childrens literature is that not
enough rubbish is being produced.
Nobody who has not spent a whole sunny afternoon under his bed rereading a pile of comics left over from the previous holidays has any real idea of the meaning of intellectual freedom.
Nobody who has not written comic strips can really understand the phrase, economy of words. Its like trying to write Paradise Lost in haiku.
The above remarks, and a few more like them, have now
haunted me for five years. They were part of a digression in a talk I gave to
the 1970 Exeter conference on childrens literature, and if Id realised
then what a powder-keg I was throwing my fag-end of thought into I would have
kept my trap shut. Ive no wish to be type-cast as the man who likes rubbish.
On the other hand I did (and do) believe what I said then, and what follows is a
more serious attempt to formulate my ideas.
I have always believed that children ought to be allowed to read a certain amount of rubbish. Sometimes quite a high proportion of their reading matter can healthfully consist...
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