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Robin Klein (1936-) Biography - Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights

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(Robin McMaugh Klein)

Personal

Born 1936, in Kempsey, New South Wales, Australia; Education: Attended schools in New South Wales, Australia.

Addresses

Agent—Curtis Brown, P.O. Box 19, Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales 2021, Australia.

Career

Writer, beginning 1981. Formerly worked as a "tea lady" at a warehouse, as a bookshop assistant, nurse, copper enamelist, and program aide at a school for disadvantaged children.

Honors Awards

Special mention, Critici in Erba Awards at Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1979, for The Giraffe in Pepperell Street; Australian Junior Book of the Year Award, Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA), 1983, for Thing; Book of the Year Award Highly Commended citation, CBCA, 1984, for Penny Pollard's Diary; senior fellowship grant, Arts Council of Australia Literature Board, 1985; CBCA Book of the Year designation, Australian Children's Book of the Year shortlist, for People Might Hear You and Seeing Things, both 1984, Hating Alison Ashley, 1985, and Halfway across the
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Galaxy and Turn Left, 1986; Young Australian Best Book Award, 1986, and Kids Own Australian Literature Award (KOALA), 1997, and South Australia Kanga Award list, 2004, all for Hating Alison Ashley; Human Rights Award for Literature, 1989, and Australian Children's Book of the Year Award for Older Readers, Victorian Premier's Literary Award shortlist, Bologna Children's Book Fair White Raven Book designation, New South Wales Premier's Literary Award, all 1990, and COOL Award, 1992, all for Came Back to Show You I Could Fly; Dromkeen Medal, 1991, for contributions to children's literature in Australia; KOALA award, 1992, for People Might Hear You; New South Wales State Literary Award, 1992, for All in the Blue Unclouded Weather; South Australian Festival Award for Literature, 1998, and Books I Love Best Yearly honor (Queensland), 1999, both for The Listmaker; honorary doctor of letters, University of Newcastle, 2004.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

The Giraffe in Pepperell Street, illustrated by Gill Tomblin, Hodder & Stoughton (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1978.

Honoured Guest, illustrated by Margaret Power, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1979.

Thing (also see below), illustrated by Alison Lester, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Sprung!, illustrated by Margaret Power, Rigby, 1982.

People Might Hear You (also see below), Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1983, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.

Junk Castle, illustrated by Rolf Heimann, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1983, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Penny Pollard's Diary, illustrated by Ann James, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983, reprinted, Hodder Headline (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1999.

Oodoolay, illustrated by Vivienne Goodman, Era Publications, 1984.

Hating Alison Ashley, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1984, Puffin (New York, NY), 1985, reprinted, Puffin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.

Brock and the Dragon, illustrated by Rodney McRae, Hodder & Stoughton (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1984.

Thalia the Failure, illustrated by Rhyll Plant, Ashton Scholastic, 1984.

Thingnapped! (sequel to Thing), illustrated by Alison Lester, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1984.

Penny Pollard's Letters, illustrated by Ann James, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1984.

Ratbags and Rascals: Funny Stories, illustrated by Alison Lester, J. M. Dent (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1984.

The Tomb Comb, illustrated by Heather Potter, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1984.

Halfway across the Galaxy and Turn Left, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1985, Viking (New York, NY), 1986.

The Enemies, illustrated by Noela Young, Angus & Robertson (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1985, Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.

Annabel's Ghost (stories), Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1985.

Separate Places, illustrated by Anna Lacis, Kangaroo Press, 1985.

Snakes and Ladders: Poems about the Ups and Downs of Life, illustrated by Ann James, J. M. Dent (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1985, Merrimack, 1986.

Penny Pollard in Print, illustrated by Ann James, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1986, reprinted, Hodder Headline (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2004.

The Princess Who Hated It, illustrated by Marie Smith, Omnibus Books (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia), 1986.

(With Max Dunn) The Lonely Hearts Club, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1986.

Boss of the Pool, illustrated by Helen Panagopoulos, Omnibus Books (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia), 1986, reprinted, 2005.

Games, illustrated by Melissa Webb, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1986, reprinted, 2000.

Birk the Berserker, illustrated by Alison Lester, Omnibus Books (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia), 1987.

Get Lost, 1987.

Robin Klein's Crookbook, illustrated by Kristen Hilliard, Methuen (London, England), 1987.

Christmas, illustrated by Kristen Hilliard, Methuen (London, England), 1987.

I Shot an Arrow, illustrated by Geoff Hocking, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1987.

Don't Tell Lucy (miscellany), illustrated by Kristen Hilliard, Methuen (London, England), 1987.

Laurie Loved Me Best (young adult), Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1988.

Penny Pollard's Passport, illustrated by Ann James, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1988, Hodder Children's (Rydalmere, New South Wales, Australia), 1999.

Dear Robin: Letters to Robin Klein, Allen & Unwin (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

Against the Odds, illustrated by Bill Wood, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1989.

The Ghost in Abigail Terrace, illustrated by Margaret Powers, Omnibus Books (Adelaide, South Australia, Australia), 1989.

Penny Pollard's Guide to Modern Manners, Oxford University Press (Melbourne, New South Wales, Australia), 1989, reprinted, Hodder Children's (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2004.

Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, Viking (New York, NY), 1989.

Boris and Borsch, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1990.

Tearaways: Stories to Make You Think Twice, Viking (New York, NY), 1990.

All in the Blue Unclouded Weather (first book in "Melling Sisters" trilogy), Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

Boss of the Pool, illustrated by Paul Geraghty, Puffin (New York, NY), 1992.

Amy's Bed, 1992.

Dresses of Red and Gold (second book in "Melling Sisters" trilogy), Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

Seeing Things (also see below), Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Turn Right for Zyrgon, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1994.

Oodoolay, Publishers Network, 1995.

The Sky in Silver Lace (third book in "Melling Sisters" trilogy), Viking (New York, NY), 1995.

The Listmaker (also see below), Viking Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1997.

Barney's Blues, illustrated by David Cox, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1998.

Gabby's Fair, illustrated by Michael Johnson, Omnibus Books (Adelaide, New South Wales, Australia), 1998.

Penny Pollard's Scrapbook, illustrated by Ann James, Hodder Children's (Rydalmere, New South Wales, Australia), 1999.

(With Anne Spudvilas) The Goddess, Franklin Watts (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2000.

The Robin Klein Collection: Three Award-winning Books in One (includes People Might Hear You, Seeing Things, and The Listmaker), Viking (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2003.

Also author of Good for Something, Serve Him Right, and You're on Your Own.

Adaptations

Thing and Penny Pollard's Diary were adapted for television and broadcast on the Australian Children's Television Foundation's Kaboodle series, 1987. Hating Alison Ashley was adapted for stage by Richard Tulloch and published by Puffin Books, and was adapted as a feature film directed by Geoff Bennett, Hoyts, 2005. Boss of the Pool was adapted for stage by Mary Morris, 1990. Many of Klein's novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including the "Penny Pollard" books and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, Bolinda Audio, 2004.

Sidelights

One of Australia's most beloved and awarded writers for young people, Robin Klein's works range from picture books such as Thing and The Giraffe in Pepperell to the middle-grade stories featuring of ten-year-old Penny Pollard, to young-adult novels such as People Might Hear You, Games, and Came Back to Show You I Could Fly. As Stephanie Nettell observed in Books for Keeps, Klein "is a marvelously gutsy writer who relishes the drama of everyday life." Many of Klein's best-known books, have been published in the United States.

Born in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1936, Klein was part of a farming family, although she spent much of her childhood living in the suburbs. Before becoming a writer, she had several different jobs, including working as a nurse, at a bookstore, and as an aide teaching at a school for the disadvantaged. Writing proved to be most in line with her personality; as she explained to Nettell: "I was hopeless as a teacher because I never kept order: they'd come and put an arm round my shoulder and we'd end up with a chat session." Although she made her home in the more rural Australian countryside—"the bush"—for much of her adult life, Klein sets many of her books in urban or suburban neighborhoods and she often features young protagonists who rebel against their structured environment. As the author once commented, "most of my books seem to have a strong female character, capable of dealing with any problem that arises."

Klein's first published book, The Giraffe in Pepperell Street, appeared in 1978, while she was still working as a school aide. Written in verse, the picture book was described as "humorous" and "sophisticated" by Junior Bookshelf contributor J. Russell, and also received a special mention at the annual Children's Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. Three years later, after publishing two more books, Honoured Guest and Sprung!, Klein decided to make writing a full-time job, and she produced one of her best-known picture books, Thing, the following year.

Thing introduces readers to Emily, a young girl who brings home what she thinks is a rock, only to watch the "rock" crack and a tiny stegosaurus dinosaur hatch from it. Although the family's landlady does not allow pets of any kind, when Thing saves the woman's possessions from a group of thieves the landlady reconsiders. E. Colwell, reviewing Thing in Junior Bookshelf, declared that Klein and illustrator Alison Lester "have created an appealing creature, both in words and pictures." Writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Zena Sutherland noted that "what makes the story particularly enjoyable is the blandness with which others accept the stegosaurus; the police who come to get the burglars, for example, say "But would you kindly ask your dinosaur to step out of the way?'" Thing proved so popular with readers that Klein published a sequel, Thingnapped!, in 1984.

Writing for older readers, Klein introduced her popular heroine Penny Pollard in 1983, in Penny Pollard's Diary. A unique feature of Klein's "Penny Pollard" books—which include Penny Pollard's Letters, Penny Pollard in Print, Penny Pollard's Passport, Penny Pollard's Guide to Modern Manners, and Penny Pollard's Scrapbook—is their use of diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and other print materials to tell Penny's stories. Describing her "Penny Pollard" books, Klein told Nettell that she views Penny as "a sturdy, delightful character, with a message for girls in particular that 'you don't always need Daddy or big brother to solve your problems'—she can solve her own problems, though she's not tough all the way through." In Penny Pollard's Diary the ten-year-old tomboy and horse-lover is faced with the unpleasant task of visiting the old people's home as a class project, then finds the tables turned when she meets an elderly woman who is just as high-spirited as she is. Penny Pollard's Guide to Modern Manners finds Penny chastised for over-the-top behavior and assigned the position of classroom "Etiquette Trouble Shooter": dealing with everything from bed-wetting traumas to table manners. In Penny Pollard's Scrapbook the girl deals with the unwelcome announcement that her family is moving by turning to Saint Jude for help so that she doesn't have to leave her beloved Koringa Primary School. "All the little boys in Australia are in love with" Penny Pollard, Klein explained to Nettell, "and write to her as if she exists."

Other books Klein has written for the middle-grade age group include Junk Castle and Hating Alison Ashley. In Junk Castle a group of friends construct a fort on a vacant block in their neighborhood, and it becomes a favorite gathering spot. The children find themselves drawn into local politics, however, when complaints by a local resident make their beloved fort the subject of a debate at a city council meeting. A perennial favorite among preteen readers, Hating Alison Ashley introduces Erika "Erk" Yurken, a young teen whose quirky family and inability to fit in have caused her to have a super-inflated ego. When beautiful, smart, rich, and nice Alison Ashley becomes the new girl at Barringa East Pri-
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mary School, Erika finds her status as school smarty threatened. Propelled by jealousy and hatred for her "rival," Erika makes a muddle of every effort to upstage the new student, from events at school camp to battles for the lead in the annual class play.

Equally acclaimed by critics and devoured by young fans are Klein's books for young adults. People Might Hear You centers on Francis, who is being raised by her aunt. When the woman's new husband turns out to be a member of a fanatic religion, Francis joins the man's own children, who are locked in the family's home in order to protect them from the evils of the outside world. As Deborah Singmaster remarked in the Times Literary Supplement, Klein creates tension through her description of the book's setting; "the atmosphere of the house, with its locked windows and the garden surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, is vividly conveyed and suspense is maintained to the last page." Some critics found People Might Hear You too dark and disturbing for teen readers; Allan Wainwright wrote in School Librarian that "this is a book that I would never wittingly allow to fall into the hands of adolescents." Similarly sinister in mood is Games, in which three girls spend the night in a house rumored to be haunted. Reviewing the book for Reading Time, Robyn Sheahan wrote that "Klein has made a thriller out of an ordinary teenage escapade—a testimony to her already proven ability to combine masterful storytelling with a penetrating analysis of the child psyche."

More serious in nature are Klein's YA novels Came Back to Show You I Could Fly and Laurie Loved Me Best. Came Back to Show You I Could Fly focuses on eleven-year-old Seymour, who is spending the summer months with an overly protective guardian who lives in a city suburb. Because of his mother's instructions that Seymour not leave the house—she has an unfounded fear that he will be snatched by his father—the preteen is bored and miserable. However, he soon meets Angie, his twenty-year-old neighbor, and the free-spirited young woman helps Seymour sneak away and explore the city. While Seymour at first idolizes his new friend, he gradually learns that she too is trapped through her drug addiction and a destructive relationship that has left her pregnant and alone. Winner of the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year award, Came Back to Show You I Could Fly was praised by Kliatt contributor Pat Dole as for its "well-developed characters, sharp dialogue, and … vivid setting."

Laurie Loved Me Best concerns two fourteen-year-old friends, each of whom believe that the same older boy, a schoolmate, is in love with them. The story is told from each of the girls' alternating viewpoints, and readers gradually realize that Laurie, the focus of their admiration, is actually conning both of the love-struck teens. Cindy Darling Codell, writing in School Library Journal, praised Klein's style as "at turns breezy, humorous, pensive, and ironic, but never boring," and further noted that Laurie Loved Me Best "transcends its Australian setting to make universal statements about friendship and love at all ages."

In addition to her many novels and picture books, Klein has penned a three-book series of historical novels that draws on her memories of growing up in the 1940s. Beginning with All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, and continuing with Dresses of Red and Gold and The Sky in Silver Lace, the "Melling Sisters" books relate the continuing saga of Grace, Heather, Cathy, and Vivienne. From their home in the fictional small town of Wilgawa, the books follow the sisters to the city where their mother grew up. The sisters are close-knit by design: their mother is busy writing obituaries for the local newspaper, while their father is often away from home working on get-rich-quick schemes. In All in the Blue Unclouded Weather eldest sister Grace is preparing to strike out on her own, while Cathy deals with social problems at school and Vivienne abhors her status as youngest because of the hand-me-down frocks she must wear. Brightening the scene is the visit of cousin Isobel, whom Roger Sutton described in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books as "a breathtakingly imaginative troublemaker." In Booklist Chris Sherman praised All in the Blue Unclouded Weather for introducing characters who are "scrappy, conniving, and refreshingly normal."

In Dresses of Red and Gold Grace has moved away to study dressmaking. Still at home, tomboy Cathy dreads the prospect of dressing up to serve as a bridesmaid at her cousin's wedding. When a mishap takes Cathy out of the wedding party, younger sister Vivienne is only too happy to wear the special red and gold dress that has been made for the occasion. "By turns touching, raucously funny, and realistic, each episode is a small gem, making a whole far beyond the sum of its parts," declared Ann Flowers in a Horn Book review of the novel, while a Kirkus Reviews critic likewise found the book a worthy sequel: "The schemes and shenanigans of these vibrant, tenacious characters are as lively and funny as ever, their more poignant feelings as skillfully suggested."

The third "Melling Sisters" novel, The Sky in Silver Lace, finds Grace unhappily employed in a menial job, but intent on establishing a successful career in fashion design. Meanwhile, Heather and Cathy have won scholarships to a prestigious private girls' high school, where their outsider status proves a challenge. Meanwhile, youngest sister Vivienne faces the challenges in primary school without the comforting presence of her older sisters. To Flowers, writing again in Horn Book, The Sky in Silver Lace "is distinguished by the carefully observed and solid setting" and by Klein's carefully crafted relationship between the four sisters and their parents.

In 1991 Klein was awarded the Dromkeen Medal, in acknowledgment for her contributions to Australian children's literature; the award was one of many she has received over her career. Although a debilitating illness has prevented her from writing since the late 1990s, many of Klein's books have been reprinted for new generations of young readers, and her novel Hating Alison Ashley was adapted as a feature film produced in Australia in 2005.

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.

Children's Literature Review, Volume 21, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991, pp. 156-165.

Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1992, Chris Sherman, review of All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, p. 1349; February 15, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of The Sky in Silver Lace, p. 1021.

Books for Keeps, September, 1985, Stephanie Nettell, "Stephanie Nettell Introduces Robin Klein," p. 26.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November, 1983, p. 52; November, 1990, Roger Sutton, review of Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, p. 64; April, 1992, Roger Sutton, review of All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, p. 211; May, 1993, Roger Sutton, review of Dresses of Red and Gold, p. 286; April, 1994, Roger Sutton, review of Seeing Things, p. 263; February, 1996, Roger Sutton, review of The Sky in Silver Lace, p. 194.

Growing Point, March, 1984, Margery Fisher, review of People Might Hear You, p. 4208.

Horn Book, May-June, 1992, p. 341; July-August, 1993, Ann Flowers, review of Dresses of Red and Gold, p. 467; May-June, 1996, Ann Flowers, review of The Sky in Silver Lace, p. 340.

Junior Bookshelf, August, 1979, p. 196; October, 1982, p. 182.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1988, review of Laurie Loved Me Best, p. 1740; June 1, 1993, review of Dresses of Red and Gold, p. 723; February 1, 1994, review of Seeing Things, p. 145.

Learning, November-December, 1986, review of Penny Pollard's Letters, p. 56.

Magpies, September, 1987, review of The Lonely Hearts Club, p. 26; March, 1989, Margot Tyrrel, review of Dear Robin: Letters to Robin Klein, p. 34; September, 1993, Sophie Masson, review of All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, p. 22; November, 1997, review of The Listmaker, p. 24; May, 1998, review of The Goddess, p. 32; July, 1998, review of Barney's Blues, p. 34; March, 2005, Jo Goodman, "The Works of Robin Klein: To Weave Drama from the Minutiae of Everyday Life," p. 10.

Reading Time, January, 1987, pp. 49-50.

School Librarian, June, 1984, p. 157.

School Library Journal, January, 1989, p. 94; February, 1991, Libby White, review of Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, p. 81; June, 1991, Gail Richmond, review of Tearaways, p. 110; September, 1992, Sara Miller, review of All in the Blue Unclouded Weather, p. 254; August, 1994, Melissa Yurechko, review of Seeing Things, p. 156; February, 1996, Connie Burns, review of The Sky in Silver Lace, p. 100.

Times Educational Supplement, June 5, 1987, p. 56.

Times Literary Supplement, May 29, 1987, Deborah Singmaster, "Cold Confinement," p. 589.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 1991, James Cook, review of Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, p. 352.

ONLINE

Penguin Books Australia Web site, http://www.penguin.com/au/ (March 1, 2005), "Robin Klein."

OTHER

Robin Klein Video (film), Insight Profile, Ltd., 1997.

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over 3 years ago

I love her books and at my high school we have been reading 'Hating Alison Ashley'and I thought that is was a very funny book. I loved it!

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over 3 years ago

I love reading storsy

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over 3 years ago

hi

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over 3 years ago

hello

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over 3 years ago

vbnxdthsexegfdhdx

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over 2 years ago

bad

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about 1 month ago

I like her story The Kidnapping of Clarissa Montgomery.