Mark Haddon (1962-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1962, in Northampton, England; Education: Merton College, Oxford, B.A., 1981; Edinburgh University, M.A., 1984. Hobbies and other interests: Marathon canoeing, abstract painting.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Doubleday, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Author and illustrator. Formerly assisted patients with multiple sclerosis and autism; worked part-time jobs, including at a theater box office and in a mail-order business; illustrator and cartoonist for periodicals, including cartoon strip "Men—A User's Guide"; creator of and writer for children's television series Microsoap.
Smarties Prize shortlist, 1994, for The Real Porky Philips; British Book Trust Teenage Prize, Whitbread Book of the Year designation, and Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, all 2003, all for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards, and Royal Television Society Best Children's Drama award, all for Microsoap.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (novel), Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.
(And illustrator) Gilbert's Gobstopper, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1987, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 1988.
(And illustrator) Toni and the Tomato Soup, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1988.
A Narrow Escape for Princess Sharon, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1989.
Gridzbi Spudvetch!, Walker (New York, NY), 1993.
Titch Johnson, Almost World Champion, illustrated by Martin Brown, Walker (New York, NY), 1993.
(And illustrator) The Real Porky Philips, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1994.
Baby Dinosaurs at Home, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Baby Dinosaurs at Playgroup, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Baby Dinosaurs in the Garden, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
Baby Dinosaurs on Vacation, Western Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.
The Sea of Tranquility, illustrated by Christian Birmingham, Harcourt Brace (San Diego, CA), 1996.
(And illustrator) Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, Red Fox (London, England), 1996.
(And illustrator) Agent Z Meets the Masked Crusader, Red Fox (London, England), 1996.
(And illustrator) Agent Z Goes Wild, Red Fox (London, England), 1999.
Secret Agent Handbook, illustrated by Sue Heap, Walker Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(And illustrator) Agent Z and the Killer Bananas, Red Fox (London, England), 2001.
The Ice Bear's Cave, illustrated by David Axtell, Picture Lions (London, England), 2002.
Ocean Star Express, illustrated by Peter Sutton, Picture Lions (London, England), 2002.
Also author of episodes for children's television series, including Microsoap and Starstreet; contributor to screenplay adaptation of Fungus and the Bogeyman, by Raymond Briggs. Contributor of illustrations and cartoons to periodicals, including New Statesman, Spectator, Guardian, London Sunday Telegraph, and Private Eye.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was adapted as an audiobook by Recorded Books, 2003, and was optioned for a film to be coproduced by Brad Pitt.
Work in Progress
An adult novel, tentatively titled Blood and Scissors.
British author Mark Haddon writes children's books that are noted for containing a healthy dose of mystery as well as humor. Critics, as well as readers, have enjoyed his works; The Real Porky Philips was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. In addition to enjoying a successful career writing and illustrating children's books, Haddon has also written scripts for popular British children's television shows such as Microsoap and Starstreet. In 2003 he expanded his audience with his wildly acclaimed first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a quirky mystery about a teenager who investigates the murder of his neighbor's dog. In addition to earning Haddon a broader readership, the novel also earned him the prestigious Whitbread Award.
Born in England in 1962, Haddon began his writing career in the mid-1980s, after working a variety of part-time jobs and earning an advanced degree from Edinburgh University. His 1987 children's book, Gilbert's Gobstopper, introduces his inventive mix of humor and adventure, as it follows Gilbert's lost jawbreaker as it travels through sewer pipes, enters the ocean, is found by a fisherman, and even takes a trip into outer space. Praising the book's narrator—the gobstopper itself—Carolyn Polese commented in a School Library Journal review that Haddon's "irreverent entertainment will tickle many a funnybone."
Haddon combines adventure and humor in his "Agent Z" series for children that includes Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, Agent Z Meets the Masked Crusader, Agent Z Goes Wild, and Agent Z and the Killer Bananas. The Agent Z of the title actually refers to a group of three boys: Jenks, Ben, and Barney. They assume the secret-agent identity as part of their club, then get involved in one goofy adventure after another. In one volume they take advantage of Mr. Sidebottom's obsession with UFO's by concocting an alien plot using a penguin and some aluminum foil, while in another they make a mock film about killer bananas. Reviewers generally had high praise for the "Agent Z" books, School Librarian contributor Alicen Geddes-Ward dubbing Agent Z Meets the Masked Crusader a "witty, tight and brilliantly funny book." Adrian Jackson, writing in Books for Keeps, similarly felt that Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars is "a real hoot of a story, wildly imagined."
Although many feature humor and quirky child protagonists, Haddon has also penned books such as The Real Porky Philips and Titch Johnson, Almost World Champion, which show a decidedly more sensitive side. Praised by Books for Keeps critic Gill Roberts as "powerful, poignant and pertinent," The Real Porky Philips is about a young, sensitive, overweight boy who finds the courage to finally assert his real personality after he has to play the role of a genie in the school play. Titch Johnson, Almost World Champion has a similar theme about self-confidence. Here, Titch, who seems to possess the sole talent of being able to balance forks on his nose, gains a better appreciation of himself after successfully organizing a fundraising event.
Haddon explores the rich world of dreams and imagination in The Sea of Tranquility and Ocean Star Express. In the former, the author draws on his childhood fascination with mankind's first landing on the moon in 1969. The boy in the tale has a picture of the solar system on his wall and fantasizes about what it would be like to be an astronaut. Within the storyline Haddon includes facts about the actual landing, including interesting tidbits such as the fact that the footprints left on the Moon's surface will remain visible for millions of years because of the lack of any wind or rain. Carolyn Boyd, writing in School Librarian, felt that "this book will appeal to those who remember the first moon landing and to young readers who will marvel at it." Ocean Star Express, by comparison, is not as grounded in reality. Here, a boy named Joe is becoming bored during his summer holiday when Mr. Robertson, the owner of the hotel where his family is staying, invites him to see his train set. No ordinary toy, apparently, the train takes Joe and the owner on a magical ride around the world in what a Kirkus Reviews contributor called a "sweet and simple story that young train enthusiasts will enjoy."
After writing over a dozen books for children, Haddon branched out into more complex themes with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In this novel the narrator, fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, suffers from a disorder known as Asperger's syndrome, a type of autism that prevents him from being able to accurately perceive and interpret other people's emotions. Christopher's school counselor assigns the teen the task of writing a book, and Christopher starts writing when he discovers the body of a dead poodle named Wellington. A lover of dogs, as well as a fan of Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Christopher decides to search for Wellington's killer, and this quest becomes the subject of his writing assignment. While Christopher is very logical, he is unable to understand the emotions of the people around him, so his story is told in a matter-of-fact manner. In his novel Haddon also brings to life Christopher's personal quirks: for example, the teen has an aversion to being touched, and he hates the colors brown and yellow. On the other hand, he is brilliant at math, loves puzzles, and has a photographic memory.
As Haddon told Dave Weich in a Powells.com interview, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was inspired by the author's own experiences working with autistic individuals, as well as by an image in his mind of a poodle that had been killed by a gardening tool. Admitting that he has a rather dark sense of humor, Haddon thought beginning a novel with the scene of a dead dog could be amusing, but he knew that in order to make it work he would have to develop a unique viewpoint. Everything clicked when he created the character of Christopher. As a Publishers Weekly critic put it, the book "brims with touching, ironic humor," yet "treats its protagonist with sensitivity; it is also 'told' in a unique and compelling literary voice." London Independent reviewer Nicholas Tucker concluded of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: "How Haddon achieves this most delicate of balances is a tribute to his skill as a successful cartoonist as well as novelist."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 29, 2003, John Freeman, "Whodunit Unveils Autistic Boy's Mind," p. D2; October 26, 2003, Greg Changnon, "Teen 'Rain Man' Confronts Canine and Other Mysteries," p. F3.
Book, January-February, 2003, Adam Langer, "The New Houdini: Mark Haddon," p. 43; July-August, 2003, Beth Kephart, "Little Sherlock," p. 76.
Booklist, April 1, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 1376; January 1, 2004, Mary McCay, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 890.
Bookseller, January 24, 2003, "A Young Detective Obsessed by Detail," p. 29.
Books for Keeps, July, 1993, Adrian Jackson, review of Gridzbi Spudvetch!, p. 28; May, 1994, Steve Rosson, review of The Real Porky Philips, p. 8; July, 1995, Adrian Jackson, review of Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, p. 12; September, 1995, Gill Roberts, review of The Real Porky Philips, p. 12.
Books for Your Children, summer, 1994, S. Williams, review of The Real Porky Philips, p. 13.
British Book News, March, 1988, Judith Elkin, review of Gilbert's Gobstopper, p. 13.
Economist, May 24, 2003, "Great Expectations; New Fiction," p. 85.
Entertainment Weekly, June 20, 2003, Ken Tucker, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 76.
Growing Point, July, 1989, review of Toni and the Tomato Soup, p. 5197.
Independent (London, England), June 6, 2003, Nicholas Tucker, "Making Sense of an Abnormal Normality: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," p. 15.
Junior Bookshelf, June, 1993, review of Gridzbi Spudvetch!, p. 105; August, 1993, review of Titch Johnson, Almost World Champion, p. 135.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2003, review of Ocean Star Express, p. 60; April 15, 2003, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 557.
Kliatt, January, 2004, Jacqueline Edwards, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (audio-book), p. 44.
Library Journal, May 1, 2003, David Hellman, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 155; January, 2004, Michael Adams, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 184.
Magpies, September, 1996, Margaret Philips, review of The Sea of Tranquility, p. 28.
Newsweek, September 8, 2003, David Noonan, "'Allowed to Be Odd': The Hero of a Best-selling New Novel Is a 15-Year-Old Boy with Autism—But That Label Never Appears in the Book," p. 50.
New York Times Book Review, June 15, 2003, Jay McInerney, "The Remains of the Dog," p. 5.
Publishers Weekly, May 13, 1988, review of Gilbert's Gobstopper, p. 273; April 25, 1994, review of Baby Dinosaurs at Home, Baby Dinosaurs on Vacation, Baby Dinosaurs at Playgroup, and Baby Dinosaurs in the Garden, p. 75; September 16, 1996, review of The Sea of Tranquility, p. 82; July 1, 2002, John F. Baker, "Obsessed by Sherlock Holmes," p. 14; April 7, 2003, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 42.
Reading Teacher, October, 1989, review of Gilbert's Gobstopper, p. 56.
School Librarian, August, 1989, Joyce Banks, review of A Narrow Escape for Princess Sharon, p. 104; August, 1993, Julie Blaisdale, review of Gridzbi Spudvetch!, and Caroline Axon, review of Titch Johnson, Almost World Champion, p. 109; November, 1993, Alicen Geddes-Ward, review of Agent Z Meets the Masked Crusader, p. 155; February, 1997, Carolyn Boyd, review of The Sea of Tranquility, p. 19; August, 2001, review of Agent Z and the Killer Bananas, p. 136; summer, 2002, review of Ocean Star Express, pp. 74-75.
School Library Journal, September, 1988, Carolyn Polese, review of Gilbert's Gobstopper, p. 160; October, 1989, Susan H. Patron, review of Toni and the Tomato Soup, p. 84; September, 1994, Linda Wicher, review of Baby Dinosaurs at Home, Baby Dinosaurs at Playgroup, Baby Dinosaurs in the Garden, and Baby Dinosaurs on Vacation, p. 185; September, 1996, John Peters, review of The Sea of Tranquility, p. 178; October, 2003, Jackie Gropman, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, p. 207.
Spectator, May 17, 2003, Nicholas Barrow, "It Ain't Necessarily So," p. 65.
MostlyFiction.com, http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (August 3, 2003), Mary Whipple, review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Powells.com, http://www.powells.com/ (February 10, 2004), Dave Weich, "The Curiously Irresistible Literary Debut of Mark Haddon."*
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