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Meredith (Jean) Hooper (1939-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

Born 1939, in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia; Education: University of Adelaide, B.A. (with honors), 1960; Lady Margaret Hall and Nuffield College, Oxford, M.Phil., 1964.


Agent—Caroline Walsh, David Higham Associates, Ltd., 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1R 4HA, England.


Writer, lecturer, and expert on Antarctica. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia, tutor in history, 1961; Voluntary Service Overseas, London, England, administrator, 1964-65; freelance writer, 1968—. Royal Institution, visiting research fellow in the history of science, 1988—; visiting writer, Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, 1994; visiting writer, U.S. National Science Foundation Antarctica Artists and Writers Program, 1998-99, 2001-02; visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Cambridge, and Scott Polar Research Institute, 2004—. British Antarctic Survey Artist and Writers Program, juror; U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust, member of sub-committee.


Association of British Science Writers, Royal Institution, British Society for the History of Science.

Honors Awards

Children's Book of the Year Award commendation, Children's Book Council of Australia, 1973, for Everyday Inventions; A for Antarctica shortlisted for Sir Peter Kent Conservation Prize; The Journal of Watkin Stench shortlisted for Carnegie Medal; The Pebble in My Pocket shortlisted for Dingle Prize for History of Science, 1997; Notable Book citation, Children's Book of the Year, 1998, for Journey to Antarctica; Western Australia Christian Schools Book Award, 1999, for Tom's Rabbit; Antarctic Service Medal, U.S. Congress, 2000.



Land of the Free: The United States of America, Blond Educational, 1968.

Gold Rush in Australia, Hulton Educational Publications, 1969.

Everyday Inventions, Angus & Robertson, 1972, Taplinger, 1976.

The Story of Australia, illustrated by Elaine Haxton, Angus & Robertson, 1974, Taplinger, 1976.

More Everyday Inventions, Angus & Robertson, 1976.

Dr. Hunger and Captain Thirst: Stories of Australian Explorers, Methuen (London, England), 1982.

(With Manning Clark) History of Australia, illustrated by Sue Ferrier, Ashton Scholastic, 1988, new edition, 1995.

How High Is the Sky?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

Earth and Space, Ginn, 1990.

A for Antarctica, Pan Piccolo (London, England), 1991.

I for Invention, Pan Piccolo (London, England), 1992.

Balls, Bangs, and Flashes: Great Scientific Experiments, David Bennett Books, 1994.

Germs, Jabs, and Laughing Gas: Great Medical Discoveries, David Bennett Books, 1994.

The Feast, Ginn, 1994.

Looking after the Egg, Ginn, 1994.

The Planets, Ginn, 1994.

Countdown to Take-Off, Ginn, 1995.

The Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth, illustrated by Chris Coady, Viking Children's Books (New York, NY), 1996.

January, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Entering the Ark, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Hunting in the Marshes, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Dinosaur, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Osprey, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Seal, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

The Bridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

The Forest, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

The Harbour, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

A Cow, a Bee, a Cookie, and Me, illustrated by Alison Bartlett, Larousse Kingfisher Chambers, 1997, published as Honey Biscuits, Kingfisher, 1997.

Coral Reef, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Desert, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Rainforest, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

The Tomb of Nebamun, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

A Book of Hours, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Noah's Ark, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Journey to Antarctica, Scholastic Australia, 1997.

The Colour of Light, Macdonald Young Books, 1997.

The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet, illustrated by Chris Coady, Viking (New York, NY), 1998, Viking, 1998.

Tom's Rabbit: A Surprise on the Way to Antarctica, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1998, published as Tom's Rabbit: A True Story from Scott's Last Voyage, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 1998.

A Song for Planet Earth, illustrated by Rupert van Wyk, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1998.

The Pear Tree: An Animal Counting Book, illustrated by Bee Willey, Macmillan Children's (London, England), 1998.

Tigers, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1999.

Sandali the Whale, Random House Australia (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2000.

River Story, illustrated by Bee Willey, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Antarctic Adventure: Exploring the Frozen South, DK Pub. (New York, NY), 2000.

Antarctic Journal: The Hidden Worlds of Antarctica's Animals, illustrated by Bucia deLeiries, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 2000.

Who Built the Pyramid?, illustrated by Robin Heighway-Bury, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

The Endurance: Shackleton's Perilous Expedition in Antarctica, illustrated by M. P. Robinson, Abbeville Kids (New York, NY), 2001, published as Ice Trap! Shackleton's Incredible Expedition, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2000.

Race to the Pole, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2002.

Gold: A Treasure Hunt through Time, illustrated by Stephen Biesty, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2002.

Sticky Jam: The Story of Sugar, illustrated by Katherin McEwen, Walker (London, England), 2003.

Woolly Jumper: The Story of Wool, illustrated by Katherine McEwen, Walker (London, England), 2003.

The Island That Moved: How Shifting Forces Shape Our Earth, illustrated by Lucia deLeiris, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.

(Author of text) Stephen Biesty's Castles, Enchanted Lion Books (New York, NY), 2004.


Seven Eggs, illustrated by Terry McKenna, Harper (New York, NY), 1985.

The Journal of Watkin Stench, illustrated by Trevor Newton, Lutterworth (London, England), 1988, 2nd edition, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2000.

Evie's Magic Lamp, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1990.

The Great Stone Circle, Creative Edge, 1992.

The Lost Purse, Ginn, 1994.

Monkeys, Collins (London, England), 1994.

Dogs's Night, illustrated by Allan Curless and Mark Burgess, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.

The Pole Seekers, illustrated by Trevor Newton, Hodder Children's (London, England), 2000.

Thank You for My Yucky Present, Hodder Australia (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2001.

Ponko and the South Pole, illustrated by Jan Ormerod, Frances Lincoln (London, England), 2002.

Emily and Alfie, Hodder Australia (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 2006.


Kangaroo Route: The Development of Commercial Flight between England and Australia, Angus & Robertson, 1985.

God 'elp All of Us: Three Great Flights, Methuen (London, England), 1986.

Cleared for Take-Off: International Flight beyond the Passenger Cabin, Salem House, 1986.

Contributor to books, including Story Chest: 100 Bedtime Stories, edited by Barbara Ireson, Viking Kestrel (London, England), 1986. Contributor of stories to Puffin Post and of articles to Australian Journal of Political History and Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. Member of editorial board, Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.

Work in Progress

A book for the general market on climate change on the peninsula, focusing on research on Adelie penguins.


Australian-born writer and historian Meredith Hooper took her educational background in history and science, combined it with a lifelong fascination of the world's coldest places, and turned it into a writing career. Making science-based topics understandable in her nonfiction books for young readers, Hooper has also produced award-winning fiction, such as her book The Journal of Watkin Stench, which was shortlisted for the British Library Association's prestigious Carnegie Medal. "I have specialized in books which appeal to all ages," the author once explained. "I bring considerable research skills to bear on each subject, believing that each audience deserves the best; and the general nonspecialist audience, whether children or adult, should be given access to the latest thinking. I have specialized in making two areas accessible and interesting to a wide audience: science and technology, and history." In topics ranging from aviation and the development of the longest air route in the world to general histories of Australia, to histories of notable explorations, Hooper effectively transfers both information and her fascination with her chosen subject.

The history of science and technology have served as the focus of several books by Hooper, who shows readers how several inventions were actually created. In Everyday Inventions she describes over thirty different innovations, from false teeth and chewing gum to penicillin and corn flakes. Although these inventions have nothing in common with each other, they all are things readers will be familiar with through everyday experience, and the stories of how they came about unite to inspire curiosity about other common objects. Publishers Weekly critic Jean Mercier called Everyday Inventions "a find, educational as well as entertaining." Hooper followed Everyday Inventions with More Everyday Inventions, which takes a similar approach.

Continuing to provide a wealth of interesting facts for the curious minded, Hooper collects stories of over fifty more innovations in I for Invention, which includes the story of lipstick, zippers, and aerosol cans, among other things. A Books for Keeps reviewer commented that, while many books of this sort focus on how these inventions work, Hooper's technique of focusing on "the stories behind inventions" makes for a "fascinating book."

From man's creative endeavors, Hooper moves to more physical human challenges in books such as Gold Rush in Australia, Dr. Hunger and Captain Thirst: Stories of Australian Explorers, Who Built the Pyramid?, and Race to the Pole, the last which covers the efforts of Ernest Shackleton, Robert Scott, and Roald Amunsen to stake their country's claim to the remote South Pole near the turn of the twentieth century. Who Built the Pyramid? is designed for early elementary-grade students and presents ten men—from the high priest to the chief minister to the stonemason to the water bearer working on the job site—who each answer the title question by claiming that they alone constructed the pyramid of King Senwosret of Egypt. Praising the book for its mix of history and fiction, School Library Journal reviewer Betsy Barnett noted that Hooper's "unique" approach prompts readers to appreciate "how many people it took to accomplish this great feat." Horn Book contributor Betty Carter cited the book's "slyly informative fictional narrative" and heaped special praise on Robin Heighway-Bury's "visually stunning" illustrations.

Paralleling Hooper's focus on humankind's efforts to act to understand, control, and alter the physical world are her books that profile Earth's home-grown creations. Several volumes deal with specific animal species, while Dinosaurs offers information on a range of now-extinct creatures. Antarctic Journal: The Hidden Worlds of Antarctica's Animals is based on Hooper's own experiences during a summer spent at a research station on Anvers Island, while The Island That Moved: How Shifting Forces Shaped Our Earth uses a similar but imaginary Antarctic island to introduce readers to our evolving understanding of plate tectonics. In River Story and The Drop in My Drink Hooper presents what Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman described as "the wonder of the almost unimaginable story of water's role on Earth," her "poetical use of language emulat[ing] the rhythms of the river," according to a Publishers Weekly viewer writing in praise of River Story. A Pebble in My Pocket: A History of Our Earth puts the development of life in a time context young readers can relate to by following the history of a single pebble born over four hundred million years ago. Earth and Space and The Planets put our home planet in its ultimate context, making readers appreciate the intricacies of life on Earth by studying the many worlds where life, as we know it, is absent.

While most of her work takes the form of nonfiction, Hooper has also produced several fictional stories, from simple counting books such as Seven Eggs to more involved historical fiction/fact such as The Journal of Watkin Stench. and Tom's Rabbit: A Surprise on the Way to Antarctica. In Seven Eggs, which some critics compared to Eric Carle's classic picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, six animals emerge from six eggs, while out of the seventh egg come seven chocolate eggs—one for each animal and one for the young reader. The book also teaches the days of the week because each animal is hatched on a different day. "This will be a success with individuals and with small groups," wrote School Library Journal reviewer Anne Saidman. The picture book Tom's Rabbit, with illustrations by Bert Kitchen, is based on the facts surrounding the 1910 voyage, led by Robert Scott, of the ship Terra Nova to explore the Antarctic. In the story, a sailor brings aboard his pet rabbit, and finds a home for the small creature in a pile of hay. Other creatures, including a cat, a parrot, several dogs, and even some horses, are also making the journey, which finds the group celebrating the Christmas holiday and the coming of a new year, as well as the rabbit's birth of seventeen tiny baby rabbits, on board the crowded ship. Noting that Hooper based her research on actual sailor's diaries of the voyage, a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that readers of Tom's Rabbit "may well feel that they, too, have completed a voyage of discovery." Booklist contributor Kay Weisman found the story a "good introduction" for younger readers, and cited Hooper's wisdom in not revealing that the expedition ultimately had tragic results: the death of its captain and several seamen.

One of Hooper's most successful works, The Journal of Watkin Stench presents a history lesson through the eyes of a rat named Watkin Stench. Watkin arrives in Australia aboard a convict boat in the year 1788, and makes observations about the English settlers, their living conditions, their encounters with the native aborigines, and many other historically accurate facts. Through Watkin's narrative, the reader also learns a great deal about rat behavior, but Hooper includes much more than history and biology lessons in her story; in addition to presenting a humorous take on the sometimes strange behavior of humans, she also tells a compelling story that finds her rodental hero facing a number of struggles in his new country, working to gain respect among his fellow rats, and finally deciding to become a permanent resident of Australia. "Based on fact it read like the best fiction," commented a Junior Bookshelf reviewer, while a Growing Point critic concluded: "This clever spoof history certainly deserves to be included among the host of celebratory books on early Australian history."

Dog's Night presents a delightful change of pace for Hooper, as she leaves fact for whimsy in her story of the magic that might perhaps occur in London's venerable National Gallery of Art. In Hooper's tale, one night each year the dogs that have been captured by four famous painters in famous oil paintings are allowed to escape from their two-dimensional confines. For that one night they leap from their canvas and run around the museum, raiding the kitchen for scraps, hiding out from after-hours museum visitors, and, at the end of this particular night, accidentally returning to the wrong canvas. Praising the book as an "uproarious romp," Booklist reviewer Connie Fletcher predicted that Dog's Night will "provide an incentive for a visit to the museum," while in School Library Journal Patricia Mahoney Brown noted that the illustrations by Allan Curless and Mark Brown are as "comical and whimsical" as Hooper's "fast moving" and "lighthearted fantasy."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, September 15, 1976, p. 137; May 1, 1985, p. 1253; July, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Pebble in My Pocket, p. 1823; June 1, 1997, p. 1715; November 1, 1998, Kay Weisman, review of Tom's Rabbit: A Surprise on the Way to Antarctica, p. 502; December 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Plant, p. 681; March 15, 2000, Connie Fletcher, review of Dog's Night, p. 1386; July, 2000, Michael Cart, review of River Story, p. 2038; June 1, 2001, Catherine Andronik, review of Antarctic Journal: The Hidden Worlds of Antarctica's Animals, p. 1866; January 1, 2002, Julie Cummins, review of Who Built the Pyramid?, p. 852; August, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Island That Moved: How Shifting Forces Shape Our Earth, p. 1926.

Books for Young Children, autumn-winter, 1988, p. 15.

Canadian Materials, November 28, 1997, Joan Payzant, review of The Pebble in My Pocket.

Geographical, March, 2001, Chris Amodeo, review of Antarctic Journal and Ice Trap!: Shackleton's Incredible Expedition, p. 93.

Growing Point, May, 1985, pp. 4446-4447; September, 1988, review of The Journal of Watkin Stench, pp. 5031-5035.

Horn Book, January-February, 2002, Betty Carter, review of Who Built the Pyramid?, p. 100.

Junior Bookshelf, April, 1977, p. 113; December, 1985, pp. 259-260; December, 1988, review of The Journal of Watkin Stench, p. 304; August, 1996, p. 149.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1996, p. 603; October 1, 2001, review of Who Built the Pyramid?, p. 1425; April 1, 2004, review of The Island That Moved, p. 331; November 1, 2004, review of Stephen Biesty's Castles, p. 1045.

Magpies, September, 1992, p. 35.

Margin, November, 2003, p. 41.

Plays, May, 1999, review of The Drop in My Drink, p. 75.

Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1976, Jean Mercier, review of Everyday Inventions, p. 133; March 29, 1985, p. 72; November 2, 1998, review of Tom's Rabbit: A Surprise on the Way on Antarctica, p. 81; June 19, 2000, review of River Story, p. 79; January 29, 2001, review of Bound for Antarctica, p. 91; November 5, 2001, p. 71.

School Arts, October, 2000, Ken Marantz, review of Dog's Night, p. 64.

School Librarian, May, 1992, p. 64; May, 1993, p. 66; August, 1996, p. 112.

School Library Journal, May, 1985, Anne Saidman, review of Seven Eggs, p. 76; April, 1996, John Peters, review of The Pebble in My Pocket, p. 126; July, 2000, Patricia Mahoney Brown, review of Dog's Night, p. 80; August, 2000, Judith Constantinides, review of River Story, p. 170; March, 2001, Patricia Manning, review of Antarctic Journal, p. 268; January, 2002, Betsy Barnett, review of Who Built the Pyramid?, p. 158; December, 2004, Patricia Manning, review of The Island That Moved, p. 162; February, 2005, Lynda S. Poling, review of Stephen Biesty's Castles, p. 122.

Times Literary Supplement, December 8, 1972, pp. 1500-1501.


David Higham Associates Web site, http://www.davidhigham.co.uk/ (April 2, 2005), "Meredith Hooper."

Additional topics

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