Lynne Reid Banks (1929–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1929, in London, England; Education: Attended Italia Conte Stage School, 1946, and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, 1947–49. Politics: "Socialist." Hobbies and other interests: Theater, gardening, teaching ESL abroad.
Agent—Sheila Watson, Watson, Little Ltd., 12 Egbert St., London NW1 8LJ, England.
Writer and journalist. Actress in English repertory companies, 1949–54; freelance journalist, London, England, 1954–55; Independent Television News, London, television news reporter, 1955–57, television news scriptwriter, 1958–62; taught English as a foreign language in Israel, 1963–71; writer, 1971–.
British Society of Authors, PEN, Actors' Equity.
Yorkshire Arts Literary Award, 1976, and Best Books for Young Adults Award, American Library Association, 1977, both for Dark Quartet; West Australian Young Readers' Book Award, Library Association of Australia, 1980, for My Darling Villain; Outstanding Books of the Year Award, New York Times, 1981, Young Reader's Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, 1984, California Young Readers Medal, California Reading Association, 1985, Children's Books of the Year Award, Child Study Association, 1986, and Young Readers of Virginia Award, and Arizona Young Readers' Award, both 1988, all for The Indian in the Cupboard; Parents' Choice Award for Literature, Parents' Choice Foundation, and Notable Books Award, New York Times, both 1986, Children's Books of the Year Award, 1987, Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Books Award, Illinois Association for Media in Education, 1988, and Indian Paintbrush Award, Wyoming Library Association, 1989, all for The Return of the Indian; Great Stone Face (New Hampshire librarians) Award, 1991, for Secret of the Indian; Silver Award, Smarties Prize, 1996, for Harry the Poisonous Centipede.
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
One More River, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1973, revised edition, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
The Adventures of King Midas, illustrated by George Him, Dent (London, England), 1976, illustrated by Jos. A. Smith, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
The Farthest-Away Mountain, illustrated by Victor Ambrus, Abelard-Schuman (London, England), 1976, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1977, reprinted, 2003, illustrated by Dave Henderson, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
My Darling Villain, Harper (New York, NY), 1977.
I Houdini: The Autobiography of a Self-Educated Hamster, illustrated by Terry Riley, Dent (London, England), 1978, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988, reprinted, 2002.
Letters to My Israeli Sons: The Story of Jewish Survival, W. H. Allen (London, England), 1979, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1980.
The Writing on the Wall, Harper (New York, NY), 1981.
Maura's Angel, illustrated by Robin Jacques, Dent (London, England), 1984, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
The Fairy Rebel, illustrated by William Geldart, Dent (London, England), 1985, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988.
Melusine: A Mystery, Hamilton Children's Books (London, England), 1988, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
The Magic Hare, illustrated by Hilda Offen, Collins (London, England), 1992, illustrated by Barry Moser, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
Broken Bridge (sequel to One More River), Morrow (New York, NY), 1994.
Harry the Poisonous Centipede: A Story to Make You Squirm, illustrated by Tony Ross, Collins (London, England), 1996, Morrow (New York, NY), 1997.
Angela and Diabola, illustrated by Klaas Verplancke, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Moses in Egypt (based on the film Prince of Egypt), Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
Alice-by-Accident, illustrated by Tania Hurt-Newton, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Harry the Poisonous Centipede's Big Adventure: Another Story to Make You Squirm, HarperCollins U.K. (London, England), 2000, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Dungeon, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
The Fairy Rebel, illustrated by William Geldart, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2003.
Stealing Stacey, Collins (London, England), 2004.
Tiger, Tiger, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2005.
Harry the Poisonous Centipede Goes to Sea, illustrated by Tony Ross, HarperCollins (London, England), 2005, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
"INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD" SERIES; FOR CHILDREN
The Indian in the Cupboard, illustrated by Robin Jacques, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980.
Return of the Indian, illustrated by William Geldart, Dent (London, England), 1986, published as The Return of the Indian, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1986.
The Secret of the Indian, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Double-day (New York, NY), 1989.
The Mystery of the Cupboard, illustrated by Piers Sanford, Collins (London, England), 1993, illustrated by Tom Newsom, Morrow (New York, NY), 1993.
The Indian Trilogy, Lions (London, England), 1993.
The Key to the Indian, illustrated by James Watling, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels were translated into some twenty languages.
It Never Rains (produced by British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC], 1954), Deane (London, England), 1954.
All in a Row, Deane (London, England), 1956.
The Killer Dies Twice (three-act), Deane (London, England), 1956.
Already It's Tomorrow (produced by BBC, 1962), Samuel French (London, England), 1962.
The Unborn, produced in London, England, 1962.
The Wednesday Caller, produced by BBC (London, England), 1963.
Last Word on Julie, produced by ATV, 1964.
The Gift (three-act), produced in London, England, 1965.
The Stowaway (radio play), produced by BBC Radio (London, England), 1967.
The Eye of the Beholder, produced by ITV, 1977.
Lame Duck (radio play), produced by BBC Radio (London, England), 1978.
Purely from Principal (radio play), produced by BBC Radio (London, England), 1985.
The Travels of Yoshi and the Tea-Kettle (for children; produced in London, England, 1991), Thomas Nelson (London, England), 1993.
The L-shaped Room (also see below), Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1960, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1961, revised edition, Longman (London, England), 1976, reprinted, Vintage (London, England), 2004.
An End to Running, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1962, published as House of Hope, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1962.
Children at the Gate, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1968.
The Backward Shadow (also see below), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1970.
The Kibbutz: Some Personal Reflections, Anglo-Israel Association (London, England), 1972.
Two Is Lonely (also see below), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974.
Sarah and After: The Matriarchs, Bodley Head (London, England), 1975, published as Sarah and After: Five Women Who Founded a Nation, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1975.
Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontës, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (London, England), 1976, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1977.
Path to the Silent Country: Charlotte Brontë's Years of Fame (sequel to Dark Quartet), Weidenfeld & Nicholson (London, England), 1976, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1977.
Defy the Wilderness, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1981.
Torn Country: An Oral History of the Israeli War of Independence, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1982.
The Warning Bell, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1984, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Casualties, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1986, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Fair Exchange, Piatkus (London, England), 1998.
L-shaped Trilogy (contains The Backward Shadow and Two Is Lonely), Penguin U.K. (London, England), 2000.
Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Ladies' Home Journal, Observer, Manchester Guardian, London Sunday Telegraph, Independent, London Sunday Times, and Saga.
The L-shaped Room was adapted as a film starring Leslie Caron, Davis-Royal Films, 1962; all the "Indian in the Cupboard" books have been adapted as audiobooks; The Indian in the Cupboard was adapted as a major motion picture by Columbia Pictures, 1995; The Farthest-Away Mountain, The Fairy Rebel, I, Houdini, The Adventures of King Midas, Harry the Poisonous Centipede, Harry the P.C.'s Big Adventures, Angela and Diabola, The Backward Shadow, and other books have been adapted as audiobooks, read by Reid Banks, Listening Library, beginning 1994.
Best known to readers for her novel The Indian in the Cupboard, British author and former journalist Lynne Reid Banks is a versatile writer who has tackled complex subjects, such as single parenthood and the Middle East in books for both adults and children. Many of Reid Banks's titles for younger readers, such as the "Indian" books as well as standalone novels such as The Adventures of King Midas and The Fairy Rebel, feature magic as a central theme. Teen readers are attracted to more contemporary works such as The Writing on the Wall, in which Reid Banks deals with typical teenage problems like dating and family relationships. In many of her works, though not, perhaps in her juvenile fantasies, Reid Banks draws on a wealth of personal experiences.
Born in London in 1929, Reid Banks had her childhood interrupted by World War II, and she and her mother were evacuated to Saskatchewan, Canada, for five years. "Since my mother was evacuated with me, I was very happy, and though we were poor, I hardly noticed it, except that I couldn't have trendy clothes," the author once noted in an interview for Authors and Artists for Young Adults (AAYA). "I didn't really realize what the war meant, or the terrible things that had been happening, until I got back to England, at the very formative age of fifteen. I found my city in ruins, and learned what had been happening to my family, left behind, and in Europe, to the Jews. I felt like a deserter." Wartime experiences such as these have influenced much of Reid Banks' adult writing.
As a teen, Reid Banks's ambition was to be an actress like her mother. In order to prepare for this career, she attended the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and worked for five years in various repertory companies throughout Great Britain. Although she enjoyed the theatre, she eventually realized that she did not have the qualities needed to establish a successful career in acting, and in 1954 she left the stage to go to work as a television journalist. Her theatrical training came in useful, later, however, when she was working teaching English to Hebrew-speaking children in Israel beginning in the early 1960s. She treated each lesson as a performance, and was far more successful as a teacher than she had been as an actress.
Reid Banks's first literary success was the adult novel The L-shaped Room, which chronicles the life of unmarried, twenty-seven-year-old Jane Graham who goes to live in a run-down lodging house when she becomes pregnant. The book earned good reviews, New Statesman critic Janice Elliott calling it "touching and competent," as well as "ambitious and mature." Reid Banks eventually wrote two more novels featuring Graham: The Backward Shadow and Two Is Lonely.
The positive critical response to The L-shaped Room provided Reid Banks with the means to accomplish another dream. "Throughout my late teens and twenties, when Israel was going through its early traumas [as a newly formed modern nation], I had a great desire to go there," she explained in AAYA. In 1960 she traveled there, where she met the man who would become her husband, sculptor Chaim Stephenson. What had started as a series of visits now became a residency. "Living in a kibbutz, working the land, teaching and having my babies in that 'alien' country that I came to love so much, was a sublimation for my lingering feelings of guilt for having missed the War," the author explained.
In 1972 Reid Banks and her family moved to England and the following year she published her first young-adult book, One More River. Drawing on the author's life in Israel, the novel focuses on Lesley, a pampered Canadian girl attempting to adjust to life in an Israeli kibbutz. A sequel to One More River, Broken Bridge finds Lesley grown up, married, and raising her children in the kibbutz. The novel revolves around questions about Lesley's choice of lifestyle after her nephew is killed by an Arab terrorist during a visit to Jerusalem, a tragedy compounded by the fact that Lesley's daughter Nili witnessed the murder but will not divulge the terrorist's identity.
With her second children's book, The Adventures of King Midas, Reid Banks won over young readers and she has continued to win fans with her tales of magical kings, brave fairies, toys that come to life, and intrepid hamsters, hares, and centipedes. In I, Houdini: The Autobiography of a Self-educated Hamster, for example, she spins a yarn about a domesticated rodent that enjoys escaping from his cage to cause all manner of mischief in the house where his owners—three brothers—live. Part of a series, Harry the Poisonous Centipede: A Story to Make You Squirm finds a curious insect joining his friends on a forbidden trip to the "up side" world, where they avoid attacks by the treacherous two-legged, newspaper-swatting "homins" before making it back down into their cozy underground home. Written for older readers, The Farthest-Away Mountain introduces spunky, fourteen-year-old Dakin, who sets out to accomplish her three life goals: to reach the distant mountains, to meet a gargoyle, and to marry a prince. While tackling her first two goals, Dakin comes to realize that a prince need not have a princely character, and she ultimately abandons her search for royalty in favor of a trusted male friend. Within an imaginative plot and fantastic setting, Reid Banks "makes every character come alive, capturing the nuances of their natures, their pettiness, jealousy and fears," according to School Library Journal contributor Edith Ching.
Magic again appears in Maura's Angel. Eleven-year-old Maura lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where violence between Protestant and Catholic factions still persists. With her brother in jail and her father in hiding due to his affiliation with the terrorist Irish Republican Army, Maura and her mother try to keep the household together. During a bomb blast, Maura encounters a young girl who could be her twin and who goes by the name of Angela. In fact, Angela is no girl at all; she is Maura's angel. While Maura gets used to having an angel around, Angela must deal with the feelings of happiness and sorrow she had not experienced in heaven, but which come upon her in her human form. "It is [Angela's] desperate wish to make things right for Maura's family … that brings about terrible consequences," noted School Library Journal contributor Eva Mitnik, adding that Reid Banks' story will cause young readers to reflect on its message—about the value in life's hardships—"long after they turn the final page."
In Angela and Diabola Reid Banks plays up the fantasy elements of pure good and evil. Twin sisters Angela and Diabola are opposites; as their names would suggest, one is very, very good, while the other is absolutely awful. In fact, after Diabola kills the family cat and gets her mother thrown into jail, the girls' parents decide that the best that can be done is to keep Diabola in a cage when she is not closely supervised. Unfortunately, steel bars do little to suppress the evil child, who turns to telekinesis as a way of spreading wickedness. In true storybook fashion, the two sisters ultimately do battle, with Angela coming out the victor, although slightly altered. Comparing the book to the work of British writer Roald Dahl, School Library Journal reviewer Anne Connor called Angela and Diabola "an absurd look at human nature [that] is often bitingly funny," while a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Reid Banks's "expansive storytelling and comic exaggeration produce high kid appeal."
Among Reid Banks's most popular fantasy works for children are The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels: Return of the Indian, The Secret of the Indian, The Mystery of the Cupboard, and The Key to the Indian. In each volume, a group of toy figurines belonging to a boy named Omri come to life when they are locked in a small metal cupboard with a lead key. Omri soon discovers that his favorite toy, a small plastic Indian figure named Little Bear, has, when brought to life, a taste for adventure—sometimes with near-disastrous results. Other characters, which New York Times Book Review contributor Michael Dorris described as "plucky, albeit creaky cultural stereotypes, ever predictable and true to the dictates of their sex, ethnic group, or time," include a cowboy, a British nurse, a soldier, a saloon-bar hostess, and a horse.
A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement found The Indian in the Cupboard to contain "original, lively, compulsive writing" that "will well stand through repeated readings." In sequels to the first novel Omri discovers the history behind the cupboard, which has been in his family for many years. In The Mystery of the Cupboard, Omri and his family inherit an old house in the Dorset countryside. There the boy discovers an "account" written by his great aunt that reveals the cupboard's secret, and he also meets a host of new cupboard-sized characters. While questioning Reid Banks's inclusion of a "scientific" explanation for the workings of the cupboard, Dorris considered The Mystery of the Cupboard "a stunning, full-blown tale" and dubbed Omri's great-great aunt "a vivid, arresting personality, a woman consumed by jealousy and recrimination" whose own story will fascinate readers.
The final novel in the series, The Key to the Indian, finds Omri sharing his secret with his father, who joins his son in a trip back in time in an effort to help Little Bear and his Iroquois tribe survive the efforts of early American settlers to defeat them. "Readers will revel in all of the details of this book, from the intricate workings of the magic to the solutions Omri finds to [transportation] problems," wrote Eva Mitnik in School Library Journal.
Moving from fantasy to the real world, Reid Banks focuses on family conflict in Alice-by-Accident, a middle-grade novel about a ten-year-old girl who lives with her lawyer mother and has never met her father. In a series of diary entries, Alice describes her feelings as a child who came "by accident" to her mother and whose loving paternal grandmother, Gene, makes it clear she disapproves of Alice's out-of-wedlock birth. Although Gene does all she can to support her granddaughter—even loaning the use of a home for several months—tensions eventually develop between Alice's mom and Gene. Although adult issues remain a mystery, Alice realizes that she must chose between the few family members she has. A reviewer for Horn Book found Alice a "likable, well-developed character with an authentic voice," and a contributor to Publishers Weekly appreciated Reid Banks's "fresh" plotting and sensitivity to Alice's point of view.
Other middle-grade novels by Reid Banks include the historical novels The Dungeon and Tiger, Tiger. The Dungeon follows an ambitious Scottish laird as he constructs a fortress and then travels to China on the route taken by Marco Polo, his purpose to seek revenge and an outlet for his anger over the death of his wife and children. In the Orient MacLennan acquires a young tea slave named Peony, whom he brings back to Scotland. The young child's experiences in the service of a brutal master, as well as her friendship with MacLennan's stable boy, Fin, and her generous impressions of her new world show her to be an "agreeable" character in a novel resonant with passion and "the excitement of travel and battle," according to a Kirkus reviewer. Noting the novel's tragic end, Booklist critic John Peters described The Dungeon as a "brutal psychological character study," while in Publishers Weekly a critic called the novel a "riveting tale of reprisal and redemption" that "conveys a powerful message about the terrible price of unswerving revenge."
Taking readers back to ancient Rome in the days of Caesar, Tiger, Tiger focuses on twelve-year-old Aurelia, the daughter of the emperor. Given a small, de-fanged tiger club as a gift by her father, she names her new pet Boots, and cares for it with the help of a young slave named Julius. The girl does not realize that the cub's litter mate, Brute, is being brutally treated and half starved in preparation for his turn in the Coliseum, where he will battle gladiators to the death. Jealous that Aurelia cares more for her servant than she does him, cousin Marcus uses his knowledge of the two tigers to plot his revenge, but when the plot goes awry Aurelia must battle the implacable Caesar to save her beloved pet. While a Kirkus critic dubbed the novel "a melodramatic foray into an extremely fictional" Rome, in Publishers Weekly a contributor praised Tiger, Tiger as a "gripping, tantalizing examination of power, sacrifice, and mercy." Reid Banks "ably captures" the relationship between father and daughter, as well as revealing Aurelia's growing knowledge "that absolute power is a blunt instrument," and she brings to life an ancient world that "vibrates with life," according to Horn Book contributor Anita L. Burkham.
While Reid Banks enjoys writing for audiences of all ages, she brings a special enthusiasm to her works for younger readers. "Writing for young people is a much pleasanter, and easier, thing than writing for adults," she once commented. "I especially enjoy writing wish-fulfillment stories…. But in the end, one has to write what one wants to write, or what one is commissioned to write, and hope for the best. You can't win 'em all."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 6, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 24, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Contemporary Novelists, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.
Drabble, Margaret, editor, The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, 5th edition, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Parker, Peter, A Reader's Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975–1991, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Twentieth-Century Young-Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Zipes, Jack, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Booklist, March 15, 1995, Jeanne Triner, review of Broken Bridge, pp. 1321–1322; November 15, 1998, Kay Weisman, review of The Key to the Indian, p. 586; June 1, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of Alice-by-Accident, p. 1890; June 1, 2001, Kay Weisman, review of Harry the Poisonous Centipede's Big Adventure, p. 1878; October 1, 2002, review of The Dungeon, p. 311.
Carousel, spring, 1999, Chris Stephenson, interview with Reid Banks, p. 32.
Horn Book, September-October, 1993, p. 483; May 2000, review of Alice-by-Accident, p. 306; May, 2000, review of Alice-by-Accident, p. 306; July-August, 2005, Anita L. Burkam, review of Tiger, Tiger, p. 464.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of The Dungeon, p. 1302; June 1, 2005, review of Tiger, Tiger, p. 633.
Kliatt, November, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of The Dungeon, p. 6; May, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Tiger, Tiger, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 23, 1989, p. 10.
New Statesman, July 26, 1968, Janice Elliott, "Old Hat," p. 116.
New York Times Book Review, April 6, 1961, Otis Kidwell Burger, "Someone to Love," p. 38; April 16, 1989, p. 26; May 16, 1993, Michael Dorris, "A Boy and His Box, Batteries Not Needed"; May 16, 1993, Lawrie Mifflin, "Fairies and Elves All around Us" (interview), p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1989, Amanda Smith, interview with Reid Banks, p. 30; September 21, 1992, review of The Adventures of King Midas; February 22, 1993, review of The Mystery of the Cupboard; July 5, 1993, review of The Magic Hare; February 20, 1995, review of Broken Bridge, pp. 206-207; April 7, 1997, review of Angela and Diabola; June 9, 1997, review of Harry the Poisonous Centipede, p. 46; May 11, 1998, review of Maura's Angel; May 25, 1998, review of Angela and Diabola, p. 92; October 26, 1998, review of The Key to the Indian, p. 66; June 19, 2000, review of Alice-by-Accident, p. 80; October 28, 2002, review of The Dragon, p. 73; June 27, 2005, review of Tiger, Tiger, p. 65.
School Library Journal, June, 1993, p. 102; April, 1994, p. 88; April, 1995, p. 150; November, 1995, Linda W. Braun, "Good Conversation: A Talk with Lynn Reid Banks," p. 52; July, 1997, Edith Ching, review of The Farthest-Away Mountain, p. 56; July, 1997, Anne Connor, review of Angela and Diabola, p. 90; September, 1997, p. 172; August, 1998, Eva Mitnik, review of Maura's Angel, p. 160; December, 1998, Eva Mitnik, review of The Key to the Indian, p. 118; June, 2000, Darcy Schild, review of Alice-by-Accident, p. 138; May, 2001, Carrie Schadle, review of Harry the Poisonous Centipede's Big Adventure, p. 108; December, 2002, Daniel L. Dargon, review of The Dungeon, p. 132.
Times Literary Supplement, November 21, 1980 review of The Indian in the Cupboard; December 1, 1988.
Lynne Reid Banks Home Page, http:www.lynnereidbanks.com (November 23, 2005).
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