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Ann Downer (1960-) Biography

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

Born 1960, in Arlington, VA; Education: Smith College, A. B., 1982. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Cooking, travel, movies, collage, animation, natural history.


Agent—John Silbersack, Trident Media Group, 41 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Fiction writer and editor. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, editor, 1996—.

Honors Awards

New York Public Library 100 Best Titles for Reading and Sharing designation, 2003, for Hatching Magic.


Don't Blink Now!: Capturing the Hidden World of Sea Creatures, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1991.

Spring Pool: A Guide to the Ecology of Temporary Ponds, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1992.

Hatching Magic, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.


The Spellkey, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1987.

The Glass Salamander, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.

The Books of the Keepers, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.

The Spellkey Trilogy, Baen (New York, NY), 1995.

Work in Progress

Sequel to Hatching Magic; a fourth book in the Spellkey series.


Ann Downer is an editor at the Harvard University Press, as well as the author of the children's books The Spellkey and Hatching Magic. As Downer explained to Something about the Author: "I lived in Manila and Bangkok in the late 1960s, reading Enid Blyton's boarding-school stories and Agatha Christie's murder mysteries before I discovered Lloyd Alexander and the world of fantasy. But it wasn't until we moved back to Northern Virginia and I started working part-time in the local library that I started writing the book that became The Spellkey. I read Ursula LeGuin's wonderful novel A Wizard of Earthsea and immediately started a story about the characters who would become Caitlin and the Badger.

"I carried around a tattered, forty-page typewritten draft for years, and finally in 1984 I went to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Vermont and met Nancy Willard, who recommended I get in touch with Barbara Lucas, who was able to sell the book on her second try. Remarkably, I am still with the same publisher after nearly twenty years."

Published in 1987, The Spellkey follows the adventures of a young witch named Caitlin and a lonely stableboy nicknamed Badger as they surmount numerous dangers while gaining the magic of the powerful Spellkey. Chief among their nemeses is the powerful wizard Myrrhlock, who returns in the novel's first sequel, The Glass Salamander. In The Books of the Keepers, the final book in the "Spellkey" trilogy, Caitlin goes on a quest for

Ann Downer's middle-grade fantasy finds a girl's summer vacation turned upside down by wizards, a boy from the past, and a wyvern with a penchant for chocolate. (Cover illustration by Omar Rayyan.)

books filled with ancient magic and rituals while her son, Bram, is captured by a race that lives underground but makes his escape to the earth's surface with the help of a powerful goblin.

Nominated by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 best titles for reading and sharing in 2003, Downer's Hatching Magic is a lighthearted story about a young dragon from the thirteenth century who has mistakenly slipped through a time portal while seeking a place to nest. When the dragon winds up in present-day Boston, Massachusetts, and the stewardship of one Theodora Oglethorpe, the creature's caretaker-wizard Gideon frantically tries to transport her back to her own time before the evil Kobold finds her. "The plot episodes flow with inventiveness and a playful sense of humor, and all comes together in the magical showdown at the climax," according to Anita L. Burkam in a review of Hatching Magic for Horn Book. Eva Mitnick wrote in School Library Journal that the novel serves up "a charming fantasy," while in the New York Times Book Review Sarah London noted that Downer's story "thrives on humor and cinematically vivid prose," and "manages to put a freshly bewitching spin on the Boston we thought we knew."

"After writing about the Spellkey characters and their world for so long, it was incredibly hard to change gears and write a middle-grade novel set in the present with magical elements," Downer explained, "but at long last I was able to bring the story of Theodora Oglethorpe and the runaway dragon to the last page. It's been an honor to have Hatching Magic translated into foreign languages and to know my characters and their stories will be making their way around the globe. Neither the Spellkey characters or the Hatching Magic characters appear to be done with me yet … so stay tuned!"

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, April 15, 2003, Sally Estes, review of Hatching Magic, p. 1465.

Horn Book, September-October, 1993, Ann A. Flowers, review of The Books of the Keepers, p. 602; July-August, 2003, Anita L. Burkam, review of Hatching Magic, p. 454.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of Hatching Magic, p. 675.

New York Times Book Review, June 22, 2003, Sarah London, review of Hatching Magic, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, May 12, 2003, review of Hatching Magic, p. 67.

School Library Journal, August, 2003, Eva Mitnick, review of Hatching Magic, p. 158.


Ann Downer Web site, http://www.anndowner.com/ (December 16, 2004).

Fantastic Fiction Web site, http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (October 21, 2004).

Additional topics

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