Susan Cooper

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Susan Cooper
Susan cooper 8313.JPG
Cooper in 2013
BornSusan Mary Cooper
(1935-05-23) 23 May 1935 (age 87)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Alma mater Somerville College, Oxford
Genre Children's fantasy novels
Notable works The Dark Is Rising series
Notable awards Newbery Medal
Margaret A. Edwards Award
    Nicholas Grant
    (m. 1963;div. 1983)

Susan Mary Cooper (born 23 May 1935) is an English author of children's books. She is best known for The Dark Is Rising , a contemporary fantasy series set in England and Wales, which incorporates British mythology such as the Arthurian legends and Welsh folk heroes. [1] For that work, in 2012 she won the lifetime Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association, recognizing her contribution to writing for teens. [2] In the 1970s two of the five novels were named the year's best English-language book with an "authentic Welsh background" by the Welsh Books Council. [3]



Cooper was born in 1935 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, to Ethel May (née Field) and her husband John Richard Cooper. [4] Her father had worked in the reading room of the Natural History Museum until going off to fight in the Second World War, from which he returned with a wounded leg. He then pursued a career in the offices of the Great Western Railway. Her mother was a teacher of ten-year-olds and eventually became deputy head of a large school. Her younger brother Roderick also grew up to become a writer. [4]

Cooper lived in Buckinghamshire until she was 21, when her parents moved to her grandmother's village of Aberdyfi in Wales. She attended Slough High School and then earned a degree in English at Somerville College at the University of Oxford, where she was the first woman to edit the undergraduate newspaper Cherwell [5] with her co-editor Patrick Nobes. [6]

After graduating, she worked as a reporter for The Sunday Times (London) under Ian Fleming and wrote in her spare time. During that period she began work on the series The Dark Is Rising and finished her debut novel, the science fiction Mandrake, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1964. [7]

Cooper emigrated to the United States in 1963 to marry Nicholas J. Grant, a Professor of Metallurgy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a widower with three teenage children. [4] She had two children with him, Jonathan Roderick Howard Grant (b. 1965) and Katharine Mary Grant (b. 1966; later Katharine Glennon). She then became a full-time writer, focusing on The Dark Is Rising and on Dawn of Fear (1970), a novel based on her experiences of the Second World War. Eventually she wrote fiction for both children and adults, a series of picture books, film screenplays, and works for the stage.

Around the time of writing Seaward (1983), both of her parents died, and her marriage to Grant was dissolved. [4]

In July 1996, she married the Canadian-American actor and her sometime co-author Hume Cronyn, the widower of Jessica Tandy. (Cronyn and Tandy had starred in the Broadway production of Foxfire , written by Cooper and Cronyn and staged in 1982.) [8]

After Cronyn's death in 2003, she moved back to Massachusetts, building a house facing the North River in Marshfield, [9] and also living in Cambridge. [10] The history of the Marshfield area was the basis for her 2013 book Ghost Hawk, in which the spirit of a Wampanoag, whose people were decimated by European disease, witnesses the transformation of Massachusetts by the Plymouth Colony. [11]

Hollywood adapted The Dark Is Rising (1973) as a film in 2007, The Seeker . [12] It disappointed Cooper, who requested to no avail that some changes from her narrative be reverted. [13]

From 2006 to 2012, Cooper was on the Board of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA), a US nonprofit organization that advocates for literacy, literature, and libraries. [14] [15]

In April 2017, Cooper gave the fifth annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford, speaking on the role of fantasy literature in contemporary society. [16]

In 2019 she published The Shortest Day, based on her performance poem of the same title written for the Cambridge Christmas Revels in the 1970s. [9]


For her lifetime contribution as a children's writer, Cooper was U.S. nominee in 2002 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition available to creators of children's books. [17] [18]

The American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award recognises one writer and a particular body of work for "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature". Cooper won the award in 2012 citing the five Dark Is Rising novels, published 1965 to 1977. The citation observed, "In one of the most influential epic high fantasies in literature, Cooper evokes Celtic and Arthurian mythology and masterly world-building in a high-stakes battle between good and evil, embodied in the coming of age journey of Will Stanton." [2]

She has also been recognised for single books:



Other nonfiction


Cooper wrote four screenplays produced for television, one supernatural tale for children and three more adaptations of books about Appalachia (as Foxfire). [20]

Short fiction

See also

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  1. Elizabeth Hand. "Susan Cooper". Richard Bleiler, ed. Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror. New York: Thomson/Gale, 2003. Pp. 239–44. ISBN   0-684-31250-6.
  2. 1 2 "Edwards Award 2012". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA).
      "Edwards Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  3. 1 2 3 "Tir na n-Og Awards". Welsh Books Council (WBC).
    "Tir na n-Og awards Past Winners" Archived 10 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine . WBC. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Chaston, Joel D. (1996). "Susan (Mary) Cooper". In Caroline C. Hunt (ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 161: British Children's Writers Since 1960: First Series. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved 5 August 2013.(subscription required)
  5. Charles Butler, Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), page 14.
  6. "Editor's Corner: Susan Cooper". Cherwell . 18 February 2022. p. 32.
  7. Susan Cooper at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-03-05.
  8. 1 2 Foxfire at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  9. 1 2 Nancy Shohet West, "'Children are as good readers as ever,' says acclaimed author Susan Cooper", The Boston Globe, 11 March 2020.
  10. One repeated source of biographical data is Susan Cooper, Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children, Margaret K. McElderry (date?). ISBN   0-689-80736-8.
  11. Ghost Hawk. LCC record. Retrieved 2013-02-12.
  12. The Seeker at IMDb Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  13. "Author Uncertain About 'Dark' Leap to Big Screen". Margot Adler. National Public Radio. 2007. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  14. "The NCBLA Board of Directors". NCBLA. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 4 October 2006.
  15. "The NCBLA Board of Directors". NCBLA. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  16. Photographs, podcast, and video for Susan Cooper's Tolkien Lecture, The J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, 2017-04-30. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
  17. "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  18. "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002". The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online ( Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  19. 1 2 "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922 – present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). ALA. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "The Lost Land of Susan Cooper". Susan Cooper. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  21. "J. B. Priestley: Portrait of an Author". Library of Congress Catalog Record (LCC). Retrieved 2013-02-12.
  22. According to the publisher description, Cooper is "a friend and writer for the Revels".
    "The Magic Maker: a Portrait of John Langstaff, Creator of the Christmas ...". LCC record. Retrieved 2013-02-12.

Further reading