Jill Paton Walsh Biography

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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Gillian (Jill) Bliss was born on April 29, 1937, in London. She graduated from St. Annoys College, Oxford, with honors in English literature and taught school in London from 1959 to 1962. On August 12, 1961, she married Alan Paton Walsh, a chartered secretary, with whom she had three children.

Jill Paton Walsh began writing books at the age of twenty-six after she left teaching and had her first child. Since she began publishing, she has developed an interest in the criticism of children's literature as well as the craft of writing. To date, she has published seventeen novels for young people, a novel for adults, and a work of nonfiction, and she has edited a structural reader of Beowulf, she frequently writes book reviews and literary criticism, and participates in workshops and symposiums on children's literature in Great Britain and the United States.

Although Paton Walsh is known primarily as a writer of historical fiction, she has produced outstanding contemporary fiction, including Goldengrove and its sequel Unleaving, which won the 1976 Boston Globe-Horn Book award and was included in the Children's Book Showcase selected by the Children's Book Council.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Gillian [Jill] Bliss was born on April 29, 1937, in London, England. She earned a diploma in education and a master's degree in English from St. Anne's College, Oxford. She taught English at Enfield Girls' Grammar School from 1959 to 1962. In 1961 she married Edmund Paton Walsh and had three children: Edmund, Margaret, and Helen. Walsh started to write when her children were young and she was at home; she has said that her interests lie in nearly everything: she calls it the "butterfly mind syndrome." She does not understand her motivation, nor does she want to, for fear that knowledge may change her focus. Although it is difficult to categorize Walsh's complete body of works, it appears that she has found a niche in the genre of young adult historical fiction. Walsh has said that her "preferred subjects lie predominantly in the large area of human experience that children and adults have in common." Walsh's novels explore such basic human concerns as love, death, and most importantly, coming of age, themes that appeal to reader of all ages. She explains that "[my] governing principle is to make whatever I am doing as simple and accessible as possible, not only to appeal to young readers, but to make my work as far as I can the sort of thing I like." Most of her writing is aimed for the child audience "largely from a belief that a book should always . . . be as simple and as readable as the writer can make it."

Although Walsh's writing is simple, it is far from being simplistic. Her talent as a writer is served well by her knowledge of the arts. Shelia A. Egoff has observed that Walsh's "writing is studded with allusions to poetry, art and philosophy that give it an intellectual framework unmatched in children's literature." Walsh's writing is always of the highest caliber, whether it be her own novels which crackle with excitement and realism, or her review articles which introduce striking ideas.

Paton Walsh's books have received numerous awards, including ALA Notable Book for Fireweed (1970); Whitbread Literary Award for The Emperor's Winding Sheet (1974); Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Unleaving (1976); ALA Notable Book for A Chance Child (1978); School Library Journal Best Book of the Year for The Green Book (1981); Universe Fiction Prize and ALA Best Book for Young Adults for A Parcel of Patterns (1983); and ALA Notable Book and Premier Smarties Prize for Gaffer Samson's Luck (1984).