Phillipa Pierce

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 351

Ann Phillipa Pearce was born in 1920 in the village of Great Shelford in Cambridgeshire, England. Her father was a flour-miller, and she was raised, along with her sister and two brothers, in the millhouse where she had been born. Pearce continues to reside in that same house. Her childhood memories of the water-mill and of swimming and fishing in the river are reflected in the settings of some of her stories.

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After graduating with honors from Girton College, Cambridge University, where she specialized in English and history, she worked as a civil servant until after World War II. She then took a job as a radio scriptwriter and producer for the British Broadcasting Company. She later worked in the education department of Oxford University Press, and then as the first editor of children's books for Andre Deutsch, a London publishing house. In 1963 she married Martin Christie, who died in 1965. They raised one daughter, Sarah.

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Pearce's first book for young adults, Minnow on the Say (1955), was partly written during her convalescence from tuberculosis. A runner-up for the Carnegie medal, the book helped to establish her reputation as a writer for juvenile readers. Her next book, Tom's Midnight Garden, won the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 1958. A Dog So Small earned the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award in 1963.

In the 1960s and early 1970s Pearce wrote the text for children's picture books and several short story collections for older children and young adults, including The Elm Street Lot (1969) and What the Neighbors Did (1972). In 1978 Pearce won the Whitbread award for The Battle of Bubble and Squeak. Her first long novel in many years, The Way to Sattin Shore, appeared in 1983.

Pearce's outstanding fiction for young readers ranges from the severe realism of some of her short stories to the imaginative fantasy of Tom's Midnight Garden. Using the Cambridgeshire countryside of her childhood as the setting for most of her books, she is notable for evoking a vivid sense of place. Many critics consider Tom's Midnight Garden one of the best novels written for young adult readers in the twentieth century.

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