Susan Cooper

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Susan Cooper
Susan cooper 8313.JPG
Cooper in September 2013
Born (1935-05-23) 23 May 1935 (age 87)
Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
Occupation Writer
Language English
Alma mater University of Oxford
Period 1964–present
Genre Children's fantasy novels
Notable works The Dark Is Rising series
Notable awards Newbery Medal
Margaret Edwards Award
  • Nicholas Grant (1963-1983)
  • Hume Cronyn (1996–2003) his death

Susan Mary Cooper (born 23 May 1935) is an English-born American 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 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 John Richard Cooper and his wife Ethel Maybelle, nee Field.[4] Her father had worked in the reading room of the Natural History Museum until going off to fight in the First 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 Aberdovey in Wales. She attended Slough High School and then earned a degree in English from the University of Oxford, where she was the first woman to edit the undergraduate newspaper Cherwell.[5]

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.[6]

Cooper emigrated to the United States in 1963 to marry Nicholas J. Grant, 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.)[7] Cooper and Cronyn remained married until his death in June 2003.

Hollywood adapted The Dark Is Rising (1973) as a film in 2007, The Seeker.[8] It disappointed Cooper, who requested that some changes from her narrative be reverted, to no avail.[9]

Cooper was on the Board of the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance (NCBLA), a U.S. nonprofit organization that advocates for literacy, literature, and libraries (2006[10]-2012[11]).

She lived in Marshfield, Massachusetts as of October 2012.[12]


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.[13][14]

The ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award recognizes 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 recognized for single books:



Other nonfiction

  • Behind the Golden Curtain: A View of the USA (Hodder & Stoughton and Scribner's, 1965)[16]
  • Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children (Simon & Schuster, 1996)[16]


  • Foxfire, Cooper and Hume Cronyn (Samuel French Inc, 1982), stage playbook[16] — produced on Broadway as Foxfire (1982)[7] — based on the Foxfire books

Cooper wrote four screenplays produced for television, one supernatural tale for children and three more adaptations of books about Appalachia (as Foxfire).[16]

  • Dark Encounter (Shadows, Series 2; Thames Television, mid-1970s)
  • The Dollmaker (ABC, 1984)
  • To Dance with the White Dog (Hallmark, 1993)
  • Jewel (CBS, 2001)


The Dark Is Rising
  • Mandrake (Hodder & Stoughton, 1964), science fiction for adults[16]
  • Dawn of Fear (1970), autobiographical World War II story[16]
  • Seaward (1983)
  • The Boggart (1993)
  • The Boggart and the Monster (1997)
  • King of Shadows (1999)
  • Green Boy (2002)
  • Victory (June 2006)
  • Ghost Hawk (2013)

Children's picture books

  • Jethro and the Jumbie (1979)
  • The Silver Cow: A Welsh Tale (1983), retold
  • The Selkie Girl (1986), the Selkie legend retold
  • Matthew's Dragon (1991)
  • Tam Lin (1991), retold
  • Danny and the Kings (1993)
  • Frog (2002)
  • The Magician's Boy (2005), adapting her short play for the 1988 Revels[16]

As of September 2013, her latest new work is Ghost Hawk, featuring the spirit of a Wampanoag, people decimated by European disease, who witnesses the transformation of Massachusetts by the Plymouth Colony.[19]

Short fiction

  • "Muffin", Amy Ehrlich, ed., When I Was Your Age: Original Stories about Growing Up (Volume 1) (Candlewick) — story set in World War II England (as Dawn of Fear)
  • "Ghost Story", Don't Read This! (US, Front Street), Fingers on the Back of the Neck (UK, Puffin) — collection supporting IBBY
  • Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out (Candlewick) — Cooper wrote one piece of this mixed-genre NCBLA collaboration
  • The Exquisite Corpse Adventure (Candlewick) — Cooper wrote one episode of this sequential story collaboration of children's authors and illustrators by NCBLA for the LC website
  • "The Caretakers", Haunted (Anderson Press collection, UK only)

See also


  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. 2.0 2.1 "Edwards Award 2012". Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). American Library Association (ALA).
      "Edwards Award". YALSA. ALA. Retrieved 2013-10-11.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Tir na n-Og Awards". Welsh Books Council (WBC).
    "Tir na n-Og awards Past Winners". WBC. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (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. Susan Cooper at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-03-05. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Foxfire at the Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  8. The Seeker on IMDb Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  9. "Author Uncertain About 'Dark' Leap to Big Screen". Margot Adler. National Public Radio. 2007. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  10. "The NCBLA Board of Directors". NCBLA. Retrieved 4 October 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The NCBLA Board of Directors". NCBLA. Retrieved 22 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 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.
  13. "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  14. "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.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922 – present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). ALA. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 [1]. The Lost Land of Susan Cooper. Susan Cooper. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  17. "J. B. Priestley: Portrait of an Author". Library of Congress Catalog Record (LCC). Retrieved 2013-02-12.
  18. 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.
  19. Ghost Hawk. LCC record. Retrieved 2013-02-12.

Further reading

  • Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper, Charles Butler (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006)
  • The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy, Leonard Marcus (Candlewick, 2006)

External links