Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Author Review: Geraldine McCaughrean

I first learned about Geraldine McCaughrean several years ago when I read TheWell-Trained Mind.  WTM recommended several of her books: The Canterbury Tales, Greek Myths, The Odyssey, and Saint George and the Dragon.

So, I was very interested last week when I heard that she had been chosen to write the sequel to the classic, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Barrie willed the copyright and royalties of Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital when he died in 1937. “Peter Pan may never grow up, but the income he brings us has helped many other children grow up and get better over the years,” said the CEO of the hospital. Potential authors were asked to submit a sample chapter and synopsis of the idea for a sequel. McCaughrean was chosen by a panel which included Barrie’s family members and hospital officials. The judges said McCaughrean “captured the elusive spirit of the original whilst offering fresh and astounding creative response and will appeal to both children and adults.” The author will split the royalties with the hospital.

Geraldine McCaughrean (pronounced “Mc-CORK-ran”) was born on June 6, 1951, in Enfield, London, England. Her father, Leslie Jones, was a fireman and her mother, Ethel Thomas Jones, was a teacher.  

McCaughrean attended Southgate Technical College in Middlesex and Christ Church College, Oxford. During college she worked as a secretary at Thames Television in London and after graduation worked as an assistant editor, subeditor, staff writer, editorial assistant, and writer for several different publishers. Since 1981 she has been writing full-time. As for her religious life, McCaughrean says she is “almost Catholic.”

Immediately upon the publication of her first book, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, McCaughrean was recognized as a brilliant storyteller. One critic had this to say: “Spellbinding. The language in which the stories are told is a constant excitement throughout the book... Feelings and scenes are powerfully evoked, and Geraldine McCaughrean’s arts show limitless versatility in the undertaking of a variety of narrative.”

McCaughrean is well-known for her retellings of classic stories and myths. She is a wonderful story-teller and removes many of the more objectionable parts of the stories to make them suitable for younger readers. She has written versions of the four books I mentioned above and, also, Greek & Roman myths, One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, El Cid, The Odyssey, and Noah and the Ark. She has also written several original children’s and adults novels. Her books now number over 50 and her awards are too numerous to mention!

As a parent, I don’t encourage an in-depth study of myths for my own daughters but we did read some during our studies of Ancient Greece and Rome and McCaughrean’s retellings are a good resource. One thing Christian families may want to beware of is that she includes Bible stories and stories of the saints in her collections of myths and legends. My suggestion would be to pull out a few of these stories to use with your current history curriculum.

And, in case you’re interested, Peter Pan’s sequel will be called Captain Pan and does include Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbell, Hook, and the Lost Boys.

Many of McCaughrean’s books are still in print and are available new & used on Amazon.com or other bookstores.

This article was reprinted with the author's & publisher's permission from the ABC Books Newsletter, Vol 1 Iss 1, March 2005.  


Since the time I first wrote this article in 2005, Peter Pan in Scarlett has been published.  You can read more about this author on her website:  http://www.geraldinemccaughrean.co.uk/

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