With novels like THE TURBULENT TERM OF TYKE TILER and others set at Cricklepit Combined School, Gene Kemp is widely acclaimed for giving the school story a new lease of life. Kemp is also an accomplished teller of ghost stories - even these are laced with the author's trademark humour.
Born: Wigginton, Staffordshire, December 27th 1926
First Book for Children: The Prime of Tamworth Pig, 1972
Gene Kemp's best known work is The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler. Published in 1977, this was the first book to receive both the Carnegie Medal and the Other Award. The continuing success of Tyke Tiler has made it a modern classic. It is one of several novels set in Cricklepit Combined School - the others are Gowie Corby Plays Chicken, Charlie Lewis Plays for Time, Zowey Corby and the Black Cat Tunnel and Just Ferret. Kemp's main characters are often rebels (Tyke Tiler, Gowie Corby) and the author takes the unusual risk of creating characters who readers will recognise but not necessarily identify with. Gene Kemp is widely credited for giving the school story a new lease of life. The Cricklepit stories demonstrate her talent at realistic fiction, but there is another fantastical dimension to this author's work - revealed in such novels as Jason Bodger and The Priory Ghost and The Hairy Hands.
WHAT SHE SAYS...
"I seek to entertain - a little."
"Ideas come from all around you and from inside your head. Sometimes they tire me out and I have to say to them firmly, 'Shut up and go away.”
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT GENE KEMP...
"No-one writes with more insight into the primary school classroom, it's pupils or its teachers." Robert Dunbar, Irish Times
"Gene Kemp (is) faultless on the mysterious, transient vocabulary of the young." The Guardian
"Gene Kemp has addressed a wide range of readers in a variety of genres. She has proved herself to be inventive and imaginative; she is a very funny writer who writes with a passionate concern for human dignity and justice; there is a large space in her work for the underprivileged and the marginalized, and a grittiness in their representation which refuses any reader temptation to sentimentalize them." Gillian Cross, Children's Literature in Education
"This truly innovatory book gives new dimensions to the day-school story, and an authorative boost to feminism. More convincingly than any other juvenile book it demolishes many accepted ideas about aspirational and experiential differences between boys and girls." Mary Cadogan, Twentieth Century Children's Writers on The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler
"Touching and very funny." The Guardian on Gowie Corby Plays Chicken
"A very good read. Vintage Kemp." The Bookseller on The Hairy Hands
"Irresistable. Don't miss out." The Observer on Jason Bodger and the Priory Ghost
"Highly readable, illuminating, topical and eternal." Junior Bookshelf on Zowey Corby and the Black Cat Tunnel
"Every character comes quotably to life." The Observer on Zowey Corby and the Black Cat Tunnel
"A remarkable range of material." TES on The Puffin Book of Ghosts and Ghouls
"A splendid creepy cauldron full of the paranormal." Junior Bookshelf on The Puffin Book of Ghosts and Ghouls
Children's Rights Workshop Other Award 1977 for The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler
Carnegie Medal 1978 for The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler
Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize 1981 for The Clock Tower Ghost
Honourary MA from Exter University 1984
Shortlisted for the Whitbread Award 1985 for Charlie Lewis Plays for Time
Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize 1986 for Juniper
Shortlisted for the Smarties Prize 1990 for Just Ferret
Wiggington, Staffs. Status: Grandma.
All of them.
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
'Heroes' by Bowie
When did you start writing?
I started writing on the first day of coming home from school. I wrote 'Mother See Kitty' all
over the sideboard in chalk. I thought it was beautiful but sadly, no one agreed with me.
My first published book was The Prime of Tamworth Pig, Faber, 1972.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas come from all around you and from inside your head. Sometimes they tire me out and I have to say to them firmly, 'Shut up and go away.'
Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?
1. Write something.
2. Send it off to someone.
3. Don't give up when it comes back. Send it off again!
High banks in a country lane near my home, covered - absolutely covered - in sweet purple violets.
Favourite place in the world and why?
1. Wigginton, where I was born.
2. Devon, where I live and which I love.
3. London, for that means writing and excitement.
What are your hobbies?
Reading, gardening, watching TV, walking over Devon moors and Cornish cliffs, talking - especially to children - eating, reading and reading, and day-dreaming.
If you hadn't been a writer, what do you think you would have been?
Henry VIII comes to mind. After all, he had a lively time, even if his wives didn't.