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Photo of Malorie Blackman, Credit: Taraforfun at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ultimate Malorie Blackman FAQ: A Definitive Guide to Your Burning Questions

Malorie Blackman is a beloved children and YA author who wrote the mega-successful Noughts and Crosses series, which I have reviewed on this blog. Here we dive into some of the frequently asked questions the internet has on this acclaimed writer.

What was Malorie Blackman’s childhood like?

Malorie Blackman was born in Clapham, London in 1962 to parents from Barbados, who arrived in Britain as part of the Windrush generation. She grew up in Bromley with her four siblings and her dad was a bus driver and her mum worked in a pyjama factory. Her parents seperated when she was 13.

She was known to spend time in the library and was a daydreamer who adored fantasy and myths, Star Trek and Doctor Who. In a 2021 interview with the Guardian, she said: 

“I was known as the weird one, the misfit, but that’s fine. I used to get told off for daydreaming so often, which is ironic, because that’s how I make my living!”

How many books has Malorie Blackman written?

Malorie has written over 70 books for children and young adults, including short stories, since her first book “Not So Stupid” was published in 1990. Below is a list of her books for children and young adults.

Books for New Readers

  • The Betsy Biggalow Series
    • Betsey Biggalow The Detective (1992)
    • Betsy Biggalow Is Here! (1992)
    • Hurricane Betsy (1993)
    • Magic Betsey (1994)
    • Betsey’s Birthday Surprise (1996)
  • The Girl Wonder Series
    • Girl Wonder and the Terrific Twins (1991)
    • Girl Wonder’s Winter Adventures (1992)
    • Girl Wonder To The Rescue (1994)
    • The Amazing Adventures Of Girl Wonder (2003)
  • The Puzzle Planet Series
    • Peril On Planet Pellia (1996)
    • The Mellon Moon Mystery (1996)
    • The Secret Of The Terrible Hand (1996)
    • Quaser Quartz Quest (1996)
  • The Longman Book Project
    • Rachel Vs. Bonecrush The Mighty (1994)
    • Rachel and the Difference Thief (!994)
    • Crazy Crocs (1994)
  • Elaine You’re a Brat! (1991)
  • My Friend’s A Gris-Quok (1994)
  • Grandma Gertie’s Haunted Handbag (1996)
  • Space Race (1997)
  • Fangs (1998)
  • Snow Dog (2001)
  • The Monster Crisp-Guzzler (2002)
  • Sinclair, Wonder Bear (2003)

Children’s books

  • Hacker (1992)
  • Operation Gadgetman! (1993)
  • Jack Sweettooth the 73rd (1995)
  • The Space Stoaway (1995)
  • Whizziwig (1995)
  • Thief! (1995)
  • A.N.T.I.D.O.T.E (1996)
  • Contact – Short story within Out Of This World: Stories of Virtual Reality (1997)
  • Pig-Heart Boy (1997)
  • Aesop’s Fables (1998)
  • Animal Avengers (1999)
  • Dangerous Reality (1999)
  • Don’t Be Afraid (1999)
  • Forbidden Game (1999)
  • Hostage (1999)
  • Tell Me No Lies (1999)
  • Whizziwig Returns (1999)
  • Dare To Be Different – Short story in collection of the same name (1999)
  • Peacemaker – Short story in Peacemaker and Other Stories (1999)
  • Dead Gorgeous (2002)
  • Cloud Busting (2004)
  • The Deadly Dare Mysteries (2005)
  • Doctor Who: The Ripple Effect (2013)

Books for Young Adults:

Picture Books

  • That New Dress (1991)
  • Mrs Spoon’s Family (1995)
  • Dizzy’s Walk (1999)
  • Marty Monster (1999)
  • I Want A Cuddle! (2001)
  • Jessica Strange (2002)
  • Contributed to A Christmas Tree Of Stories (1999)

Memoir

  • Just Sayin’: My Life In Words (2023)

What is Malorie Blackman’s most famous book?

Probably the most famous books of Malorie Blackman’s is her YA series Noughts and Crosses. Beginning in 2001, the series depicts a world similar to ours where Noughts are white people and Crosses are black people, with Crosses being in charge of government and most institutions. Over 6 books we follow three generations as theya re impacted by societal changes and having to combat racism and prejudice at every corner.

The first book in the series, also called Noughts and Crosses has been on the British school curriculum for a number of years and has been adapted both on the stage in 2019 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and for TV on BBC1 in 2020.

Probably her second most famous book is Thief which though I haven’t seen it adapted anywhere at the moment, I remmeber it as my first introduction to the authoer when I was in Year 7 at high school, aged 11.

What was Malorie Blackman's inspiration for Noughts and Crosses?

In the foreword for Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman recounts quite a few events that happened which acted as inspiration for her writing Noughts and Crosses.

Firstly cme her own experiences as a Black woman growing up in Britain, she recounts experiences such as at school where Black history was never mentioned or taught, or for example when she was travelling first class on a train and the ticket inspector decided to look at and question her ticket far more than her fellow white passengers. Both of these events are directly recounted in Noughts and Crosses, with Callum venting frustration in his history lesson when Nought history isn’t taught, and likewise he is questioned when travelling on a train with Sephy.

Another key incident is the very sad and distressing Stephen Lawrence case. Stephen was a British teenager who was murdered by a gang of white men in 1993 in an unprovoked attack, although at the time none of the men were convicted. It took almost 20 years for a 2012 review to establish that the Metropolitan police did not investigate the murder properly and for Stephen’s family to get the justice they needed. 

In a 2022 interview with Exeter Nothcott Theatre when asked about her inspiration for the series, Malorie said:

“It was a book I was compelled to write. It was my 50th book and I wanted to address racism and its legacy directly. I was also inspired by the Stephen Lawrence case. I was appalled by the way the Lawrence family had been treated, especially by the police, and I wanted to write something about what it’s like to be judged based on the colour of your skin. That was the genesis of the series.

What I thought might be one book, and then three books, eventually turned into six books and three novellas. My husband says it’s the longest trilogy on the planet.”

What are Malorie Blackman's books about?

Throughout Blackman’s works for children and young adults, there are many profound themes that can resonate with readers of all ages on a deep and meaningful level. Here’s a glimpse into the overarching themes within her works:

  1. Social Injustice and Equality: One of her common themes is tackling societal issues head-on, often focusing on racial inequality, discrimination, and the pursuit of justice. Her groundbreaking “Noughts & Crosses” series, for instance, intricately explores a world divided along racial lines, challenging readers to confront their preconceived notions.

  2. Ethical Dilemmas in Science: In “Pig-Heart Boy,” Blackman explores the ethical questions surrounding medical advancements. The novel raises questions about the consequences of pushing scientific boundaries and the moral implications of groundbreaking medical procedures.

  3. Friendship and Resilience: Across various works, the author emphasizes the importance of friendship and resilience in the face of adversity. For example, “Cloud Busting” poignantly captures the complexities of friendship and the strength found in unexpected bonds, while her “Hacker” series navigates the challenges of technology through the lens of youthful camaraderie. She also explores this in the Noughts and Crosses series, especially in Knife Edge and Checkmate where Sephy has to comprehend her post-natal depression and leans on Callum’s mother Meggie to help her to raise his and Sephy’s daughter Callie-Rose (as well as the consequences of toxic friendships in Double Cross where Toby Durbirdge is led down a very dark path by his friend Dan Jeavons).

  4. Bullying and Its Consequences: “Cloud Busting” also addresses the pervasive issue of bullying, shedding light on the impact of rumors and the lasting effects of negative social dynamics. Blackman approaches this theme with sensitivity, encouraging readers to consider the far-reaching consequences of their actions.

  5. Moral Complexity: Whether in the “Black Ops” series or other works, Blackman introduces readers to morally complex scenarios. “An Eye for an Eye,” for instance, explores the blurred lines of justice where Jude threatens a heavily pregnant Sephy which is possibly due to either his racist views or his anger and grief over losing his brother (Although Jude has very little redeemign qualities as we learn he intends to use Callie-Rose to enact his reveng on Sephy). 

Malorie Blackman’s thematic explorations add layers of depth to her narratives, inviting readers to engage with and reflect on issues that extend far beyond the confines of the pages. Her ability to weave these profound themes into compelling and entertaining stories makes her a standout voice in literature that resonates with readers of all ages.

If you are a fan of Malorie Blackman, I would love to know what your favourite book is? Let me know in the comments down below.

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