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Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper (born 1935) is an award-winning author of children’s fantasy. The Grey King, part of her five-book sequence, The Dark Is Rising, won the Newbery Medal. The Dark Is Rising, the first book in the sequence, was the only Newbery Honor Book of its publication year. Two other books in the sequence were runners-up for Britain’s Carnegie Medal. Susan Cooper’s novel, King of Shadows, was awarded a Boston Globe — Horn Book Honor. Born in England, Susan Cooper was a reporter and feature writer for the London Sunday Times before coming to live in the United States. Her television screenplays for adults have received two Writers Guild Awards and two Emmy nominations.
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The Dark is Rising: Should not be overlooked

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Despite multiple awards and a talent that is up there with the best of the fantasy authors, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series is often overlooked by readers in general. A five-part series, it deals with the battle between good and evil as waged by the Old Ones, several contemporary children, a range of mystical objects, and figures from history and legend. It sounds like pretty generic stuff, but Cooper’s gift lies in the telling of the story, and manages to take these well-trod aspects of the fantasy genre and turn them into something truly memorable.

Like Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles (the best series with which these can be compared) it is th... Read More

Greenwitch: Jane’s story

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper

Greenwitch is the third book in The Dark is Rising series, and it is necessary to be familiar with the first two books Over Sea, Under Stone and The Dark is Rising to fully understand what is going on in this volume. In the first book siblings Simon, Jane, and Barney uncovered the grail from its hiding place, but unfortunately lost the lead-incased manuscript that would decipher the inscription on the grail's side. Now after the grail has been stolen from the museum, their great-uncle Merry brings them once more to Trewissick in order to find what they once lost.

Meeting them for the first time is Will Stanton, the youngest of the Old Ones, the beings of the Light that guard mankind against the Dark. He came into his own in The Dark is Rising Read More

The Grey King: Newbery Medal winner

The Grey King by Susan Cooper

Although it is not my personal favourite, The Grey King, the fourth book in The Dark is Rising sequence is generally considered the best in the series, and is the winner of the Newbery Medal. Following on from the other books, Will Stanton (an Old One of the Light, who protects humanity from the forces of the Dark) travels to Wales, in order to fetch the golden harp, which in turn will wake the mysterious Sleepers, fulfilling the next part of the prophesy chronicling the battle between Light and Dark.

But the circumstances surrounding his visit are grim: after a serious illness he has been sent to relatives in order to convalesce, and soon finds that he cannot remember the vital phrases of the prophesy. Though he can only remember bits and pieces, he is aware that he is meant to seek help from "the raven boy" an... Read More

Silver on the Tree: The final book of an immensely rewarding series

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper

Silver on the Tree is the fifth and final book in The Dark is Rising series, and if you have never picked up the previous installments, then don't start here — you won't have a clue what's going on. If, however, you have read Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch and The Grey King, then here is the big finale you've been waiting for. Finally, all our main characters are reunited for the first and last time — Merriman Lyon, Will Stanton, Bran Davis, the Drew children, the Rowlands and the rest of the Old Ones who have come together for the final battle against the malevolent powers of the Dark.

They have gathered in Wales, following the last lines of the Light's prophecy, "when the Dark... Read More

Tam Lin: Deftly retold for kids

Tam Lin by Susan Cooper

Anyone who is familiar with the ballad Tam Lin knows it's a story that is very much for grown-ups, or at least teenagers. Susan Cooper does a very good job here of adapting the old story so that it's suitable for any age. It requires changing a few plot elements, but the essential spirit of the story remains the same.

Margaret is tired of sewing and acting polite and talking about future husbands with the other girls at her father's castle, so she runs away to the woods of Carterhays to pick flowers. She has been expressly forbidden to go there, of course. There, she meets the handsome Tam Lin, and after arguing for a minute over who really owns the forest, they spend a pleasant afternoon talking and becoming friends in the woods. When Margaret gets back home, she's in big trouble — she has actually been gone a week! Her unlikely friendship with Tam Lin leads her to sneak out once again, to rescue him fro... Read More

The Boggart: Spritely, loveable, intriguing figure of Scottish legend

The Boggart by Susan Cooper

Susan Cooper is best known for her five-part The Dark is Rising series, a sequence of fantasy novels that any self-respecting lover of fantasy should have on their bookshelf. Among her lesser known works is the time-slip adventure King of Shadows, a picture book trilogy based on Celtic legends, and two stories chronicling the doings of a Scottish boggart: The Boggart and its sequel The Boggart and the Monster.

In the Western Highlands of Scotland lives a mysterious and mischievous spirit known as a boggart. Living at the ancient Castle Keep (but often moving about the countryside), the creature of Wild Magic delights in the confusion and amusement that its daily tricks create. But when the elderly Duncan MacDevon dies in his sleep, the inheritance of the castle ... Read More

King of Shadows: Historical fantasy for children

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper

Nat Fields is a young boy with a tragic family history who has just joined a new theatre group. Run by the eccentric Arby Babbage, Nat finds solace and escape from his past with the rehearsals of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Nat is to play the part of Puck, and despite some minor difficulties, Nat is happy with his role as an actor, especially as the director plans to make the performance as loyal as possible to the original performances (including having boys play the part of women).

But then, after a terrible illness, Nat awakes to find himself in the past. He is in 1599, acting amongst Shakespeare's theatre troupe at the Globe Theatre. Once more Nat is in the role of Puck, but this time the performance is for the secret benefit of Queen Elizabeth herself. Nat's co-star is none other than Will Shakespeare himself, who brings a sense of calm and healing... Read More

Other books by Susan Cooper

Stand-alone novels:

Susan Cooper Victory, The Magician's Boy, Green Boy, King of Shadows, Tam Lin, SeawardSeaward — (1983) Ages 9-12. Publisher: His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. What they do know are the tragedies that took their parents, then wrenched the two of them out of reality, into a strange and perilous world through which they must travel together, knowing only that they must reach the sea. Together West and Cally embark upon a strange and sometimes terrifying quest, learning to survive and to love and, at last, the real secret of their journey.

Susan Cooper Victory, The Magician's Boy, Green Boy, King of Shadows, Tam Lin, SeawardGreen Boy — (2002) Ages 9-12. Publisher: On their idyllic Bahamian island, Trey’s little brother, Lou, is different — he doesn’t speak and he suffers frightening seizures. But when he and Trey find themselves mysteriously transported to Pangaia, an alternative universe where pollution and over-development have all but destroyed nature, a militant underground environmental group greets him as the prophesied hero who will save their world. But to realize this prophecy, Lou must take Trey on a terrifying and dangerous mission, with much more at stake than the fate of Pangaia. Does Lou have the power to save their own island home from a future as bleak as the world they’ve seen in Pangaia?

Susan Cooper Victory, The Magician's Boy, Green Boy, King of Shadows, Tam Lin, SeawardThe Magician’s Boy — (2005) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The Boy polishes the Magician’s wands, and catches the rabbits that the Magician pulls out of hats. But the Boy’s favorite job is operating the puppets for the Magician’s famous puppet play, “Saint George and the Dragon” — until one terrible day when, in the middle of a performance, the Boy can’t find the Saint George puppet. The Magician is furious. He points a long magical finger at the Boy, and — poof! — the Boy is suddenly in the strange Land of Story, where he must find Saint George. The Boy’s hunt for Saint George is full of adventures with oddly familiar people. He saves the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe from losing her children; he spoils the wolf’s plan to eat Little Red Riding Hood; and he narrowly escapes being eaten by the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever. No child who reads this delightful tale by master storyteller Susan Cooper is likely to forget it.

Susan Cooper Victory, The Magician's Boy, Green Boy, King of Shadows, Tam Lin, SeawardVictory — (2006) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Two Children, Two Struggles, One Battle… One child is Sam Robbins, a powder monkey aboard HMS Victory, the ship in which Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson will die a hero’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The other is Molly Jennings, an English girl transplanted from London to the United States in 2006, fighting a battle of her own against loss and loneliness. This extraordinary time-shifting adventure tells the interwoven stories of Sam and Molly, linked by a mystery. Sam is a farm boy, kidnapped at eleven years old by the “press gang” to serve in the Royal Navy. At first terrified and seasick, Sam is transformed gradually into a sailor. In the rowdy, dangerous world of a hundred-gun warship enduring the Napoleonic Wars, he meets both cruelty and kindness, and survives a fearsome battle whose echoes reach through the years to involve Molly as well. Like Sam, Molly has lost her childhood but will find her future, with help from a very unexpected source. Separate yet together, Sam Robbins and Molly Jennings struggle through fear and excitement to a final ordeal that terrifyingly tests their courage. And the moving climax of the book shows two lives joined forever by the touch of Nelson, one of the greatest sailors of all time.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsGhost Hawk — (2013) Ages 10 and up. Publisher: From Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, a story of adventure and friendship between a young Native American and a colonial New England settler. On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man. John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger. The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.