10 facts you have to know about Malorie Blackman

Since beginning her writing career back in 1990 at twenty-eight years of age, Malorie Blackman has created an impressive body of work comprising more than sixty books. She has also received multiple awards and nominations, and in 2008 was awarded an OBE (a British order of chivalry) for services to children’s literature. If all this were not enough, she earned the coveted position of Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015.

But who is Malorie Blackman?

Where did Malorie Blackman go to school?

Like so many others, Malorie found that her life took a different direction to the one she had planned. From her home in Clapham, London, she attended school with the hope of becoming an English teacher. However, on leaving Thames Polytechnic (renamed Greenwich University in 1992) with an HNC qualification in Computer Science, she began a career in systems programming.

What was Malorie Blackman’s first book?

Thankfully for the world of children’s literature, she decided to write and publish a book of short stories entitled ‘Not So Stupid!’, and since then, as they say, she has never looked back.

Not only have Malorie’s books proved hugely popular amongst children of all ages, but several of her works have been adapted for television, radio, and the stage. She has also written several scripts for the popular British TV shows Dr. Who, and Byker Grove.

Malorie Blackman early writing career

Early in her writing career, Malorie sensed that publishers were keen to focus on the fact that she was a black writer (both her parents were from Barbados). She fought this, insisting that, although the majority of her characters were black, she wanted to simply present them as they were, without any particular emphasis on their race or color. Malorie made a point of avoiding situations where she would be part of an editors ‘multicultural’ list of writers and works. The main focus was on the plot, not on the race of the characters involved.

This strategy worked well, but several events spurred her to tackle the subject head-on sometime later. 

High profile cases such as the horrific murder of Stephen Lawrence, as well as her own negative personal experiences, made her consider the issue of race. By this time she felt she had a comfortable platform and respect enough within the world of writing (as well as television) to contribute positively to a difficult subject.

Noughts and Crosses

And so, Noughts & Crosses was born. This tale is set in a fictional dystopian world, where black people – called Crosses – are the ruling class. Whites, known as ‘noughts’ (note the lower case ‘n’), are second-class citizens with low-paid, menial jobs, and are afforded few rights. In this setting, Malorie not only explores the theme of race but also of love and violence. The story revolves around the fraught love affair between Sephy and Callum, a black girl and a white boy.

Noughts and crosses play

This is also a great play, and can be interpreted in many ways.

Why did Malorie Blackman call it noughts and crosses?

When questioned about the title, Malorie explained that she chose it as it was the sort of game that nobody seems to play once they become an adult, because, in her words, ‘nobody ever wins’.

There were some issues when it came to releasing the book in the USA, however. Not least for the fact that the game of noughts and crosses is known mostly as tic-tac-toe, but also because the fallout from the 9/11 tragedy made it a difficult environment in which to promote a book that explored themes suggesting reasons why someone might want to consider engaging in terrorism. Eventually, it was released, under the more straightforward (but possibly less subtle) title of Black & White.

However, this book was met with huge acclaim, receiving many commendations and awards. Its success inspired a further five books in the series, each exploring a different idea, all set within a satirical framework about race that was so exquisitely created that it drew comparisons to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Pig heart boy

Prior to launching into the Noughts & Crosses series, Malorie Blackman was no stranger to controversial subjects. One of her best-known stories deals with the topic of organ transplants, using genetically modified animal organs for use in humans.

With the evocatively titled Pig-Heart Boy. Malorie opens up and explores a world of emotion and trauma, as a family faces the unenviable decision as to whether to accept a pig’s heart as a replacement for their son’s ailing organ. Without it, he will die. The ethical and moral, as well as emotional, aspects are handled sensitively and respectfully. It proved so popular that it was adapted for the BBC as a series, winning a BAFTA in 2000 for ‘best children’s drama’.

Malorie Blackman Books

In her other work, Malorie frequently raises the theme of unfairness and wrongful accusation – a theme that likely resonates with her readers. Children often, rightly or wrongly, see life as being unfair and feel themselves victims being unfairly blamed. In works like Thief! and Hacker, these themes are developed and presented in a mature way, showing how the main protagonists deal with the situation instead of sitting back and complaining about it. Aside from being a thoroughly enjoyable read, they offer a good life lesson.

Malorie Blackman Doctor Who

From picture books for younger children, right up to novels for the Young Adult market, Malorie Blackman continues to entertain and delight. For those interested in Dr Who trivia, it was Malorie who was responsible for the ground-breaking 2109 episode, Rosa, along with executive producer Chris Chibnail. It centered on the inspirational civil-rights protester, Rosa Parks, and received extremely positive reviews.

Who is Malorie Blackman’s husband?

In 1992, Malorie Blackman married Neil Morrison. A daughter, Elizabeth, arrived in 1995, and they live happily in Kent, where, aside from writing novels and poetry, Malorie loves to compose music and play the piano. She also has a liking for computer games.

Is malorie Blackman still alive?

Yes! She is alive and still writing great stories.

It’s fair to say that the loss to Systems Programming has been a definite gain to children’s literature (as well as TV and the stage!) and countless readers are grateful for Malorie Blackman’s change of career. 

The Times newspaper once described Malorie as a ‘National Treasure’. Looking at her remarkable list of accomplishments, it is difficult to argue with that sentiment.

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