(? - ) UK theatre designer, illustrator and author, her books either being written for younger children or for the Young Adult market, beginning with the first of her twelve picture books [none listed below], The Little Nut Tree (graph 1993). The Magical Children sequence beginning with The Strongest Girl in the World (1999 chap), for slightly older children, tells the stories of various children who gain Magic powers. The Red Necklace sequence beginning with The Red Necklace: A Story of the French Revolution (2007) features a young boy trained to perform magic tricks who finds out suddenly that he has the power to make his tricks real; he falls in thrall to a cadre of aspirational Secret Masters but escapes.
Gardner's singletons tend to address somewhat older readers. The young protagonist of I, Coriander (2005) suffers from a cruel stepmother in seventeenth century London, but her life – mostly on London Bridge before it was denuded by early urban planners, and in a land of faerie – is engagingly narrated. The nightmare of World War Two infuses her two young adult tales of greatest sf interest. The father of the young protagonist of The Double Shadow (2011) creates a Theatre of Memory, a Machine capable of re-enacting events out of the safe past, or perhaps creating them out of whole cloth: a miniature Utopian Keep that, he hopes, will keep them safe, after a soothing Memory Edit, as war looms. The much darker Maggot Moon (2012) is set in what has all the earmarks of an Alternate History Hitler Wins 1950s Britain, a "Motherland" whose increasingly totalitarian surveillance-obsessed government deepens the Dystopian pallor in which its citizens live, while their masters attempt to organize a ruinously expensive but "triumphal" landing on the Moon. The simplicity of Gardner's narrative style may seem at times inadequate to its task; but the acuity of her take on twentieth century worlds makes a virtue out of her sometimes undue clarity. [JC]
born Birmingham, England
individual titles (selected)
Previous versions of this entry