Sally Gardner is the daughter of two lawyers, raised in Birmingham. Her parents separated and later divorced when she was five . Gardner recalls being badly bullied in school, even being nicknamed 'Silly Sally' on account of her then undiagnosed dyslexia. She was formally diagnosed with severe dyslexia at 12 and didn't learn to read until she was 14, with the first book she read in full being Wuthering Heights. Noticed by teachers for her creative flair, she did very well in art college and then in drama college, and worked as a theatre set designer before turning to illustration and writing. She lives in London. In 2019 Sally became an Ambassador for audiobook charity Listening Books.
Her first book as a writer was published by Orion Books in 1993: The Little Nut Tree, a children's picture book that she also illustrated. Her first full-length novel was a breakthrough, as I, Coriander won the Smarties Prize in 2005 (reader category 9–11 years). It is set in Cromwellian London and tells the story of Coriander, the unhappy daughter of a silk merchant.
The Red Necklace: A story of the French Revolution and its sequel The Silver Blade are set primarily in France during the Revolution and the Reign of Terror, also in contemporary London. They feature an aristocratic girl and a gypsy boy who are 12 and 14 years old when the story opens. The boy Yann has been trained to assist a stage magician but has or develops genuine magic powers; a starred review (unusually good) by the American service Kirkus Reviews labels even The Red Necklace fantasy.
Maggot Moon (2012) won the Carnegie Medal from the British librarians, which annually recognises the best new book for children or young adults published in the UK. The alternate history is set in 1950s England during the space race, under the thumb of the so-called Motherland. Kirkus says the unnamed "Motherland's distinguishing features scream “Nazi Germany”" and suggests that we "call it Auschwitz lite". Its reviewer judged that the book must fail between younger and older readers: on the one hand, "short chapters and simple vocabulary and syntax ... oversimplified characters, a feeble setting and inauthentic science"; on the other hand, brutal content. Three months later it was recommended for ages 11+ by the panel of British librarians that named it to the Carnegie Medal shortlist with the comment: "A stunning book with an underdog hero, Maggot Moon offers a powerful depiction of an utterly convincing and frightening dystopia. With clever plotting, conspiracy theory and a truly original concept at the heart of it, this is a real tour de force without a hint of sentimentality."
As writer and illustrator
() Five classic fairy tales retold and illustrated by Gardner in A Book of Princesses (1997) were reissued by Orion in 2011, singly, as the Magical Princesses series: Cinderella; The Frog Prince; The Princess and the Pea; Sleeping Beauty; Snow White.
As writer only
As illustrator only
Awards and nominations
- 2003 The Countess's Calamity, Nestlé Children's Book Prize bronze runner-up and Kids' Club Award winner, ages 6–8 years
- 2005 I, Coriander, Nestlé Children's Book Prize winner, ages 9–11 years
- 2006 I, Coriander, shortlisted for the British Children's Book of the Year
- 2007 I, Coriander, shortlisted for the Stockton Children's Book of the Year
- 2012 Maggot Moon, Costa Book Awards, children's category
- 2013 Maggot Moon, Carnegie Medal
- "Hilary Mantel wins 2012 Costa novel prize". BBC News. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
- (Carnegie Winner 2013) Archived 18 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
- Alison Flood (19 June 2013). "Carnegie medal winner Sally Gardner attacks Gove". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
- "The little nut tree". WorldCat. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
- OCLC 181368668. OCLC 311783665.
- "THE RED NECKLACE by Sally Gardner". Kirkus Reviews. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- OCLC 751735207.
- Viv Groskop (14 December 2013). "Sally Gardner interview: 'Poor young men in Britain are still cannon fodder for the army' ". The Observer. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
- "Press Desk: 'Unteachable' author and emerging illustrator enter children's books hall of fame". Press release 19 June 2013, with press kit. CILIP. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- "Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner". GailC's blog. 28 February 2014. Alachua County Library District (aclib.us). Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- "MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner". Kirkus Reviews. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- "2013 Awards: Carnegie shortlisted books" Archived 14 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine. CILIP. 2014-07-02.
- 'Magical Princesses gardner' (search report). WorldCat. Retrieved 2014-07-01.
- Nestlé Children's Book Prize. Booktrust. Archived 8 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Michelle Pauli (3 December 2003). "Debut wins Smartie gold medal". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- Michelle Pauli (14 December 2005). "Dyslexic writer savours Nestle victory". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- British Book Awards.[full citation needed]
- "'Oscars' for children's books". The Northern Echo. 2 March 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
- Official website
- Sally Gardner at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Gardner at Book Browse – short biography, interview, etc.
- "Gardner at Bloomsbury Publishing". Archived from the original on 12 October 2003.
- "BBC 7 – Big Toe Radio Show – Author Sally Gardner". Archived from the original on 13 March 2007.
- Sally Gardner at Library of Congress Authorities, with 28 catalogue records (plus at least 3 early works by another Sally Gardner)