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Changes trilogy author Peter Dickinson dies at 88

The Devil’s Children and The Weathermongers by Peter Dickinson

It was sad to hear of Peter Dickinson’s death at the age of 88. His writing is much loved in our household. The BBC’s 1970s adaptation of Dickinson’s Changes trilogy had a huge impact on me at the time. It was a genuinely disturbing piece of drama… for children. His three books about how Britain turns against technology and machinery, and reverts back to medieval ways and thinking, are very much worth reading. As noted in his obituary in The Guardian today, his writing was all about the narrative.

Describing his approach, Dickinson said: “My purpose in writing a children’s book is to tell a story, and everything is secondary to that; but when secondary considerations arise they have to be properly dealt with. Apart from that I like my stories exciting and as different as possible from the one I wrote last time.

His first children’s novel, The Weathermonger, was published in 1968. Heartsease followed in 1969 and The Devil’s Children in 1970. These three books became the Changes trilogy. The Devil’s Children referenced in the title of the third book are Sikhs – for an author, in 1970, to have a group of Sikhs as the heroes and main protagonists was incredibly forward-thinking. The 1970s were filled with British sitcoms littered with jokes about ‘darkies’ and racial stereotypes. The final struggle in The Devil’s Children where the Sikhs battle the thuggish ‘knight’ and his cronies is memorable for its simplicity and sheer excitement.

He was the first author to twice receive the Carnegie Medal for the year’s best new children’s book. He won in 1980 for Tulku and again in 1981 for City of Gold and Other Stories from the Old Testament.

His other notable children’s books include The Dancing Bear (published in 1972), set in the 6th century, and  The Blue Hawk (published in 1976), which is set in a deeply religious country rather like Egypt.

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