Joan Aiken: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Author Joan Aiken is being celebrated with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 91st birthday. (Kevin Laughlin/Google)

Joan Aiken, an English writer of children’s novels and supernatural fiction, is being celebrated with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 91st birthday.

The Doodle, drawn by Kevin Laughlin, is a tribute to The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, which kicked off Aiken’s series of children’s books, The Wolves Chronicles. The books, published over 43 years, followed the adventures of children in an alternate history of England.

Aiken died in 2004 at the age of 79 at her home in Petworth, West Sussex, England.

Here’s what you need to know about Aiken:


1. She Was Born Into a Family of Writers in England

Joan Aiken, Joan Aiken Google Doodle, Google Doodle, author Joan Aiken, Joan Aiken 91st birthday

Author Joan Aiken. (JoanAiken.com)

Joan Aiken was born on September 4, 1924, in Rye, East Sussex, England, to Conrad Aiken, an American-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, and Jessie MacDonald Aiken, who had a Master’s degree in writing from Radcliffe College, according to JoanAiken.com.

Aiken’s older brother, John, and sister, Jane Aiken Hodge, were also writers. Aiken’s parents divorced when she was five, and her mother remarried the English writer Martin Armstrong a year later.


2. She Completed Her First Novel When She Was Just 16

Joan Aiken

Aiken at age 9. (JoanAiken.com)

Aiken was taught at home by her mother until she was 12, and then attended the Wychwood School for Girls in Oxford from 1936 to 1940. She did not attend university, but she began writing stories at an early age, according to JoanAiken.com.

Her first full-length novel was published when she was just 16.


3. She Published More Than 100 Books Over Her Career, Covering a Wide Range of Topics

Joan Aiken published more than 100 books over her lengthy career.

“Her stunning volume of writing includes children’s books, thrillers, and literary works modeled after the fictional world created by Jane Austen,” Google said in its Doodle description. “It’s hard enough to write for a single audience, but Joan was comfortable writing a range of stories that everyone could enjoy.”


4. She Won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1968

An illustration from The Wolves Chronicles.  (Pat Marriott/The Joan Aiken Facebook Page)

An illustration from The Wolves Chronicles. (Pat Marriott/The Joan Aiken Facebook Page)

Aiken won numerous awards during her writing career, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1968, which is awarded to one children’s book published in the United Kingdom.


5. She Was Married Twice & Had 2 Children

(The Joan Aiken Page/Facebook)

(The Joan Aiken Page/Facebook)

Aiken married Ronald George Brown, a journalist who worked with Aiken at the United Nations Information Centre in London, in 1945. They had two children together. Brown died in 1955.

She later married Julius Goldstein, a landscape painter and teacher from New York, in 1976. They split time living at her home in England and in New York.

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