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John Christopher



John Christopher
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   10.36

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    omnibus, polymufs, post-apocalyptic, prequel, science-fiction, sub-genre, subgenre, telefantasy, touchstone, authoritarian, genre, menial, exploits, influential, individuality, elite
     content words:    John Christopher, Samuel Youd, Peter Symonds School, Aldous Huxley, Arthur Clarke, Swiss Family Robinson, Coral Island, Symonds School, Royal Signals Corps, Rockefeller Foundation


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John Christopher
By Jamie Kee
  

1     British author John Christopher, which is the pseudonym for (Christopher) Samuel Youd, has written approximately seventy books using many different names. His most important, best loved books are written under the name John Christopher, however. Christopher is well known for his apocalyptic disaster novels and his children's adventure stories.
 
2     Born in Lancashire, England, in 1922, Christopher later moved to Hampshire in 1932 when he was ten. Up until age sixteen, he went to Peter Symonds School in Winchester. Christopher passionately loved science fiction, even publishing his own amateur magazine, The Fantast, as a teenager. He enjoyed writers Aldous Huxley and Arthur Clarke. The children's books most influential to Christopher were The Swiss Family Robinson and Coral Island. He was attracted to the Coral Island theme about three boys in a strange and dangerous situation.
 
3     After attending Peter Symonds School, Christopher left at age sixteen in order to work in the local government. Later he helped in the war effort by joining the Royal Signals Corps from 1941 until 1946. After leaving the army, Christopher started taking writing seriously because he received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant was given to aspiring writers who had their careers interrupted by war. This opportunity was a blessing for Christopher because it allowed him to complete his first novel, The Winter Swan, which was published in 1949 under his own name. The main character in the book is an elderly woman, and the time sequence is written in an unusual way. Christopher did something that some considered disastrous while others considered it unique. He changed the traditional time sequence and told the story of the elderly woman not from childhood to death, but from the grave to childhood.
 
4     After writing The Winter Swan, Christopher continued to write yearly "traditional" novels throughout the 1950s. Just a few of these adult fiction novels, some originally printed in portions, are Twenty-Second Century (1954), a collection of short stories; The Year of the Comet (1955, 1957), published as Planet in Peril (1959) in the United States; The Death of Grass (1956, 1967), published as No Blade of Grass (1957) in the United States; The Cave of Night (1958); and A Scent of White Poppies (1959).
 
5     As Christopher continued his novels, he wrote under many names such as Anthony Rye, Peter Graff, Hilary Ford, Peter Nichols, and Williams Godfrey. John Christopher is also a pseudonym for Samuel Youd, but because the pseudonym John Christopher is linked to his most popular works, Samuel Youd is typically referred to as John Christopher. Christopher also wrote in a variety of genres such as science fiction, thriller, historical romance, and comedy. The Death of Grass, for example, was his first science fiction novel "of substance." It only took weeks for Christopher to write this book.

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