Lloyd Alexander

Lloyd Chudley Alexander (January 30, 1924 – May 17, 2007) was an American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature.[1] He won U.S. National Book Awards in 1971 and 1982.[2][3]

Lloyd Alexander
BornLloyd Chudley Alexander
(1924-01-30)January 30, 1924
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 2007(2007-05-17) (aged 83)
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Paris
GenreFantasy, children's literature
Notable worksThe Chronicles of Prydain
Westmark trilogy
Notable awardsNewbery Medal
1969 The High King
National Book Award
1971 The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian
1982 Westmark
Janine Denni
(m. 1946; died 2007)


Alexander was one creator of the children's literary magazine Cricket.[4]

Personal life

Alexander was born in Philadelphia in 1924 and grew up in Drexel Hill, a section of Upper Darby just west of the city. His father was a stockbroker and the family was much affected by the Great Depression. His parents read only newspapers, but they did buy books "at the Salvation Army to fill up empty shelves."[5] Lloyd was a reader of books: "Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain and so many other were my dearest friends and greatest teachers. I loved all the world's mythologies; King Arthur was one of my heroes".[6]

By fifteen he had determined to be a writer. His parents found him a practical job as bank messenger, which inspired a satire that would become his first book published fifteen years later, And Let the Credit Go (1955).[5] He graduated at age sixteen in 1940 from Upper Darby High School, where he was inducted into the school's Wall of Fame in 1995.[7]

His parents placed him at Haverford College just down the road from home (although he left after one term).[8] Years later he observed, "My parents never read a book. I never in all my life saw them sit down and read a book. So it was always a mystery to them—where do these books come from, and who actually writes them? And our son wants to go into a business like that?!!" He ignored their warnings and "lived to regret not listening", acknowledging that he hadn't realized how hard a writing career would be.[9]

Alexander judged that adventure, not college, was the best school for a writer, and that US Army participation in World War II was an opportunity. The army shipped him to Texas where he played the cymbals in band and the organ in chapel. He received combat intelligence training in Maryland, then in Wales, before late wartime deployment in western and southern borderlands of Germany that had been occupied.[10] He rose to be a staff sergeant in intelligence in counterintelligence.[11]

After the war Alexander attended the University of Paris, where he met Janine Denni. They were married in 1946 and soon moved back home (for Lloyd) to Philadelphia.[6]

Alexander died on May 17, 2007, of cancer,[12][13][14][15] two weeks after the death of his wife of sixty-one years.[8] He is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill. His daughter, Madeleine Khalil, died in 1990.


For about fifteen years in Philadelphia, Alexander wrote primarily fiction, non-fiction, and translations for adults. He wrote "novel after novel" for seven years before his first book was published (1955).[6][16] That was "the story of a young person going out into the world for the first time and finding the world a very difficult place indeed. That's the story that all of us have to tell."[9] During that time he wrote two non-fiction books for children, biographies for August Bondi and Aaron Lopez.

Alexander succeeded on his first try writing fantasy for children, which he later called "the most creative and liberating experience of my life". The book was Time Cat (1963),[6] a fantasy inspired by one of his pet cats, Solomon. Solomon would visit the office while Alexander was working, but the author would never see him come or go.[9]

Almost forty, he then specialized in children's fantasy, the genre of his best-known works. His wartime tenure in Wales introduced him to castles and scenery that would inspire settings for many of his books[9][16] and to Welsh language whose medieval literature—Welsh mythology, especially the Mabinogion—was a source for The Chronicles of Prydain in particular.[5] Those five novels detail the adventures of a young man named Taran, who dreams of being a sword-bearing hero but has only the title Assistant Pig-Keeper. He progresses from youth to maturity and must finally choose whether to be High King of Prydain. Twenty years later, a Disney animated film, The Black Cauldron (1985) was based on the first two books, telling a combined Disney story.

After the success of Prydain, Alexander was chosen to be author-in-residence at Temple University from 1970 to 1974.[17] He once described it as being educational for him and as "rather like being a visiting uncle, who has a marvelous time with his nephews and nieces, then goes off leaving the parents to cope with attacks of whooping cough, mending socks and blackmailing the kids to straighten up the mess in their rooms."[18]

Alexander's other fiction series are Westmark (1981 to 1984) and Vesper Holly (1987 to 1990 and 2005). Westmark features a former printer's apprentice involved in rebellion and civil war in a fictional European kingdom around 1800. Vesper Holly is a wealthy and brilliant Philadelphia orphan who has adventures in various fictional countries during the 1870s.[lower-alpha 1]

There was some controversy about The Fortune-Tellers (1992), a picture book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Some felt that the story was European in origin and therefore inappropriate for its African setting.[19] But Alexander early on established his interest in the intersection of African and European history (as well as his political leanings) with his 1958 profile of August Bondi (August Bondi: Border Hawk), the Jewish radical abolitionist who rode with John Brown in Kansas attacking pro-slavery militants.

Alexander's last novel, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, was published in August 2007. "I have finished my life work", he said about the book before he died.[8]

According to Dictionary of Literary Biography, Alexander's books had "the special depth and insight provided by characters who not only act, but think, feel and struggle with the same kinds of problems that confuse and trouble people in the twentieth century."[5] Alexander has indicated that he modeled the bard character Fflewddur Fflam in The Chronicles of Prydain partly after himself: "Rumor has is that we have very similar personalities. I will neither confirm nor deny that".[20]


For his contribution as a children's writer, Alexander was U.S. nominee in 1996 and again in 2008 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.[21][22]

He first garnered significant critical acclaim with his The Chronicles of Prydain series. The second volume (The Black Cauldron) was a runner-up for the 1966 Newbery Medal; the fourth (Taran Wanderer) was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; the fifth and concluding volume (The High King) won the 1969 Newbery.[23] The Newbery Medal from the American Library Association annually recognizes one book as the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[1]

Many of Alexander's later books were praised. The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian won the 1971 National Book Award in category Children's Books[2] and in 1982 Westmark also won a National Book Award.[3][lower-alpha 2] The Fortune-Tellers, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, won the 1992 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award in the Picture Book category.[24]

Alexander was included in the 1972 third volume of the HW Wilson reference series, Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators[4]—early in his career as a children's writer, but after Prydain was complete.[25] He received at least three lifetime achievement awards. In 1991 the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book bestowed upon him the Pennbook Lifetime Achievement Award.[26] In 2001 he received the inaugural Parents' Choice Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.[27] In 2003 Alexander received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.[28]

On January 28, 2010 an exhibit opened at the Harold B. Lee Library on the campus of Brigham Young University, displaying several items from Alexander's home office, which he referred to as "the Box." Items include manuscripts, editions of all his books, his violin, typewriter, and desk.[29]

On October 19, 2012 a documentary chronicling the life and writings of Alexander was released.[30] The film is titled "Lloyd Alexander".[31]

On September 23, 2014 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the series, Henry Holt published a special "50th Anniversary Edition" of The Book of Three.


Prydain series

The Chronicles of Prydain

Westmark trilogy

Vesper Holly series

  • The Illyrian Adventure (1986)
  • The El Dorado Adventure (1987)
  • The Drackenberg Adventure (1988)
  • The Jedera Adventure (1989)
  • The Philadelphia Adventure (1990)
  • The Xanadu Adventure (2005)


  • And Let the Credit Go (1955) — first novel published[5]
  • My Five Tigers (1956)
  • Border Hawk: August Bondi (1958) — biography of August Bondi for children[25]
  • Janine (my wife, that is) is French (1960) — Alexander also collaborated to write a stage adaptation of his work[32]
  • My Love Affair with Music (1960)
  • The Flagship Hope: Aaron Lopez (1960) — biography of Aaron Lopez for children[25]

Two of the first six books are historical biographies, four are autobiographical, according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.[25][lower-alpha 3]



  1. Holly visits five fictional countries and her last adventure is set in and around Philadelphia during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.
  2. The NBAs were revamped as "American Book Awards" from 1980 to 1986. Several categories were subdivided and Westmark won one of five for children's books, namely hardcover fiction.
  3. ISFDB also classifies the first six books alone as non-fiction rather than speculative or non-genre fiction; it does not list translations. Adam Bernstein (2007) calls And Let the Credit Go "his first published novel, a satire" and that book seems to be the object of Lloyd Alexander (1999) remarks on "his first novel".


  1. "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  2. "National Book Awards – 1971". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  3. "National Book Awards – 1982". NBF. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  4. Gamble, Nikki (May 24, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander 1924–2007". Write Away. Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  5. Bernstein, Adam (May 18, 2007). Lloyd Alexander; Fantasy and Adventure Writer. The Washington Post. Page B08. Retrieved 2007-05-18.
  6. About the Author (1999). The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, Henry Holt and Company, revised and expanded, page 97.
  7. "Wall of Fame". Upper Darby High School. Archived from the original on 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  8. "Newbery Winner Lloyd Alexander Dies at 83". Archived from the original on June 9, 2012. Retrieved 2007-05-17.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). School Library Journal. May 17, 2007. Archived 2012-06-09. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  9. Lloyd Alexander Interview Transcript Archived 2011-10-03 at the Wayback Machine (1999). Interview with Scholastic students. Scholastic Inc. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
  10. "Lloyd Alexander Biography". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  11. "Alumni Wall of Fame". Upper Darby School District. February 23, 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/19/arts/19alexander.html
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/jul/06/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries
  14. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/17/AR2007051702371.html
  15. Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2007: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. 2008-10-07. ISBN 9780786451913.
  16. [About the author] (1973). The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, Henry Holt and Company, first edition, page [88].
  17. Sleeman, Elizabeth, series ed. (2003). International who's who of authors and writers 2004 (19th ed.). London: Europa Publications, Taylor & Francis Group. p. 11. ISBN 1-85743-179-0. Retrieved 2011-12-29.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  18. Painter, Helen W., ed. (1971). Reaching Children and Young People Through Literature (PDF). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. p. 26. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  19. Lasky, Kathryn (2003). Dana L. Fox and Kathy G. Short (ed.). Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature. National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0-8141-4744-5.
  20. "A Visit With Lloyd Alexander"
  21. "IBBY Announces Winners of 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Press release 31 March 2008.
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  22. "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002" Archived 2013-01-14 at Archive.today. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  23. Prior, Elizabeth. "Biography of Lloyd Alexander". Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  24. "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards: Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Archived from the original on 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  25. Lloyd Alexander at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2011-12-27. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  26. Hoffner, Gloria A. (November 7, 1991). "Fantasist Weaves Tales For Children". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  27. "A Lifetime Achievement Award for Lloyd Alexander". Parent's Choice Foundation. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  28. "Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  29. The Harold B. Lee Library to Celebrate the Opening of the Lloyd Alexander Collection (December 19, 2009). Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
  30. Lloyd Alexander Documentary Premieres at Harold B. Lee Library (October 15, 2012). Press Release. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  31. "Lloyd Alexander" at Internet Movie Database (October 19, 2012). IMDB. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  32. Caust-Ellenbogen, Celia. "Philadelphia, according to Lloyd Alexander". Free Library Blog. Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
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