John Rowe Townsend was born in Leeds, England, and was educated at Leeds Grammar School and at Cambridge University, where he took an honours degree in English and edited the undergraduate newspaper. After working as a journalist on the Yorkshire Post and the Evening Standard, he joined what was then the Manchester Guardian, in 1949. From 1955 to 1969 he was editor of the Guardian's weekly international edition, but gave up this post in order to have more time for writing. Until 1978 he retained a connection with the Guardian as its Children's Books Editor, and still writes for the paper occasionally.
Mr Townsend has had a lifelong interest in children's books. In addition to reviewing them in the Guardian and elsewhere, he has lectured on books for children both in this country and in the United States and is the author of two studies of children's literature, Written for Children, and A Sense of Story.
One especially intriguing and wonderful aspect of John Rowe Townsend's books is that there is a clear story there whatever age you are. I first read this book when I was about 9, and it was a thrilling read about the naughtiness of a cooped-up little boy running around on the rooftops! Many years later it is one of the most terrifying things I have ever read. Sensible 10-year-old Kathy is left in charge of her 7-year-old brother Donald, who wants to go to "Heaven" which is not allowed. "Heaven" is the Barrett family's name for the lovely little garden on the roof of the 20-storey block of flats where Mr and Mrs Barrett work. Just when Donald sneaks out of the flat and up to Heaven also happens to be the time somebody has carelessly left the ladder to the rooftops down, and also just when the President of the company is coming to visit . . . Anyone who has ever known what it is to worry about the safety of a child, or indeed their job security and family's future, had better cover their nails with masking tape before reading Top of the World! A hugely gripping yet often affectionate novel, it is written with sympathy for all its often infuriating characters - bored, incorrigible young Donald and the bullying Superintendant, Mr Hurst, who wants things spick and span for the President - I would recommend this to anyone who likes reality as well as grandeur and mass destruction. Definitely buy!
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