"It has always been my idea to try to portray events in which children become involved in the dramatic past. And it is, of course, infinitely more plausible to create adventures in past centuries, when it was perfectly possible for them to be abandoned with the need to look after themselves." Madeleine Polland provided ample proof of her ability to create such adventures—she wrote eighteen children's historical fiction titles over a period of sixteen years.
The author was born Madeleine Cahill in the south of Ireland in 1918. She vividly remembered the fighting and burning during the Irish Rebellion in the early twenties, before her father moved the family to England. There is a small town north of London where the three brothers and two sisters spent a happy childhood. Madeleine was great friends with her brothers, and was an irrepressible tomboy. As she grew older, her interest in art caused her to prepare for a career in clothes design. Her plans changed dramatically when her mother became ill and Madeleine stayed home and cared for her. She got a job at the local library, and had the delightful task of rebuilding the library's book collection. Later, during World War II, she enlisted and served at a radar installation. In 1946 she married Arthur Polland. Their two children provided inspiration for vaious of her book—they appear (only thinly disguised) in the interesting mystery story, Stranger in the Hills.
It was the suggestion of a friend that decided Madeleine to try her hand at writing for children. Her first attempt was Children of the Red King, published in 1960. Then came Beorn the Proud a year later, followed by many others, including a number written for the Clarion series published by Doubleday.
Her books are marked by a desire to portray real people in whatever historical situation they are in. Her characters are more than simple pasteboard cutouts amiable showing the reader important moments in history. For most of her novels, she was able to imbue the story with an authentic air by personally visiting the locale of the books—only Chuiraquimba and the Black Robes (set in Paraguay) and Mission to Cathay (set in China) had to be completely reconstructed from other sources.
Madeleine Polland passed away in February, 2005 at the age of 86.