Robert Westall was born in 1929 on Tyneside, and he grew up there during the war. He went to the local Grammar School and then studied Fine Art at Durham University, and Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He worked as an art teacher in Cheshire and for the Samaritans.
His first novel for children, The Machine Gunners, published in 1975, was an instant success and was awarded the Carnegie Medal. His books have been translated into ten languages, dramatised for television and he won the Carnegie again in 1982 for The Scarecrows, the Smarties Prize in 1989 for Blitzcat, and the Guardian Award in 1991 for The Kingdom by the Sea. Between 1986 until his death in 1993, he devoted himself to his writing.