Penelope Farmer was born in Westerham, Kent, one of twin sisters. She attended boarding school and read history at Oxford University. She did postgraduate work at Bedford College, University of London. Her first book, The China People, a collection of literary fairy tales for young people, was published in 1960. Her first novel for children was The Summer Birds (1963), which was followed by two sequels, Emma in Winter (1966) and the now classic Charlotte Sometimes (1969). Other notable books for young readers include A Castle of Bone (1972), Year King (1977), Thicker than Water (1989), Penelope: A Novel (1993), and Granny and Me (1998). She also writes fiction for adults.