GILLIAN Avery, who has died aged 89, was an award-winning children’s novelist and a keen gardener.

Mrs Avery had nearly 20 books published during her time as a writer, and in 1972 won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for her novel A Likely Lad, which was then adapted for television in 1990.

She also penned many historical books, including one on Cheltenham Ladies College, and another on the history of children’s books.

Gillian Elise Avery was born on September 30, 1926 in Redhill, Surrey, to Major Norman Avery and his wife.

She attended Dunottar School before starting work as a journalist on the Surrey Mirror, and then for Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, as editor of illustrations.

She also worked at the Clarendon Press, now Oxford University Press.

While living in Oxford in 1951 she met literary scholar Tony Cockshut and married him less than a year later at St Gregory and St Augustine Catholic Church in North Oxford.

The couple lived in Tackley Place, North Oxford, for two years after marrying in 1952 and then went to live in Manchester, when Mr Cockshut became a teacher at Manchester Grammar School.

The couple lived there for 10 years and had one daughter, Ursula, in 1957.

During this time Mrs Avery became a full-time writer, with her first book, The Warden’s Niece, published in 1957.

It told the story of a boarding school girl, Maria, who ran away to live with her great-uncle, the head of an Oxford college.

The novel was published in many countries, including the USA where it was renamed Maria’s Escape.

Characters from The Warden’s Niece reappeared in another of her books, The Elephant War, published in 1960. She also wrote the Italian Spring, which was published in 1962.

Mrs Avery was three times a commended runner-up for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, which recognises the year’s best children’s book by a British writer.

Her other books include The History of Cheltenham Ladies College, The Best Type of Girl, and The History of Children’s Books.

The couple returned to Oxford in the mid-1960s after Mr Cockshut was appointed lecturer in 19th Century English at All Souls College, and also a fellow of Hertford College.

The family-of-three lived in Polstead Road in North Oxford for five years and then moved to Elmhurst Road in 1970, where they stayed until just last year.

As well as writing, Mrs Avery had a passion for gardening and had two allotment plots in North Oxford, where she enjoyed growing raspberries and other fruit and vegetables.

In January 2015, Mrs Avery went to live at Vale House, Oxford – a specialist care home for people with dementia.

She died on January 31.

She is survived by her husband, 88, and her daughter.

Her funeral will be held on Friday, February 26, at 11.30am at Christ Church Cathedral in St Aldate’s.