Jamila Gavin was born in Mussoorie, India.
She moved to England when she was 12 years old, and later studied music at Trinity College of Music, London. She then worked for the BBC, first in radio, then in television, as Production Assistant and Director of Music and Arts programmes.
She published her first book, The Orange Tree and Other Stories (later republished as The Magic Orange Tree), in 1979, and has since written many short story collections, teenage novels and books for children aged six to sixteen years. In 1992 her novel for teenage readers, The Wheel of Surya, was published, and was followed by two other books in the series: The Eye of the Horse (1994); and The Track of the Wind (1997). The trilogy reflects her background in India up to and after Independence. All three books were shortlisted or runners up in the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award.
One of her books, Grandpa Chatterji (1993), was dramatized for Channel 4 Schools Television, and The Monkey in the Stars (1998) was dramatized for Polka Theatre who performed it in 2000. Jamila Gavin’s radio play, The God at the Gate, was broadcast on Radio 4 in 2001, and was shortlisted for the Richard Imison Memorial Award. In 2000, Coram Boy (2000), set in 18th-century England, won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award, and has been adapted for the stage. This was followed by The Blood Stone (2003), set in 17th-century India and Venice, in which a boy has to find a way to free his father, who is a hostage in Afghanistan.
Jamila Gavin lives in Gloucestershire. Her latest children's novel is The Whistling Monster (2009). Since then she has published three collections of stories: Tales from India - Stories of Creation and the Cosmos (2011); School for Princes - Stories from the Panchatanta (2011); and Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales (2013). She has also written a book about Alexander the Great entitled Alexander the Great: Man, Myth, or Monster? (2012) with illustrations by David Parkin.