Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dick King-Smith has died

From The Guardian:

Children's author Dick King-Smith, whose much-loved tale The Sheep-Pig was adapted into the hit film Babe, has died at the age of 88, at home in his sleep.

After fighting in Italy with the Grenadier Guards in the second world war, King-Smith was a farmer for 20 years before turning to teaching and came to writing late in life. His first book, The Fox Busters, was published in 1978 when he was in his 50s. He went on to write more than 100 books, most of which drew on his knowledge of farms and animals because "I like them, I've always kept a lot of pets, and because it's fun putting words in their mouths". King-Smith called this genre of speaking-animal stories "farmyard fantasy" and often wrote about pigs, his favourite animals. One of his early popular books, Saddlebottom, featured a porcine hero, much scorned for the unusual white saddle-shaped patch on his bottom, who runs away on adventures with a cat.

However, it was his 1983 novel The Sheep-Pig, about a runty little pig trained as a sheepdog, that really made King-Smith's name, first winning the Guardian children's fiction prize and then being turned into the 1995 film Babe which achieved both critical acclaim and popular success. It was nominated for a number of Academy awards.

King-Smith's own life was lived far from the glitz of Hollywood. He was married to his first wife, whom he first met when he was 13, for more than 50 years, and lived in a tiny village between Bath and Bristol. In an interview he once described his typical day as "sit down in my very small study in my very old (from 1635) cottage; scribble in longhand in the morning; in the afternoon, type out the morning's work (on an old portable typewriter, with one finger); evening, read day's work to my wife, seeking her approval."

He was awarded an OBE in the 2010 new year's honours list.


I've read so many of his books - most of them when I was younger, and he is such a talented writer.  This is such sad news.  If you're ever stuck for a book for a precocious 8 year old, but them a Dick King-Smith one.  The Fox Busters is about some chickens who decide to find out how to lay eggs with harder shells so they can drop them at the foxes who are hunting them.  The chickens fly into the air and lay the eggs at the foxes, kind of like missiles.  King-Smith writes imaginative, funny, tender stories for children and his books are amazing.

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