27 March 1922 – 4 January 2011
Laura Fraine writes…
Children’s author Dick King-Smith has died in his sleep aged 88, following a long period of poor health. Best known as the author of The Sheep-Pig (1983), the story that was adapted into the 1995 film Babe, King-Smith wrote more than 100 children’s books, published in 21 languages and is beloved of children around the world. Yet, it was not until he was 56 years old that he began to write for children.
Ronald Gordon King-Smith (Dick was a much-preferred childhood nickname) was born into gentry in 1922 in the village of Bitton, Gloucestershire. He was to live in the surrounding area for almost all his life and much later his writing would become synonymous with this unchanging English countryside.
After 20 years as a farmer, Dick found himself unemployed. He tried sales and factory work before finally beginning to retrain as a primary teacher, aged 49, at the same time as his elder daughter Juliet. It was a job he found rewarding and for the next eight years teaching would be his vocation. One hot summer he spent the six-week school holiday writing a children’s story to pass the time. The Fox Busters (1978), about a brood of fearless hens taking their revenge upon a fox, was taken up for publication by Gollancz and immediately well received.
He may have come to writing late in life, but for the next 20 years Dick King-Smith, now a full-time author, wrote with zeal, sometimes producing eight or nine books a year across a range of publishers. His final book, The Mouse Family Robinson, was published in 2007.