Dick King-Smith is best known as the creator of Babe a.k.a. The Sheep Pig and a farmyard full of unforgettable animal characters. A Gloucestershire farmer for twenty years, he was perfectly placed to create the magical animal stories which enchant children and adults alike.
Born: Bitton, Gloucestershire, March 27th 1922
Died: January 4th 2011
Jobs: Wartime Soldier, Farmer, Travelling Salesman, Shoe Factory Operative, Teacher, TV Presenter, Author
Lives: Near Keynsham, between Bristol and Bath
First Book: The Fox Busters, 1978
Dick's first book was The Fox Busters, published in 1978. One of the most prolific authors, he has now written over a hundred books. These have sold over five million copies in the UK alone and been translated into twelve languages. The movie Babe, based on The Sheep Pig, and the TV adaption of The Queen's Nose have spread this author's fame even further. Interestingly, while Babe inspired many cinema-goers to become vegetarians, Dick remains an unashamed omnivore. His most famous books are "farmyard fantasies" but he does write about humans too - check out George Speaks or Tumbleweed. Two qualities which mark out Dick King-Smith's writing are his delicious sense of humour and his belief in the ultimate triumph of the underdog. In 2001 Dick’s autobiography, Chewing the Cud, was published to great acclaim.
WHAT HE SAYS...
"I do not blench at nature red in tooth and claw... And much as I love The Wind in the Willows and the works of Beatrix Potter, I never dress my animals in clothes... They behave as animals should behave, with the exception that they open their mouths and speak the Queen's English."
"The books spring up like mushrooms now. Perhaps I should see a doctor about it."
"Years ago I saw an IQ breakdown of farm livestock. The stupidest were ducks, next hens, then sheep and... rather surprisingly next horses and then cows. I wouldn't agree with that, actually, I'd put a horse above any cow, but I'd agree pigs easily come top."
"Pigs are my favourite farmyard animal."
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HIM...
"Our leading author of farmyard stories."
"Skilfully avoiding sentimentality, King-Smith remains consistently affectionate and reasonable towards his four and two-legged characters."
"His animal stories never descend to fluffiness."
Independent on Sunday
"Dick King-Smith never fails to entertain."
"A writer with every kind of surprise in his bag."
"He is a great storyteller."
"His very name guarantees quality."
“The tone is light-hearted, modest and nostalgic; the overall picture is of someone thoroughly at ease with life, someone who (even after more than a hundred children’s books) remains slightly bemused by his success.”
Books for Keeps on Chewing the Cud
The Guardian Fiction Award 1984 for The Sheep Pig
Children's Author of The Year 1992
The Children's Book Award 1995 for Harriet The Hare
PLACE AND DATE OF BIRTH:
Bitten, Gloucestershire; 27 March 1922
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
MOST TREASURED POSSESSION:
A very small china owl, given to me by my mother's mother.
'Spread a little happiness' by Sonnie Hale
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
When did you start writing?
Started my first book for children, The Fox Busters, in 1976 got it published in 1978. Since then I have written so many books that I've rather lost count, but I think that at the moment (December 1997) the total is 107. A few are for very young children, a few are factual about pets and the countryside, a few are in verse; most are aimed at the seven to eleven age-range. Recently I have written two, Godhanger and The Crowstarver that are for teenagers or adults.
Where do you get your ideas?
Sometimes they arise from things I've done, people I've met or known, animals I've owned or known, but mostly it's a question of sitting and thinking. It all has to be invented -the idea, the title, the names of the characters, what's going to happen to them and when and how. It's up to me, as it is to all writers of whatever sort of books, to work out how I'm going to start, and go on, and finish. I do like happy endings.
Can you give your top three tips to becoming a successful author?
1. Read as widely as you can. Try not to read rubbish, but soak up all sorts of good stories. Unconsciously you'll take in the way that established authors write their different styles, if you like. Your style, when it comes, will be yours and yours alone, for better or for worse, but it will have been affected by your reading.
2. Practise. No good saying, 'I'm going to be a writer.' Get on with it. Write, about whatever you fancy. The more you do it, the better you'll get.
3. Show what you've done to someone whose opinion of your work you would respect - Mum, Dad, other relations, your teacher. Listen to their comments or criticisms: don't get upset by them, think about them.
Lying in hospital (in Liverpool) after having been badly wounded in Italy in 1944 and having been brought back by ship and looking up to see my wife (whom I hadn't seen for eighteen months) coming in through the door of the ward.
Favourite place in the world and why?
My cottage (which was built, we think, in about 1635) in the little village where we live, between Bath and Bristol. It's very small, and covered in Virginia creeper, and it has tremendously thick walls, so that it's cool in summer and warm in winter. In the larger of the two bedrooms, my wife and I sleep in the bed in which I was born; my family home is only three and a bit miles from me, as the crow flies.
What are your hobbies?
Writing books for children. Sitting in the garden on summer evenings with a nice drink. Talking to my dogs. Washing up. You'll never catch me buying a dish-washer, it would take all the fun out of it.
If you hadn't been a writer, what do you think you would have been?
A farmer still, as I was for twenty years, till I ran out of money. I'm glad I'm not now, I'm too blooming old to be humping sacks of corn or pitching bales up on to a wagon; and I shouldn't like to go back to milking cows twice a day for 365 days of the year. I wish I still had some pigs, though.