I was saddened to learn of Dick King-Smith’s passing this week. The famous children’s author was partly responsible for a great many of the novels that I read in primary school; often I read his books whilst shunning the set reading books, because the quality of writing and imagination to be found in the Sophie books or The Queen’s Nose was far superior to anything that was ever presented in the crap that I was expected to read.
I have also never read The Sheep-Pig. I think the popularity of the film Babe ruined it for me when I was in school.
(Note: I got away with not reading set reading books from about part way through Year 4. Was I a teacher’s pet? Probably, as the only teacher that ever complained about what I read was not responsible for teaching me.)
It was the Sophie books that I first gained an interest in, and I ended up reading most of them. I read The Queen’s Nose before I left primary school. The Fox Busters, as pictured above and Dick King-Smith’s first novel, I have a strange relationship with.
See, back in Year 5 I wanted to order the new version of The Diary of a Young Girl (a.k.a. The Diary of Anne Frank) from the Puffin Book Club. Sadly, my teacher’s pet status didn’t extend to book orders and supposedly 9 years old was a little too young to be reading the diary of a holocaust victim. This is despite being told some pretty horrific stuff by two of my Grandparents, by that point, about the Second World War and I was pretty well aware of the holocaust and Nazis (and is probably why I have this recurring dream now that I’m an adult).
So, instead of Anne Frank’s diary, I ended up with a copy The Fox Busters. Now if you know how the story of this fantastic children’s novel goes, perhaps you can see right now a certain irony at work. It also shows how dim primary school teachers can be, as they were incapable of seeing the similarities between the two books and that they had swapped one genocide for another. I didn’t see the similarities until I was 10 and was finally allowed to order a copy of the diary through Puffin Book Club and read it through.
And that is why I have a strange relationship with The Fox Busters. It’s also one of the reasons, now that I am an adult, that I have a huge respect for the works of the late Dick King-Smith, who brought big ideas to little kids.