UK kids’ author whose book inspired “Babe” dies

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LONDON (AP) - British children’s author Dick King-Smith, whose novel “The Sheep-Pig” inspired the hit movie “Babe,” has died at the age of 88.

His publisher, Random House Children’s Books, said in a statement that the writer died in his sleep early Tuesday morning at his home near Bath, about 100 miles west of London, after suffering from poor health in recent years.

King-Smith was honored by Queen Elizabeth II when he received an OBE last year for his services to children’s literature.

The writer worked for 20 years as a farmer before he trained as a primary school teacher. In his 50s, he began to write his first story, “The Fox Busters,” about chickens taking their revenge on foxes. The book was published in 1978.

He has published over 100 books _ mostly about animals and often about pigs, his favorite _ which have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. The 1995 Oscar-winning movie “Babe,” based on his story about a pig that behaves like a sheepdog, made his books a global hit.

He once said of his work: “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.”

“Dick was one of the kindest and funniest authors, and a delight to publish,” said Annie Eaton, a publisher at Random House.

Eaton added that despite enjoying Hollywood success with the film of his novel “The Sheep-Pig,” he “stayed firmly grounded and was quite unspoilt.”

His family said in a statement that King-Smith leaves behind his second wife Zona, three children, 14 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and a great-great grandchild.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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