- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — John Reynolds Gardiner, who wrote the best-selling children’s book “Stone Fox,” died March 4 at a Southern California hospital of complications from pancreatitis. He was 61.

Mr. Gardiner wrote “Stone Fox” as a screenplay about a boy named Willy and his dog Searchlight who enter a dog sled race against an undefeated opponent. A producer suggested that Mr. Gardiner turn it into a book, which he did, in 1980.

The chapter book, aimed at readers in fourth through sixth grades, sold 3 million copies and was later made into a TV movie.

“Children’s publishing has lost one of its touchstones,” said Kate Jackson, editor in chief of HarperCollins Children’s Books. She called the book “a true modern classic.”

Few would have predicted Mr. Gardiner’s literary success. He didn’t enjoy books when he was young — he never read an entire novel until he was 19 — and he ended up in what he called “dumbbell English” at the University of California at Los Angeles.

When he was in his late 20s and working as an aerospace engineer, his brother persuaded him to take a television writing class taught by an instructor who cared more about imagination than spelling and grammar.

Mr. Gardiner also wrote the book “Top Secret” in 1985 and “General Butterfingers.”

Survivors include his wife, Gloria.

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