"I wasn't a particularly good soldier or farmer or salesman or factory worker or teacher, but at last I've found something I can do reasonably well," concludes this warm and witty memoir by the author of Babe: The Gallant Pig and more than 100 other children's books. But how he arrived at his career as author makes for delectable fodder in this humorous and conversational volume, peppered with accomplished pen-and-inks by Horse (Little Rabbit Lost). King-Smith recounts an eventful life that spanned the greater part of the 20th century and is still going strong into the 21st. He traces his meandering career path recalling many comic moments during his years spent farming with his wife, Myrle (he confesses somewhat sheepishly, "For Myrle and me, life at Woodlands Farm was really an extension of our childhood pet keeping"). The pages brim with eccentric characters worthy of a P.G. Wodehouse novel (e.g., "Mr. Hamper was distinguishable from his larger pigs by virtue of wearing clothes and standing on his hind legs"). Children will particularly enjoy hearing of the many animals he has known, from the chameleons he collected on a WWII troop ship en route to Tripoli, to the hamsters he inadvertently bred (they escaped) at a manor-house-cum-agricultural-college, to the scores of cows, pigs, poultry, dogs and more that he raised. For kids from one to 92, these pages reveal a gifted writer with an affection for animals and a simple country life, a passion for his work, and sheer goodness of heart. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 6 Up-With candor, humor, and warmth, King-Smith relates the various experiences that led him to become, late in his life, a children's author. Although he flashes back to various points in his early years, the book focuses on his adult life, beginning with his desire to farm at age 18. He relates his inexperienced (and humorous) attempts at farming at Woodlands Farm after serving in World War II, the birth of his children, and the various jobs he held to support his family. In 1976, he began his first book, and the rest, shall we say, is history. Throughout his recollections, he includes vignettes of the various animal "friends" that made up a large part of his and his family's lives, and gives a picture of pre- and post-World War II England and its accompanying social history. Because the focus is on King-Smith's adult life, teachers and librarians will most likely be this book's most ardent readers, although older students needing an interesting autobiography might pick it up. A good choice for any library interested in collecting material that supports the study of children's literature and children's authors.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
A memoir from a beloved chronicler of the barnyard reveals a vast experience with his subject matter, and a huge capacity for self-deprecation. Lovers of King-Smith's (Funny Frank, 2001, etc.) vividly realized animal characters will enjoy meeting his many real-life animals, from Kicker, a cow so named because she, "like a professional footballer, practiced the art for her own sake"; through Anna, a dachshund who "must have had a very long bladder because, in wet weather, which she abhorred, she would lie doggo for twenty-four hours"; to Snowballs, a Muscovy duck who "was the grand seigneur of a large harem of females . . . and his mission in life was a simple one, namely to pass on his genes." No proper memoir of farming life can get very far away from the earthiness of animal husbandry, and this one fairly revels in the specifics of the maintenance and procreation of its various creatures. In structure, it skips about, seemingly randomly, from youth to courtship and marriage to reminiscences of his grandparents while all the while returning over and over to the heart of the matter-the farm. The vignettes of farm life are frequently hilarious, the evocations of the post-war period are nostalgic but not sentimental, and the author's descriptions of his marriage are truly touching. The overall effect of this offering is to make the reader feel as if she has just had a long, rambling chat with an enormously affable older gentleman-which is just about exactly what the author is. With a primary focus on adult concerns-work, finances, marital and parental relations-this may prove a disappointment to children hoping to read stories of a real-life Babe, but for readers of all ages who may findfascinating a portrait of a way of life that has gone by, it is a real gem. (Autobiography. 10+)