30 September 2008
Last night before bed I quickly read through The Twin Giants by Dick King-Smith. I needed a break from the currently disheartening Chains (Laurie Halse Anderson), and at a mere 68 well-illustrated pages, TTG fit the bill. I have to admit, it didn't do a whole lot for me. I'm not sure this tale of twin giants who marry a pair of twin giantesses was a compelling enough read. There was plenty of opportunity for slapstick and high-jinks, and the book never quite achieved it. But that's not the point! (And besides, with illustrations by current binky Mini Grey, why complain too much?) Reading The Twin Giants put me in mind of just how much I have enjoyed the books of Dick King-Smith. For a man who started writing late in life--a third carer, really--he has been Trollopian in his output. So here for your enjoyment, because I'm thinking of it, is a list of my top five Dick King-Smith books.
Martin's Mice: This gets top billing because it was the first DKS book I read, so I am especially fond of it. The story of a cat who decides to keep a pet mouse, this is always the first DKS title I recommend when introducing kids to him. Worked for me!
Babe: The Gallant Pig: A couple of years ago I led a 3rd and 4th grade discussion group where we read this title, and I was astonished that not a single child had seen the film. I felt old! This book has plenty of merit and can hold its own against that other famous pig, Wilbur. (And do see the film. It's outstanding. And that's coming from a person who generally frowns upon book to film adaptations!)
The Fox Busters: Before there was Chicken Run there was The Fox Busters. A group of barnyard bitties decide it's time to take care of a persistent problem. Taking their name from the legendary RAF Dambusters, these chickens give a local fox plenty to think about. This was Dick King-Smith's first book, and it has held up well over time.
Mr. Potter's Pet: A great read-aloud, partially due to the take charge pet in question, a mynah bird named Everest. Illustrated by Mark Teague, of LaRue the dog fame.
Chewing the Cud: Dick King-Smith's autobiography is just as engaging and original as anything he has written for children. It's right up there with Roald Dahl's Boy in terms of opening a window to a world that is long gone--possibly for the better, but one that inspires nostalgia all the same. DKS writes of many of the animals he has known in his time (he was a gentleman farmer for many years,) and it is fun to imagine where they eventually turned up in his books.
I also quite liked Hairy Hezekiah, which I reviewed here.
Thus is my tribute to Dick King-Smith Read him today!