Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sheila Burnford

Thunder Bay Light

Since posting about The Incredible Journey on Sunday, it has been bothering me a little that I mentioned the movie, it's director and narrater - but not the author of the book on which it was based.

Each year in Thunder bay, Northwest Ontario, they present a Sheila Burnford Award for contribution to literature. Sheila Burnford was born in Scotland in 1918 and went to school in Edinburgh, emigrating to Port Arthur, Ontario at the age of thirty-three. She wrote most of her nine books there, including The Incredible Journey, the story of a hazard-strewn wilderness trek by three faithful pets - a bull terrier, a golden labrador and a siamese cat. The book was published in 1961 and was modesly successful, winning the Canadian Children's Book Award; but it became an international bestseller when Disney released the movie in 1963, and has been reprinted so often, and in so many editions, that it's hard to make a count.

Burnford returned to Britain in later life, to Bucklers Hard in Hampshire, where she died of cancer in 1984, aged sixty-five.

She often said that The Incredible Journey was not intended primarily as a children's book, and dipping into my mother's rather tattered copy (mum was in the antiquarian book business for many years, trading as Bookline) I can understand why. I'm borrowing it to take to the island.
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