Extract from Julia Eccleshare’s Guardian obit.
Published in 1963, like many other successes Stig of the Dump was turned down by a succession of publishers before Kaye Webb, then creating the Puffin list, bought it and published it handsomely in a paperback edition with illustrations and a now iconic cover by Edward Ardizzone. Reflecting in an interview in 2013, 50 years after the book’s publication, King opined that Stig was rejected by publishers because, even then, adults were anxious about children acting so entirely alone: “It was beginning to be rather improper to let a child run wild like that,” he said.
In the intervening years, adults’ views of children’s unsupervised outdoor play have become even more fraught with anxiety about possible risk; to the point where such play has almost disappeared.
Despite that, because it is a story that is both delightful and strong, and maybe because it is possible to think that Stig and his adventures with Barney are imagined rather than real, the book has endured and flourished in the intervening 55 years. Having been in print continuously with more than two million copies sold, it is on every list of modern classic children’s books, is a staple of primary school classrooms, was selected as the representative title for the 60s in Puffin’s list of The Puffins of Puffins, and has been adapted twice for TV.