Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • The Stray
  • Written by Dick King-Smith
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780679891017
  • Our Price: $5.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - The Stray

The Stray

Written by Dick King-SmithAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dick King-Smith

The Stray Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - The Stray
  • Email this page - The Stray
  • Print this page - The Stray
Categories for this book
Tags for this book (powered by Library Thing)
fiction (8) children (5) family (4)
fiction (8) children (5) family (4)


Now in Knopf Paperback, from the author of Babe: The Gallant Pig, comes the touching story of a "stray" old woman's amusing antics and the large, loving family that adopts her.


Henny had grown used to the occasional sounds of Saltmouth's late night traffic passing Ivy Cottage, but the sound that woke her later was an unusual one. It was a kind of scraping sound, of metal on metal, and it seemed to be coming from beneath her window.

Henny got out of bed, went quietly across the room, and looked out. Directly below was a man who seemed to be trying to open the garage door.

Her first thought was that it was George. But why would he want to get the car out at--she looked at her watch--two o'clock in the morning?

She leaned out a little farther and now could see by the light of the streetlight that it was certainly not George.

George was big. This man was smallish.

George was balding. This man had a lot of hair tied in a ponytail.

George had a key to his garage. This man, she could see, had some sort of crowbar in his hand with which he was trying, as quietly as he could, to force open the garage door.

Some old ladies in Henny's position would have screamed or shouted for help, but all Henny felt was anger, anger on behalf of the Good family, her family, as she already felt them to be.

This nasty thief was actually trying to break in and steal their car, their beautiful big shining eight-seater monster (she had had a ride in it and knew that it would take seven Goods and one Hickathrift).

What's more, he was trying to steal it right under her nose!

If I give a shout for George, she thought, the man will just run away. And I can't very well sneak down the stairs in my blue flannel nightgown with the pattern of red roses and grab him in a headlock. He may be small, but I'm smaller and a heck of a lot older. Besides, he'd most likely knock my teeth out--the ones that aren't in the tooth glass, I mean. What shall I do?

Then her eye fell on Barney's painting of the bomber and then on the money plant at her elbow.

Quickly she picked up the heavy pot and held it out past the window sill.

Carefully, though her arms began to ache with the weight of it, she moved the pot a fraction this way and that--just like a bombsight in an airplane--till it was, she judged, directly above the ponytailed head below.

Then she dropped it.

* * * * *

At breakfast the next morning the children were told all about the bombing of the burglar.

"I was woken up by the sound of Henny shouting my name," their father said, "and when I got outside, there was this chap knocked out cold. I recognized him straightaway, because he was lying on his back with his mouth open, and when I shone the flashlight on him I could see the repair work I'd done on his upper left four. It was young Freddie Hooper--Hooper the boatman's oldest boy."

"The one with the ponytail, Dad?" asked Barney.

"Yes. He's been in trouble with the police before now."

"Are you going to report him?" asked Angela.

"No. I don't think he'll try breaking into our garage again. He was so dazed he had no idea what had happened. I told him it was part of our security system. Anyway, there wasn't any damage to the door worth speaking of, only to his head. He had a bump on it the size of a hen's egg."

"Oh, dear!" said Henry. "And I broke your flowerpot too, Mary."

"Don't worry," said Mary. "I've got loads of pots and lots more money plants. I'll give you another one for your room, and then we won't ever need to worry about having the car stolen, thanks to the Patented Hickathrift Antiburglar Bomb."

"We're very grateful to Henny," George said to the rest. "Aren't we?" Everyone cried, "Yes!" and then they all clapped and then they sang "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow!"

Henny looked at the five red-haired children and their tall fair-haired mother and their big balding father and thought what jolly Good fellows they all were.

After breakfast, when the dentist had left for his office and the children for school--for the new term had started--Mary said, "Well, Henny, the month is up."

"What month?" said Henny.

"Your trial month. Remember, we agreed to give it a try to see how it worked out?"

"Oh, yes," said Henny.

Oh, no, she thought. Don't tell me she's going to say I've got to go! I couldn't bear to be a stray again.

"Well, what d'you think?" said Mary.


"I mean, is the work too much for you?"

"Oh, no!"

"Are you happy with us?"

"Oh, yes!"

"Well, it's all right, then," said Mary.

"I can stay?" said Henny.

"Couldn't manage without you. Did I tell you I've signed up for a college course? In French. We go to France quite often on vacation, so it'll be useful. I hardly took any French when I was in school, and George took none--he just shouts at them slowly in English. Which reminds me, I must get myself a French dictionary. Oh, and I must go and find you another money plant."

"Speaking of money," Henny said. "I haven't given you any, you know. I must pay for my bed and board. We agreed I should."

"Don't worry about that," said Mary. "You more than earn your keep with all the work you do. By the way, could you do a bit of shopping for me this morning? Nothing heavy."

In the town Henny collected a few little things on Mary's list. One of them was a lottery ticket, and just for luck Henny got one for herself as well. Then she treated herself to a box of jujubes.

As she sucked one of these, held between her new teeth, she had a brainstorm. I've got quite a lot of money now, she thought, because Mary won't take any. But she can't stop me from buying her a present. And she made her way to a bookshop.

"Just look at this!" said Mary Good to her husband when he came home for lunch, and she put before him a very large new dictionary, on whose shiny cover was written:


George picked it up, looked at the price on it, and gave a whistle.

"Twenty quid!" he said. "You've gone all out!"

"Look inside," said his wife.

On the flyleaf was written:


Henny came into the room.

"How very generous of you, Henny," said George, brandishing the heavy book.

"It's you two that are generous to me," said Henny. "I only wish there was some way I could repay you for your kindness."

Perhaps I could win some money with this thing, she thought later. She was sitting on a chair outside Ivy Cottage, her lottery ticket in her lap, watching the evening sun on the sea. I wonder what you have to do? The children will know.

The children were playing croquet on the lawn. It was a very special and difficult sort of croquet, because the slope meant that the croquet balls all tended to roll down toward the sea wall, and anyway, that's where the players tried to knock one another. It was also a dangerous game, as Henny had found out on the one and only occasion on which she had played, because everyone hit the croquet balls as hard as they could and your ankles were in great danger.

When the game was finished, four of them came up the lawn toward her, red heads bright in the evening sun.

Barney was grinning because he had won.

Angela was smiling because she didn't mind not having won.

Eleanor and Rosie were quite happy because they never won anyway.

Behind them Rowley was still playing all by himself. He placed the ball right in front of each hoop and then knocked it through, the only way he ever scored anything.

"Tell me," said Henny to the four older ones. "Do you know how to do this lottery thing?

"I do," said Angela. "I've seen Mom do it. You have to choose six numbers between one and forty-nine. That costs you a pound. Then when it comes to the draw, if you've got the first five numbers that they call out, you can win an awful lot of money."

Rowley arrived in time to hear this.

"Seventy million pounds," he said. "A man did."

"Seventeen million," the others said.

"I don't think I'd want to win that much," Henny said. "I wouldn't know what to do with it."

"Give it to us," said Rowley.

"I have to choose six, did you say?" asked Henny.


"Well, look, there's me and there's the five of you. Let's each pick a number. Start with the youngest. What number d'you want, Rowley?"

"Five," said Rowley. "Because that's what I'm going to be soon."

Then the rest made a choice, in turn, and each time Henny made against the chosen number a clean vertical line with a ballpoint pen, as the instructions said.

"There we are, then," she said at last. "Five, twenty-five, thirty-one, thirty-nine, forty-four."

"Six," said Angela. "You have to pick six numbers, Henny. What are you going to pick?"

"Oh, I don't know. Let's see, I'll say thirteen."

"That's unlucky," said Rowley.

"Which is what I shall be, Rowley, you can bet your bottom dollar," said Henny. "I never win these sorts of things. Waste of a pound, really."
Dick King-Smith

About Dick King-Smith

Dick King-Smith - The Stray
“[I] am a very happy man doing what is in effect my hobby for a living, i.e. writing stories for children.”—Dick King-Smith

Dick King-Smith grew up in Gloucestershire, England. He lives with his wife in a small 17th-century cottage, three and a quarter miles from the house in which he was born.


I was born in 1922 and was brought up in the countryside, surrounded by pet animals of one sort or another. I was first attracted to the girl I was later to marry through my admiration of her skill (in contrast to my own haphazard husbandry) as a breeder of parakeets. I was thirteen at the time, and she was twelve. It hasn’t worked out too badly, as we have been married for nearly sixty years, three children and ten grandchildren to the good.

I was educated at a preparatory school and then at Marlborough College, a boarding school for boys, where I was good at sports (but not very good) and showed reasonable intelligence (though not very great).

If I had an ambition, it was to be a farmer. But then along came the Second World War, and so I took the king’s shilling—that is to say, I enlisted as a soldier. I served as a platoon commander in the Grenadier Guards, beginning my active service at Salerno with the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943 and ending it eleven months later when a German paratrooper threw a British hand grenade at me in the middle of an Italian forest and filled me full of holes.

My career in farming began in 1947, and though I think I was a decent stockman, my business acumen was extremely low. It was difficult to farm at a loss in those days, but I managed to lose money without fall every year from 1947 to 1967, when the bank manager called a halt.

Six months of selling aluminum-asbestos firefighting suits, boots, and helmets (I didn’t sell many) were followed by three and a half years as a time-and-motion man in a shoe factory (I never really understood the mathematics). Then I trained as a teacher and took a degree from Bristol University at the age of fifty-three, reading English and philosophy. I did well in philosophy even though I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was all about, and still haven’t.

Next came seven years as a teacher in a small village elementary school. I began with eight-year-olds, but it soon became plain that my always shaky grasp of the principles of arithmetic was not adequate for people of that advanced age, so I ended my teaching career with children of five and six.

By this time I had written my first four stories, and now—with time of my own—books began to spring up like mushrooms. In addition, I landed several little jobs as a presenter on children’s television, where I met a whole lot of delightful people and animals and much enjoyed performing in front of the camera.

I’m still turning out books hand over fist—now nearing a hundred in print in the United States, England, and Europe—mostly about animals: farmyard fantasy, I suppose you could call it, often about pigs, my special favorites. I enjoy writing for children so much, and meeting them, and knowing (because they tell me) that they get enjoyment from what I do.

I’m happy, and so are my wife and my children and my grandchildren and the bank manager. I’m a lucky man.


The Gallant Pig

—An ALA Notable Book
—A Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book
—A Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book
—An IRA/CBC Children’s Choice
—An NCTE Teachers’ Choice

“An animal fantasy which will inevitably be compared to Charlotte's Web. . . . Combines a robust pleasure in the smell and feel of rural surroundings with a humorous affection for all living creatures . . . a splendid book.”—Starred, The Horn Book Magazine


“Thoroughly engaging . . . chipper dialogue, generous helpings of humor and a lickety-split plot add up to an amusing chapter book.”—Publishers Weekly

“Amusing . . . a fine choice for early chapter-book readers.”—School Library Journal



"An intergenerational story with an endearing main character...full of gentle humor...and eminently likable characters." -- School Library Journal

  • The Stray by Dick King-Smith
  • March 10, 1998
  • Juvenile Nonfiction; Humor
  • Yearling
  • $5.99
  • 9780679891017

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: