Sheila Burnford was born on 11 May 1918 in Scotland, where she attended St George’s School in Edinburgh. She married a doctor, David Burnford, in 1941 and worked as an ambulance driver during the Second World War. In 1951 she and her husband emigrated to Canada. They had three children and three beloved family pets. These animals inspired Sheila to write The Incredible Journey, which was published in 1961. Two years later Disney released a film adaptation, and from that point Sheila’s book became a well-loved bestseller. In fact, the story was so popular Disney made another movie based on the book in 1993. This was called Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey - in this version the animals were given human voices and their names and characters were changed a little.
Sheila Burnford wrote several books for adults about her experiences of living in Canada, travelling by dog-sled and watching narwhals (these are unusual sea mammals which look little bit like dolphins, except they have a long thin tusk in the centre of their heads, like a unicorn’s horn!). She also wrote a book called Bel Ria about a plucky dog travelling through Europe at the time of World War II.
Sheila Burnford died in England on 20 April 1984, at the age of 65.