Sheila Burnford

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Sheila Burnford

Sheila Philip Cochrane Burnford née Every (11 May 1918 – 20 April 1984) was a British Canadian writer.

Life and work[edit]

Born in Scotland and brought up in various parts of the United Kingdom, she attended St. George's School, Edinburgh,[1] and Harrogate Ladies College. She also attended schools in France and Germany. In 1941 she married Dr. David Burnford, with whom she had three children. During World War II, she worked as a volunteer ambulance driver.[2][better source needed] In 1951 she emigrated to Canada, settling in Port Arthur, Ontario.[clarification needed]

Burnford is best remembered for The Incredible Journey, published by Hodder & Stoughton with illustrations by Carl Burger in 1960. The story of three animal pets traveling in the wilderness won the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award in 1963 and the ALA Aurianne Award in 1963 as the best book on animal life written for children ages 8–14. It is marketed for children but Burnford has stated that it was not intended as a children's book. It was a modest success commercially and became a bestseller after release of the 1963 Disney film, The Incredible Journey (which was remade in 1993 as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey). Another book, Bel Ria, about a dog's survival in wartime, was based on her own experiences as an ambulance driver.[3]

Burnford later wrote other books on Canadian topics, including One Woman's Arctic (1973) about her two summers in Pond Inlet, Nunavut on Baffin Island with Susan Ross. She traveled by komatik, a traditional Inuit dog sled, assisted in archaeological excavation, having to thaw the land inch by inch, ate everything offered to her, and saw the migration of the narwhals.

She died of cancer in the village of Bucklers Hard in Hampshire at the age of 65.[4]


  • The Incredible Journey, illustrated by Carl Burger (Toronto and London: Hodder & Stoughton; Boston: Little, Brown, 1961); also published as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey or Homeward Bound
  • The Fields of Noon (1964)
  • Without Reserve: Among the Northern Forest Indians (1969), illus. Susan Ross
  • One Woman's Arctic (Hodder & Stoughton, 1972)
  • Mr. Noah and the Second Flood, illus. Michael Foreman (1973)
  • Bel Ria (1977); also published as Bel Ria: Dog of War

Library of Congress and WorldCat library records do not clearly show any other works published as books (six, as of 2018). WorldCat records show four of Burnford's books published in the US as Atlantic Monthly Press books, then an imprint of Little, Brown.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "St George's School for Girls, Alumnae".
  2. ^ "Author: Sheila burnford". The Random House Group. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Sheila Burnford". New York Review Books. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  4. ^ Scott, Marylynn. "Burnford, Sheila". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  • W. H. New, ed. Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002: 166.

External links[edit]