(1897–1943), English American writer. Born in Menston, Yorkshire, England, Knight worked in factories as a youth, emigrating to the United States to join his widowed mother in 1912. Educated at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and the National Academy of Design in New York City, he served as a signaler in France for the Canadian Light Infantry during World War I. After the war Knight held various jobs as a painter, drama and film critic, and journalist, and in the 1930s he went to Hollywood to become a scriptwriter before moving to the countryside to write fiction. Knight wrote adult novels but is best known as the creator of Lassie. On 12 December 1938, “Lassie Come Home” was published as a short story in the Saturday Evening Post. Knight expanded the story into the novel Lassie Come-Home (1940), illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse, which became hugely successful. Knight's story was inspired by his strong memories of his native Yorkshire, by his current life on a farm near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and by the adventures of his own dog, Toots, who had been lost in the woods but managed to return home. The novel tells the emotionally charged story of a devoted collie who, after she is sold and moved to northern Scotland, escapes, and, facing the dangers and difficulties involved, travels hundreds of miles back to Yorkshire to be with the young boy who loves her. Given extra impetus by the 1943 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy MacDowell, the fame of Lassie grew, and a string of Lassie film sequels and television series followed. Knight died in a plane crash in Surinam in 1943 while serving in the U.S. Army film unit during World War II and never knew of the extended fame of his canine creation.
From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature in Oxford Reference.