Richard Adams' family said in a statement that he "passed away peacefully" at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve
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Richard Adams, the author of the award-winning, classic children’s book Watership Down, has died, his family announced on Tuesday. He was 96.

A statement posted on the book’s official website said that Adams “passed away peacefully” at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

“Richard’s much-loved family announce with sadness that their dear father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve, ” the statement read.

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Quoting a passage from Adams’ beloved book about a group of rabbits in search of a new home, the statement continued, “It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.”

” ‘You needn’t worry about them,’ said his companion. ‘They’ll be alright — and thousands like them.’ ”

The novel, first published in 1972, went on to become one of the bestselling children’s books of all time, and earned Adams the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian children’s fiction prize.

The book was later made into an animated film in 1978, which featured Art Garfunkel’s hit song “Bright Eyes.”

Adams did not begin writing until he was 52, according to the Guardian. He is also known for his books Shardik, The Plague Dogs and The Girl in a Swing.

The author said he first had the idea for Watership Down during a car trip with his daughters, who asked him to tell them a story.

“I had been put on the spot and I started off, ‘Once there were two rabbits called Hazel and Fiver.’ And I just took it on from there,” Adams once recalled in an interview with the Guardian.