By Jessica Derschowitz
Updated December 27, 2016 at 01:04 PM EST
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Credit: Writer Pictures/Graham Jepson via AP Images

Richard Adams, the British author best known for penning the classic novel Watership Down, has died at the age of 96.

“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,” read a note on the official Watership Down website.

Adams’ daughter also confirmed his death to BBC News.

Adams’ Watership Down focused on a group of rabbits who must set out in search of a new home after the destruction of their warren, and the perils they encounter along the way. It won the Carnegie Medal and Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize following its publication in 1972, and was adapted into a 1978 animated film. It also inspired a television series that aired in the U.K. and Canada.

Born in England in 1920, Adams served in the British Army during World War II and later joined the British Civil Service and began writing in his spare time. Watership Down, his first novel, was initially rejected by several publishers and agents who thought it was “too ordinary” for adults and too “grown up” for children, a 2010 profile around his 90th birthday recalled.

“Well, who’s talking about children or adults?” Adams told the Telegraph at that time. “This is just a book. Anybody who finds it enjoyable is welcome to read it, whether they’re six or 66.”

Adams’ other novels include Shardik and The Plague Dogs. In 1996, he also published Tales From Watership Down, a collection of short stories that served as a follow-up to his famed first novel.

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