Published on Friday, December 9th, 2022
My name’s Josie and I’m one of Dick’s great-grandchildren. I’m also the co-author of his latest book, Ambrose Follows His Nose, which he began writing in the 1980s and abandoned before it was finished. My gran Liz, Dick’s younger daughter, found the manuscript after his death and, to cut a long story short, I finished it off in 2020.
One of the best things about publishing Ambrose this year has been the opportunity to talk to children (and adult!) fans of Dick’s writing. And that’s exactly what I got to do at the Really Wild Reading Festival last month, which is an amazing annual programme of literary events for Gloucester schools. This year, students in various infant, junior and primary schools got to hear from incredible authors like Tolá Okogwu, Philip Ardagh, and Hannah Shaw (who coincidentally illustrated an edition of one of my favourite Dick King Smith books, Sophie’s Tom, along with all the other Sophie books). I was also invited down to Gloucester along with my great-uncle Giles, Dick’s son.
Although it isn’t a quick journey from my home in Glasgow, we had such a great time meeting children from six different schools in Gloucester. Giles had an especially difficult journey, and a flat tyre took him out of the running for one of our sessions! Luckily I was armed with his presentation and enough family knowledge to get by and do his part of the talk as well as mine when disaster struck! That’s one advantage of keeping it in the family.
We talked all about Dick’s life: from growing up as an animal-obsessed child, to serving in the Second World War, to his various jobs before becoming a world-famous author, and of course his illustrious writing career. We also talked about our new book, Ambrose Follows His Nose, and how I ended up writing it. It was wonderful to see so many children still so engaged and interested in Dick’s work, especially in Gloucester, which is where Dick spent much of his life. As always, the highlight of my day was the questions asked by the students, even if I did have to disappoint a few people by admitting that, no, I didn’t illustrate Ambrose! That was the brilliant Steph Laberis!
It was a privilege to hear from so many children who are still reading Dick’s work, and Giles and I were particularly impressed by the obscure responses when we asked people to shout out their favourite DKS books (The Twin Giants, anyone?!).
Massive thanks to Gill Bream from the Gloucester Schools Partnership, and to the lovely teachers who welcomed us at Longlevens Junior School and Kingsway Primary School. We had a great time! Biggest thanks of all to all the pupils who listened so attentively and asked us excellent questions.