15 Rugby Reads for Kids

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February and March are going to be marvellous months for rugby fans. They can also be a fantastic few weeks for rugby readers.

I’ve selected 15 different things that kids – and adults – can read about rugby to enhance their experience of the Six Nations internationals – and beyond.

1   Non-fiction books full of facts and potted history. Easy to read. Available in library as well as bookshops. In the sport section.

2   The internet. There are some excellent rugby websites out there, including all the newspapers, Sky, the BBC and more.

3   Official Magazine of the Six Nations. Available in the newsagents now.

4   Newspapers. Either on paper or online. Previews. match reports. Interviews. Speculation. Usually written by passionate rugby journalists who really care.

5   A variety of children’s fiction by authors Gerard Siggins. Chris Higgins, Tom Palmer, Dan Anthony and Andrew Smith. Again, in bookshops and libraries.

6   England Rugby magazine. The magazine is only available to online England Supporters’ Club members. But it’s good. It includes exclusive embedded videos and audio.

7   Biographies and autobiographies of rugby players. Past and present.

8   The ultimate rugby book is the IRB’s yearbook, full of stats and information about the last 12 months.

9   Match day programmes from international and domestic matches.

10   The England Rugby Annual, full of interviews and quizzes and other treats for kids. And some adults.

11   Rugby World. The best selling rugby magazine in the world. Monthly glossy. Available in white, red, blue and green. Well written.

12   Calon by Owen Sheers. Fantastic book about rugby union in Wales. Universal too.

13   Combat Zone. The first book in the new Rugby Academy series by Tom Palmer (me).  Books two and three out in the spring.

14   How to play rugby books. Several levels, starting with this Know the Game book.

15   The Rugby Paper. Weekly newspaper, out on Sundays. £1.50. Match reports, politics, lots of talk about the international game. Excellent.

With just months to go up to the Rugby World Cup there is a lot to read about the game of rugby. That’s good news. No doubt there’ll be much more coming our way soon, with the tournament being hosted by England – and with games taking place in Wales too.

Happy reading, everyone.  And…

To find out more about my Rugby Academy series, have a look here. Please.







Miss, I can read this!

I had my best day as an author in Bridgend, south Wales, two years ago.

I had just delivered an event to a group of so-called reluctant readers in a sports centre.  A quiz. A talk about sports reading. Afterwards, twenty lads were letting off steam hammering a ball at a librarian who had volunteered to go in goal.

And I was talking to their teacher.

She turned a copy of my book, Scrum, over and saw the Dyslexia Friendly sticker on the back.

‘What does that mean?’ she asked.

I told her. Barrington Stoke publish books that have been designed with special font, layout and page-colour (along with editing) that helps readers overcome many of the problems that dyslexia presents.

The teacher pointed across at a boy. Rhys, she told me, was dyslexic He wanted to read. But it was very hard for him. It affected his self esteem, she said. A lot.

She called Rhys over, putting the book in his hands.

‘What’s this?’ he asked her. Then glanced at me, looking uneasy.

‘Look at it,’ she insisted.

Rhys opened the book, eyes glazed over already. But then something changed. He focused on the page in front of him. Then stared at his teacher.

‘Miss,’ he said, his mouth open, ‘I can read this.’

I’ll never forget that moment.

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week. It runs from November 3rd to 9th. Brought to us by the British Dyslexia Association.

You can read more about how Barrington Stoke design and edit books here.

Lancaster School, Leicester

I had a great day at Lancaster School in Leicester today.  I spoke to two lots of Year Sevens. They were brilliant – as was their librarian, who runs an excellent school library.

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I was there to say thank you, really.

I was lucky to win the Leicester Our Best Read Award for Ghost Stadium earlier this year, run by Leicester Libraries. Voted for by year fives and sixes last year. And that worked well. It meant that several of the children who voted in the award were there.

Winning an award that is voted for by children feels good. I’ve come not first in loads of voted awards like this. Other books have won. And that is fine. The kids chose other books they prefer.

That’s why it meant so much to win one. Something I will never forget. Ever.

Thank you Leicester. And thank you Lancaster School and Leicester Libraries.



Rugby Reader No.1

Theo Price3I am going to be doing a regular series up to the World Cup, featuring rugby fans answering questions about their rugby reading.

We start with Theo from Sussex. Theo is my test reader with special responsibility for rugby fiction.

Name: Theo

Favourite team: Saracens

Favourite player: Owen Farrell

First match attended: Quins v London Irish, 2013

Team he plays for: East Grinstead Rugby Club, U9s

Favourite newspaper for rugby: the Sunday Times

Favourite rugby magazine: Rugby World 

Favourite rugby book: Combat Zone (Rugby Academy 1) by Tom Palmer

Best rugby website: www.Egrfc.com and YouTube clips

Prediction for top 4 in Premiership at end of season:

Saracens, Bath, Northampton, Exeter

Local library: East Grinstead

Buys books from: Amazon

Thanks Theo. For being the first Rugby Reader. And for helping me get my books right.

Exeter Reads Rugby

I did Football Reading Game in Exeter today. But it could just have easily been my Rugby Reading Game.

I start my events asking who supports the local football team.

Exeter City? Very few, sadly.

Exeter Chiefs? Most of them.

The knowledge that I was in a rugby-friendly city gave the confidence to read from my new rugby novel for children, Combat Zone, for the first time. I was thinking tomorrow’s trip to Leicester would be my first big rugby event. But Exeter got in first.

I got a good reaction. It made me feel happy. There’s nothing like reading something you have written out loud and feeling that it went okay. It’s a big moment for a book.

One boy amazed me with his rugby-loving and rugby reading. He was a regular Rugby World reader, the glossy monthly magazine. He had read my book Scrum. And – most impressively – he had read my favourite rugby book, Calon by Owen Sheers.

‘But I am three-quarters Welsh,’ he added.

Calon, by the way, is about Welsh rugby. But it’s universal. It is about a country that is passionate about rugby. It is about the passion the game stirs. And about the tensions that come with preparing to play for – and support – your national team. An awesome book.

Exeter was brilliant.

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So, I am happy to say that I will be back in Exeter in the summer of 2015, running my World Cup Rugby reading Game on behalf of the RFU. Part of a tour of all the libraries near the 13 host stadiums for the Rugby World Cup.

It’ll be good to hear how rugby reading has been going when I go back.

Thanks Exeter.



Rugby writing drills

One of the things I am working on for the RFU is a set of fifteen rugby writing drills.

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It is impossible to be an effective rugby player without constantly honing your skills. Regular rugby training features a series of drills that players practice to develop and fine tune their skills.

Throwing. Catching. Kicking. Tackling. And more.

The same goes for writing. Get comfortable with the basic building blocks of writing and it becomes a lot easier. Even fun.

I decided to devise writing drills that would appeal to rugby (and general sport) fans, linking familiar sporting ideas with writing devices . So, each drill starts with a focus on one of the skills of rugby.

Kicking off is starting a piece of writing.

Scrums are about conflict.

An attempted tackle creates a cliff hanger.

That’s the idea.

For instance, a winger is flying down the wide left. The last defender has to stop him. He goes in for a tackle. If he pushes the winger into touch, his team wins back possession. If he misses his tackle, his team concede 5, or even 7 points.

Just like a cliff hanger in a story.

The drill then goes on to talk about how to write a short sharp cliff hanger, using the children’s knowledge of sport, films, video games and books to start them off.

Over the next twelve months – up to and including the 2015 Rugby World Cup – I will be developing and delivering literacy toolkits, lessons plans, training and live events for the RFU.

You can read the first chapter of my new Rugby Academy series – Combat Zone – here. It includes a first paragraph cliff hanger using some of the ideas I will be using in the RFU lesson plans.

Ball games in the library

035I’m doing a few public events this coming week. In London, Birmingham, Exeter and Sheffield.

It’s a mini-tour. Me, my goalposts and a bag full of trophies.

There will be ball games in the library.
Here is the information you need:

London Sports Writing Festival, Lord’s Cricket Ground, Saturday 25th October, 3 p.m.

Birmingham Central Library, Monday 27th October, Midday & 2.30 p.m.

Exetreme Festival, Exeter Central Library,  Tuesday 28th October, 10.30 a.m. & 12.30 p.m.

Sheffield Foster and Adoption Care Readers Day, Hillsborough Football Stadium, Sheffield, 10.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The first three are fully open to the public and tickets can be bought via the links above – and probably on the door.

Whether you can make it or not, have a lovely half-term.

Rugby Academy

My Rugby Academy series came out today.  Book one – Combat Zone – kicks things off.        

The Rugby Academy series is about a school rugby team, called Borderlands, that plays in the UK, European and World schools’ rugby tournaments. Combat Zone is set in England and Wales. Surface to Air is set in Toulon, France. Deadlocked is set in New Zealand.

Sort of a children’s World Cup to run alongside next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The reason for the titles of the books gives away the second theme to the series.  The Royal Air Force.

Most of the boys in the Borderlands team have parents in the RAF. The series is set during a conflict a little like what is going on now in Syria and Iraq. A sad coincidence, I’m afraid.

So the books are about being part of a rugby union team, but also about being the child of a forces family. As I’ve blogged in the past few weeks, I immersed myself in the world of rugby to get these books right. But I also found out about what it is like being in a RAF family, thanks to the kindnesses of those at RAF Cosford and  Albrighton Primary School. Also Stewarts Melville College in Edinburgh.

Forces families at both gave me advice and read through the book to make sure I was getting their world right. I hope Combat Zone does both the worlds of rugby and the RAF justice. And – after that – I hope that it’s a good read.

You can read the first chapter here.

Thanks for reading.

Sports Writing Festival

After being a husband and father, it is my life’s purpose to use sports writing to encourage children into the joys of reading for pleasure.

But I regret to say that I come up against a lot of prejudice against sports writing. I do feel that it is quite a British disorder: to not respect certain genres of writing. I think crime suffers the same. Also fantasy.

But there is good news.

The London Sports Writing Festival take place at Lord’s at the end of October. It is an extraordinary line up of events, with some extraordinary names.

In brief it includes:

* events about war and sport, drugs in sport, Kevin Pietersen, coming out as gay in professional sport, how to get scientifically sport fit

* events about running, cycling, football, rugby and cricket amongst others

* speakers include Roy Keane, Roddy Doyle, Gareth Thomas, Brian Moore and many of our finest print sports journalists

* there are also sports writing master classes

It is wonderful to see a festival devoted to an important a worthwhile aspect of our national literature. I shall be there as a punter.

It is equally wonderful to have been asked to be one of the authors speaking. So I shall be there as an author too.

The London Sports Writing Festival takes place at Lord’s cricket ground in London from 23 to 26 October. Please join us.


Finding values in books

I am making five book lists for children.

Each list will express one the RFU’s five core values. Ideas that England rugby try to use throughout the game, from grassroots children’s rugby to the very top of the game.

The five values are:







You can read more about why the RFU do this and what they mean here.

I want to find brilliant books that express these values, so that I can link great children’s literature to the RFU’s mission.

If you are a teacher, a librarian, a parent or bookseller I would be very grateful if you could suggest books that you and the children you know think would fit the values above. Then I can pass them on.

The books don’t have to be sports books. They can be anything. For children.

You can email me via my website – www.tompalmer.co.uk – or Tweet me at @tompalmerauthor.

Thank you.