Dads and Books

Writing about dads and their relationships with their children is a big deal for me. Most of the time I resist the urge to kill off dads and mums to allow my characters outrageous freedoms. That’s because I want to want to write about dads.

For instance, in my book Foul Play, Danny and his dad read crime books together, meaning Danny learns to be a detective. And, in the second chapter of Football Academy: Boys United, Jake and his dad visit the library to read about players who were told they were too small to play football, but still did well.

It goes on.

I’d say 30 of my 40 books have strong dad-child story lines. And there’s a good reason for that. I had three dads. What dads are and aren’t and should be and could be bothers me.

I was adopted when I was eight months old. My birth dad was a seventeen-year-old. I’ve never met him.

My adoptive dad left my adoptive mum when I was five. I see him still. But not as much as I should, perhaps.

My step-dad – the dad who brought me up from the age of eight – died when I was twenty-one. Very sad. Very grim. But he was the one who helped get me into reading. The one whose books I inherited, then devoured in my twenties.

I didn’t really think about the three-dad thing consciously when I was young. It didn’t bother me. But, when I became a dad, it did bother me. Big time.

But that conversation is for another day. (With the acknowledgement that my story is in no way unique and that – in most ways – I had it good.)

Just to say that I think I learned things about fatherhood via all three of my dads. Some good. Some bad. I like to think I am most like dad three. But you’d have to ask my daughter about that.

Dads and books seem to be a theme for me, as well as just dads. So, for Fathers’ Day 2017, I recommend dads read with their kids. If they can.

My favourites books to read with my daughter were Don’t Let Go by Jeanne Willis (picture book) and Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl (chapter book). Both magnificent stories for dads and kids of dads to enjoy together.

Happy Fathers’ Day.


The History Children


For the first half of June I will be working in schools across Leeds, writing a nine-part story planned, written and edited by children. The project – called The History Children – has been developed by Leeds Schools Library Service.

Each day a class of children will work up ideas for a chapter based on an aspect of their local history. Then we will plan that chapter, write it and edit it in time for it to be published at 2.30 p.m. that day so that all the other schools in Leeds can read it.

Schools will be learning about their local history in advance of my visits and will range from looking at the fifty year anniversary of Leeds’s annual carnival to a long-forgotten village hidden beneath the cold waters of a local reservoir.

The stories will be linked together by a quest that three children and their dog have been set.

I have been inspired to do this project because many of my books are set in the places I have lived. The first book of my new Defenders book series – Killing Ground – is set in Halifax, near to the Shay Stadium and Skircoat Green area where I live. And, before that, my first ever series – Foul Play – was set on the street in Leeds where I was brought up, as well as featuring many sites around the city of Leeds.

I think it is really important that children understand that books can be written about where they live and not just London or completely made-up places.

I always remember the impact reading Wuthering Heights had on me. I was thrilled that there could be a story set on the hills in Yorkshire. It was the same when I read Ted Hughes and Tony Harrison’s poetry. Books can be set in West Yorkshire. I want to pass on that appreciation and inspiration to today’s West Yorkshire children.

After each school has written and published its chapter for the rest of the city’s schools to read, I will host a school assembly talking about how children from West Yorkshire can aspire to write their own books set on their own streets and towns.

You can read The History Children here.

Football Fiction about Girls. Where is it?


Why are there no books about girls playing football? Why haven’t you written any? These are questions I get asked.

A lot.

As England Women head to Holland for EURO 2017 with a much better chance of winning a trophy than England men, why is there so little football fiction with girls as the main characters?

This is how I answer.

Well, there are two stand-out series about football featuring girls. The Girls FC series by Helena Pielichaty and the Beautiful Game series by Narinder Dhami.

Both full of excellent stories. Both written by excellent writers. Both out of print.

Product Details

You can get hold of second hand copies of the two series online. But they are not in the bookshops. And library copies will be getting worn out – because they can’t be replaced with new copies and because they get read.

Not great.

Girls FC is available on Kindle, which is some comfort.

I have written several too. In brief:

Secret FC is about two girls who set up a football team at their school when they are banned from playing.

My Squad series – made up of Black Op and White Fear – is about five child spies whose cover story is that they are in an elite football team. Two of the five spies (and footballers) are girls.

All three books in my Wings series feature a mixed sex football team. Book three – Typhoon – leads on two sisters who play the game.

You can buy all those books on Amazon here. You can also buy them in lots of other bookshops and borrow them from public libraries.

But what else is there?

Not much. And it is madness. Women’s football is watched more and read about more than ever. Female football is the fastest growing sport in the UK.

When England perform well at EURO 2017 let’s hope the people who make decisions about what sort of books get published are watching.

Please also see the Literacy with the Lionesses toolkit has book lists of well-written  fiction and non-fiction featuring girls and women in sport. You can download that for free here.