All posts by tompalmer

School visits with Tom Palmer

One of the best bits about being a children’s author is visiting schools.

It’s fun. I learn a lot about what children like to read. And I do my best to encourage children to write with confidence and read for pleasure.

For a few years I’ve been performing my Football Reading Game (and a rugby version too), as well as classroom chats and writing workshops. They go down pretty well. You can read about them here.

The National Literacy Trust called my events ‘guerrilla reading motivation at its finest.’

With my new Defenders series out this year I have something new to offer alongside my football events.

I am going to be offering writing workshops related to KS2 history. I’ll be bringing in replica artefacts related to the Iron Age, Romans, Anglo Saxons and Vikings and encouraging the children to write about history. That, as well as talking about how I research history to make sure my books are exciting but still grounded in historical fact.

As well as the history periods mentioned above, I have books that feature both WW1 and WW2. In 2018 I’ll be offering armistice centenary talks to tie in with the huge significance of 11 November that year.

More about my history events here.

I am booked up until the summer, but have several gaps for school visits in autumn 2017 and into 2018. I go anywhere in the UK. Or abroad, if asked.

In 2018 I’ll be doing lots of work around the World Cup, alongside a huge project about football reading I’ll be fronting for the National Literacy Trust.

Tom Palmer is a champion for reluctant readers and works tirelessly to attract children – and particularly boys – to pick up a book – Marilyn Brocklehurst, Norfolk Children’s Book Centre

What a fantastic day! Tom informed and entertained the pupils in equal measure with his interactive assemblies.  The children were inspired by his stories and motivated to follow in his footsteps-a MUST for every  primary school!  –  Neil Homer, Primary School Teacher and Education Project Leader, Shrewsbury Town FC 

You can find out more, talk things through or book me by emailing me via info @ tompalmer . co . uk

Thanks for reading.

50 Days to Publication


Three. Children often ask me if any particular author has inspired my books. When it comes to the Defenders series the answer to that is Bernard Cornwell and the Last Kingdom series. I came to the series through the TV series. It blew me away. The characters and drama. And, mostly, the history. Then I started on the books. I became obsessed. I moved onto reading the wonderful Rosemary Sutcliff and others. I started taking bookings in places with a strong Viking or Anglo Saxon history so I could visit the sites. I loved it. I had never really engaged with history others than WW1 and WW2 before. Now I was reading it, watching it, visiting it… and writing it.

Two. I like to try my books out on children. The first Defenders book is troubled by ghosts of the Vikings who came here to attack Anglo Saxon culture. Where better to try a Viking storyline out than in Newcastle? The children at Newcastle School for Boys read my manuscript and I spent the afternoon with them hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like. It was extremely useful. They pointed out where the story was confusing. They also showed me parts of the story where I could make it a lot more exciting. It helped. That’s why the book is dedicated to the school where I am proud to be Patron of Reading.

One.   I am a history writer. There. I’ve said it.  I write books with historical backgrounds. But I still feel like a fraud saying it. I’m supposed to be a football writer, aren’t I? But I’m changing now.  Look at the past few books I’ve written. Footballers fighting in WW1. Children going back in time to fly Sopwith Camels and Spitfires. Books about history as well as football. And that means I can do it. I can write about subjects other than football. That’s why Defenders is going to be about major historical events. The Vikings attacking the Saxons. The Iron Age. The Romans in Britain. Figures coming back from those pasts to haunt the present. That’s what Defenders is about. As well as football.

My new series – Defenders – is published by Barrington Stoke on 15th June 2017. It’s a mix of history, haunting and football. In the 50 days running up to publication I am going to do a short daily blog about how and why I wrote it.

Five things for schools this summer

I’m involved in a few projects this summer that could be interesting to teachers, librarians and parents. I’ll be blogging in more depth about them over the next month.

But, in brief, for now…

One. I am working with the National Literacy Trust and the Football Association on a range of resources that will tie in with this July’s Women’s European Football Championships in Holland. In June a toolkit of ideas for school activities relating to women’s sport will be published. In July a nine-part live story for schools that will tie in the tournament with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Plus a tournament blog and writing exercises. All free. A blog about this to follow soon.

Two. I have my first new football book series for four years being published in June. By Barrington Stoke. Defenders is about a girl and a boy solving history-related hauntings in football settings. Tying in with the KS2 topics of Iron Age, Roman Britain and the Anglo Saxons / Vikings. More about that here.

Three.  As a result of the above books my school visit offer will include the options of my usual football and rugby reading games, but now with history reading and writing activities too, supported by replica artefacts from the eras listed above. More about my visits here.

Four. In June I am working in nine Leeds schools, where we’ll be writing a story in nine parts, one day after the other. Each school will take up where the last school left off with a 1000 word chapter carrying the action forward. Each class will plan the story, write it and edit it. All in one school day. It will be set in Leeds and will feature some of the city’s history in an adventure story.

Five. Writing. I am finishing a story that links cross country running – well, fell running to be precise – with a major historical event. But more about that later.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch via this website if you want to know more.


Ten ways to use Rugby Six Nations 2017 to encourage children to read for pleasure

The 2017 Six Nations is going to be intense. It will be closely fought, with most nations capable of beating each other on the day. Ireland and England are favourites, but both have to play away in Wales. A huge challenge. And – with Scotland and France improving significantly – there are five countries realistically challenging for the trophy.

It’s competitive. Interest will be high. That’s why it’s a great chance to use the Six Nations to promote reading for pleasure.

Here are ten things you can do in your school, library or home. Free resources are available to back up most of what you’ll read below.

One   Read my Guardian blog about great rugby fiction and non-fiction books:

Two   Put some posters up in your library or classroom. Free printed and downloadable posters available here:  Available in Welsh and English.

Three   Use the free reading and writing resources I created for the RFU in 2015:

Four   Send a letter to parents suggesting ways they can use the Six nations to encourage their child to read at home: Also available for fans of Wales, Scotland and New Zealand.

Five   Read one of my short Rugby Academy rugby novels as a class reader at the start of the tournament: You can check out the first chapters of each book to make sure it’ll work for you.

Six   Watch a short video by me, reading from Scrum, then try the comprehension out on the children:

Seven   Download the free Love Rugby Love Reading toolkit I created for the National Literacy Trust, full of ideas for activities, events and displays to promote reading for pleasure in schools:

Eight   Play Rugby Player Top Trumps. Download the cards for free here: You can also play spot the mistake on these cards. There are two!

Nine   Invite me to your school to run my popular Rugby Reading Game. Find out more about that here: I am available from September, so you could tie this in with the 2017 autumn internationals.

Ten   Check out the other free resources on my website including rugby book review, blogs, certificates and more for children in your school or library or home:

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the Six Nations.

Nominate a child for a signed book Christmas present

This Christmas I would like to give 10 signed and gift-wrapped books away to children who will really benefit from receiving one. Each book will also will come with a personalised Christmas card from me.

Reaching the right children for this is a challenge. That’s why I thought it’d be best to ask for the help of teachers, as well as reading helpers/volunteers, school librarians and public librarians.

Can you think of a child who would get a lot out of this?

IChristmas signed booksf

If so, please nominate a child by giving me the following details:

  1. Your name and work address (for delivery).
  1. The first name of the child.
  1. Which book would you like them to have? (You can find out more about my range of books here: ).
  1. In the event of more than 10 children being nominated for this, I’ll need to make choices. Please can you say, in a couple of sentences, why you would like this child to have a signed book and card? I hope that sounds fair.

Please email with your nominations. The deadline for nominations is midnight on Wednesday 30th November. The book will be delivered to you by Friday December 9th.

And may I take this opportunity to thank you for all the brilliant work you have done throughout the year helping engage children with reading.

Thanks for reading this and thanks for your help.


Research on an Iron Age fort

The book I am writing at the moment features a boy called Seth who can see echoes of the past. When he visits a football pitch that is near an Iron Age fort he can actually see the village within the fort. He can watch how people lived two thousands years ago at around the time the Romans invaded our islands.

This is a sign at the foot of an Iron Age fort in Winchester. It is called St Catherine’s Hill. If you look at the sign, you can see how the hill might have looked when it was used as a fort.


Seeing that picture helped me. As did visiting the fort.

I made a short film of my visit to St Catherine’s Hill. I talk about how going to the hill helps me imagine the settings of my story. You can watch the film here.

The book I was researching is called Defenders: Pitch Invasion and will be published by Barrington Stoke in November 2017.

The Chocolate School

To mark Chocolate Week,  I’ve written a blog in praise of the power of chocolate. Chocolate Week runs from 10th to 16th October. More information at


The highlight of my career as a writer was to do with chocolate. It happened in the school pictured below.


Lots of the children pictured there with me have parents who work as cocoa bean farmers.

I was in Akomadan to research fair trade chocolate with the help of Divine Chocolate. They took me to the school to meet the children of cocoa bean farmers. I also got to look round some of the farms. This gave me invaluable information about settings, characters and chocolate economics for my children’s book, Off Side.

Before I left for Ghana, Divine told me that lots of the children Akomadan had never tasted the chocolate from the beans that their parents farmed. I was packed off with a suitcase full of Dubble Bars to put that right.

The look on the faces of the kids as they ate their Dubble bars was fantastic. But that wasn’t the highlight of my career.


The highlight was the school we were in. Here’s why.

Every time we buy a fair trade chocolate bar, a part of the extra few pence we spend goes to building schools like the one I visited.

If we don’t buy fairtrade chocolate there is a likelihood that the farmers will not be paid properly for their work – and a certainty that some of the profits will not go back into building schools that the children would otherwise not have.

By choosing a chocolate bar with the fair trade logo on it choosy chocolate buyers had helped build that school.

There is more about my trip to Ghana and how fairtrade chocolate makes a difference here.

And – if you want to know more about my book, Off Side, featuring the son of a cocoa bean farmer, there is more here.

Thanks for reading.

And happy Chocolate Week.





Letters from parents with dyslexic children

Every week or two I get an email from parents of dyslexic children. These are the last two I have received.


Dear Mr Palmer

I just wanted to write to tell you about my daughter, xxxx.  At the end of last term you visited her school,  where she met you and was really excited about your books.  For xxxx this is completely out of character, she is dyslexic and usually goes out of her way to avoid books.  I am a primary school teacher and for years I have shared books with her and bought any book that she showed the slightest interest in hoping that she would want to read it, however this has never happened.  So when she asked about your books, I had that same feeling of here we go again, I’ll waste some more money on a book that will simply sit on a shelf, but bought Combat Zone for her anyway.

In a bit of a mood the next day, xxxx took herself to her room and after about an hour I went looking for her, only to find her lying in bed reading her new book.  She didn’t come out of her room until it was finished.

I cried that day because it was the very first time she has voluntarily read a book, I have NEVER known her to read a whole book, let alone a whole book in one day. I was so proud of her and instead of that being enough she asked for another one too.  She is now reading Surface to Air.

Words can’t really express how I felt that day but I really just wanted to say a massive thank you for your books and for giving xxxx her first experience of a book being something to enjoy.

Thank you.


Hi Tom.

This is on behalf of my 10 year old son, xxxxx.  He is dyslexic and an avid rugby player, turning out for Blaydon RFC under 11s every week and is a massive fan of Newcastle Falcons.  Your books have formed a real connection with Jamie and, indeed, Scrum was the first big book that he had ever managed to read.  His teacher at the time was a massive influence and has done so much work to help Jamie along on his reading journey. As a thank you he presented his teacher with his copy of Scrum as an end of year gift.



There are a lot of things to enjoy about being a published children’s writer: but the biggest buzz is emails like these.

They often come late at night, when I check my email for the last time on my phone, before sleep.

When they arrive I think of the parent that has done a good day’s parenting and are now taking the time to  tell me something really important.

I love it. And I will take some of the credit.

However, the real credit for what my books and many other authors’ books have done, should go to Barrington Stoke, who publish all their books in dyslexia friendly format. That is the game changer. The research that Barrington Stoke have done – and the work that they do.

Credit too – this Dyslexia Awareness Week – to parents who support their children when they are struggling with reading. And the librarians and teachers and booksellers who guide them.

This week it is Dyslexia Awareness week. This is what it means to me.

Find out more about my books that feature dyslexia and about Barrington Stoke here.