All posts by tompalmer

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?

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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.


A Roman amphitheatre… in London!

The book I am writing this month is about two children from today who have an encounter with Roman London.

That was something I needed to research properly. So I decided to do what schools do: go on a trip. To visit the Museum of London and the nearby ruins of London’s amphitheatre.

A Roman Amphitheatre is a stadium that was used for gladiators fights and also where animals were released where they fought to the death. Not a nice place. But that was what people liked to watch in stadiums 2000 years ago.

There is one in London. Underneath the Guildhall Museum.

These days we like to watch sport like athletics, football and rugby. That is what my story is about. A modern stadium and an ancient amphitheatre. It’s going to be called Dark Arena and the action includes settings of a modern football stadium and the amphitheatre ruins that I mentioned above.

This is a short video I made during my visit, so you can see what is there:

There’s nothing like going a place to see what it was like. To take in whatever your senses have thrown at them. Also, to try to think what your characters were thinking.

At last… a rugby magazine for kids!

This is the new rugby union magazine for kids. And it’s good.

We have three kids’ fiction series about rugby now: Rugby Spirit, Rugby Zombies and Rugby Academy.  There are lots of good rugby non-fiction books for children too, most of them about playing the game.

Now there’s a magazine. Trytime.  I recommend it to families, schools and libraries.  There are five or six football magazines for kids. There needed to be a rugby one.

Here it is…


You can buy single copies or subscribe for a year here.

If you know young rugby union fans please give it a go.

Contents include:

  • a Premiership season preview
  • top trump style players cards – to collect
  • posters of players and teams
  • a girls’ rugby section
  • facts and stats
  • nutritional advice
  • and more…


Setting a story in an Iron Age Fort

This summer I visited an Iron Age fort in Cornwall. I wanted to find out what one might look like. And I had a good reason: I am going to write a book set on an Iron Age fort.


This is Castle an Dinas at Columb St Major in Cornwall.

You might not think it looks much like a fort, but it was built roughly 4000 years ago, so it is going to have weathered a bit. That’s because it was built out of ramparts of soil and with wooden posts along the tops. All the wooden posts have rotted away now, but the three rings of ditches and raised ramparts are still really visible. You can see if from above here:

Visiting a place like this is realy important to help me get a story right. By going there I found out it was huge. The middle section is as big as a football pitch. I also saw that a farmer uses it to graze his or her sheep on. Who would have thought an ancient monument would be covered in sheep? But, actually it’s a good idea. What better way to keep the grass short? It would be quite hard to mow.

When I got home I had a look at a book I have about the Iron Age. I’ve made a short video about the book and how it helped me. You can watch that here:

This autumn I am going to visit more historic sites to explain how it helps me to write. To find out more you could read this blog:

Thanks for reading.

Researching and writing KS2 history stories this autumn

This autumn I will write three short novels for children. They will be a blend of football, ghost fear and history. KS2 history to be precise. To be published by Barrington Stoke in 2017.

The very rough idea is that a girl (Nadiya) and boy (Seth) discover football-related hauntings and have to use their knowledge of KS2 history to stop the hauntings causing havoc in local communities.

The three periods covered in the trilogy will be the Iron Age, the Romans and the Anglo Saxons/Vikings.


This all means lots of research around those subjects. And planning. Which is good. I get around the country a lot visiting schools. I love research. And I love planning.

Now – informed by this awesome map – I will be dropping in on some amazing historical sites to help me do just that.

For instance, as you can see below, last week I went to a massive Iron Age fort in Cornwall. (More about this in the next blog.)


I am hoping to do some short films from some of the sites. Also, if schools want to comment on my research and planning, I’d be delighted. I will be covering Iron Age, Romans, Saxons and Vikings from now until December.

Thanks for reading.