All posts by tompalmer

Five things you can do to get behind the Lionesses

England Women, Scotland Women and fourteen other countries will play out EURO 2017 this month and next. It is a fantastic showcase for the women’s game as it makes giant strides from the grassroots to elite football.

There are five things you can do to help add to that momentum.

One. Watch tonight’s Denmark v England match and persuade your sons and daughters to watch it too. It’s England’s last warm up game before EURO 2017 kicks off and should give everyone a taste of what’s to come. Thanks to Channel Four for showing the game on their website.

Two. Read about EURO 2017 on the BBC website and She Kicks magazine. Hopefully there will be lots of coverage in the mainstream press too.

Three. Read chapter one of my free live EURO 2017 story, Dutch Diaries, published by the National Literacy Trust and the FA. And, if you like it, read all nine chapters to your family or school assembly as the tournament develops.

Four. Collect the Panini EURO 2017 sticker collection.  Available in WHSmith and other newsagents. (Although you may see this as a colossal waste of money,  it is good news that the women’s game now has sticker albums you can find in the shops.)

Five. Check out the National Literacy Trust’s spectacular range of literacy resources to use in the lead up and during EURO 2017. Great for schools, home and libraries.

EURO 2017 kicks off on 16th July. The final is on 6th August. This is the official website.

How Emily Bronte Changed My Life


When I was younger I didn’t think books could be set in the sort of places people actually lived. I understood that books were set in unreal magical places. Or London.

I certainly had no idea they could be set in Yorkshire. Or – even – be written by people from Yorkshire.

As a result, when I started reading and writing for pleasure, I didn’t think it was a career option. I was just something I did.

I was 20. School had gone badly. I’d been unemployed. But, with a sudden love of reading, I started an A level at night school in Leeds. Things were changing.

Within a month of starting the A level, we had read Wuthering Heights and watched film of the poem V. by Tony Harrison. One set on the moors above Haworth. One set in Leeds. A double dose of Yorkshireness.

I had my epiphany then.

You know? That great moment in your life when everything changes.

My epiphany: I could write about where I was from! And… I could be a writer. As a job!



Tomorrow I am launching my new book Killing Ground in Halifax.

Because it is set in Halifax.

On the moor next to where they host the Halifax Agricultural Show. At the Shay football and rugby stadium. In the new central library. Inside the town’s extraordinary Piece Hall. And on the streets that connect all those places.

I will visit four Halifax schools to tell them about a book set on their doorstep. I’ll tell them about Emily Bronte. And Ted Hughes, who lived just up the road. I’ll tell them about me.

And I’ll tell them they can read about Halifax in fiction. And write about it too.

You can find out more and read the first chapter of Killing Ground here.

Researching Anne Frank House 2017

During July I will be writing a live story that schools and families will be able to download for free in nine cliffhanging episodes.

Dutch Diaries will be about Lily, a thirteen-year-old girl who is going on a school trip to Holland. In Holland Lily and her friends will watch England’s opening game in the Women’s EUROs and will visit major sites in Amsterdam, notably the Anne Frank House. The idea is to create a story that will engage children with the tournament and the Anne Frank story.

I had not been to the Anne Frank House before, so, in May, I visited it with my wife and thirteen-year-old daughter. We saw the superb and thought-provoking museum about Anne Frank’s life in Amsterdam. We saw the secret annex where the Franks and their friends hid until they were betrayed and taken away to the death camps. We saw film and photographs that helped us to understand what happened to Anne Frank after that.

It was difficult. But it is one of the best things I have ever done with my family.

I wanted to see the Anne Frank House through the eyes of my daughter, to help me with my story, but also as a dad. The bookcase that hid the secret stairway up to Anne’s hiding place. The cramped rooms they lived in. One of the books of her actual diaries, with the distinctive tartan pattern.

Mostly we looked in silence. Everyone was silent. People occasionally pointing.

Towards the end I asked my daughter how the Anne Frank House made her feel. She said she was angry. Later she said it had made her more aware.

I am writing Dutch Diaries for the National Literacy Trust and the Football Association. Their idea behind the story was to make children – girls and boys – more aware of the Women’s EUROs. To get them behind the Lionesses. But both organisations were very keen, also, that we used Dutch Diaries to raise awareness of the Anne Frank story and how there are stories about children today that we need to be angry about and more aware of.

Dutch Diaries will be published on July 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 20 by 8 a.m. here.It is written – roughly! – in the style of the very popular Dork Diaries books by Rachael Renee Russell. (My daughter will be helping with that too.)

Chapter one is already available here.

It will be a live story in that I will write it each day and include events from the tournament and other possible news stories as they occur during July. That will include me going to watch England’s opening game against Scotland in Utrecht.

A writing exercise linked to the football tournament and the story will be published on each of those mornings too on the same webpage.

I will also be writing a blog about the tournament, story and other related things. You can read that 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.

EURO 2017 & Reading for Pleasure

In July 2017 the England Women’s football team will be in Holland to play in the EURO 2017 Championships. I am working with the Football Association and the National Literacy Trust to use the tournament to promote reading and writing for pleasure in schools.

Most of our material will be launched on 6th June at Until then, this is a summary of what you’ll be getting.

Literacy with the Lionesses is a toolkit of reading and writing ideas for the classroom and beyond. It features book lists and interviews with female writers who make a living from writing about football in newspapers, magazines and in books, as well as other games, activities and comprehensions.

Dutch Diaries is a nine-part live story that will be published three times a week from 3rd July. It is ‘live’ in that it will be written as the tournament approaches and begins. It will be about the Lionesses and their progress in EURO 2017, but it will also feature a story line related to Anne Frank’s diary and the house in Holland where she and her family hid from the Nazis.

Dutch Diaries will be written in the style of Dork Diaries, a very popular children’s book series, and will be from the point of view of a girl in a school trip to Holland to visit the Anne Frank House and watch England’s opening match.

From 3rd July I will be setting nine EURO 2017 Writing Challenges, each published on the same day as the story chapters. These will feature events from the tournament, as well as other stories in the news around the time.

I will be writing a EURO 2017 blog from June 6th. It will feature stories about the Lionesses and my research for Dutch Diaries, which includes a trip to the Anne Frank House with my wife and daughter. You will be able to find it at

The idea behind all this work is to promote reading and writing for pleasure through the buzz of a major sporting tournament. It is also designed to help you to encourage your pupils and children to support England Women as they try to become the first England team – male or female – to become European Champions.

Literacy with the Lionesses will be free to access. As will Dutch Diaries and my EURO 2017 blog. Dutch Diaries and the writing exercises will be published on the following mornings, available from 8 a.m. if not before: July 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19 and 20.

Feel free to email me via this website if you need any more information.

Thank you for reading. And please do pass this information on to any other schools and groups you are part of.

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 admin @ tompalmer . co . uk

Thanks for reading.

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.

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.

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.