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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.


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.

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 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.