All posts by tompalmer

British children's author of fiction featuring sport & history. Dad. Husband. Fell runner. LUFC. Roy of the Rovers. D-Day Dog coming May 2019. ūüź∂ @tompalmerauthor

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.


Somme Centenary in Schools

This Friday ‚Äď July 1st ‚Äď sees the centenary anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It will be covered live on the BBC on the day, during school time. You can read about the BBC’s schedule here.

I have been working with the National Literacy Trust and Barrington Stoke to create a range of resources for schools to use to help today’s children get their heads round what happened in France one hundred years ago.

I’ve done it because I have a book out about a group of footballers who fought at the Battle of the Somme, called Over the Line. But also because I think it is important for children today to know about the bloodiest battle of the First World War.

OTL-new cover

You can access the following resources via the links below:


Live Somme-based story

Over the last fortnight I have been writing a daily story ‚Äėlive‚Äô on the National Literacy Trust website. It is partly about Euro 2016 and partly about the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. In its third and final week, beginning on Monday 27th June, the characters, who are year seven children, will be going on a Battlefield Tour of the Somme area with their schools, visiting war graves, battle sites and the official centenary commemoration at Thiepval. I have talked with three schools who have been on Battlefield Tours recently to try my best to get it right.


Videos from major Battle of the Somme sites

After finishing Over the Line, I revisited the settings of the book to talk about how each place had impacted my writing. Those settings include the English Channel, a soldier footballer’s grave, the Footballers’ Battalion official memorial and Delville Wood. They are also settings featured in this week’s live story.


Toolkit of School Resources

Our EURO 2016 toolkit also includes ideas for Somme related classroom displays, activities and assemblies to mark Centenary. It was published by the National Literacy Trust in May.


Other free resources relating to Over the Line

You can access free posters relating to the book here, as well as a discussion guide to the main themes and short classroom play scripts drawn from the novel. You can find all these resources at or via


I hope these resources are useful. Thanks for reading.

Ideas for the staffroom during the Rugby World Cup

This is the first of several blogs about how you can use the buzz around the Rugby World Cup to encourage reading for pleasure in your school.

If you want reading for pleasure campaigns to work in your school or library, you need all, or at least some, of your colleagues on board. And that starts in the staffroom.


Staff rugby reading training

In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup use one of the school’s staff meetings as a chance to train or inform your colleagues in the joys of rugby reading.

Take three ideas from the Read Rugby toolkit (see link below). Ones that will work well in with your pupils. Ask your colleagues to help you tailor those ideas for the children in your school. As well as helping you to make the ideas work best for you, it may also bring some of them on board with delivering the ideas.

Then talk about what else you can do, using the toolkit.


Staff rugby readers

Ask your colleagues if they would like to join you as rugby reading champions. Are some of them rugby fans? Or general sports fans? Can they be persuaded?

They could be encouraged to look out for reluctant readers in school and talk to them about rugby ‚Äď or other ‚Äď reading, help you run rugby reading book groups, talk to parents about your plans in the playground.

Ask them to generate their own ideas ‚Äď or to choose some from the toolkit.


Staffroom poster

Create a poster for the staffroom, reminding your colleagues of your rugby reading activities.


Staff reading selfies

Kids love to know what their teachers are reading. Ask all your colleagues to do a rugby reading selfie for your school display areas. Ideally rugby books, magazines or newspapers. But ‚Äď if they are not into rugby ‚Äď a selfie of them reading something that they are passionate about.


Reluctant reader posters

In the same way you have posters in staffrooms about children and their allergies or health issues, put up some posters of children who aren’t keen on reading, but who do like sport. Say what sports they like. Encourage your colleagues to talk to them about things they have read.


Rugby Readers

Employ pupils as Rugby Readers, so that they can help you champion rugby reading during 2015, allow them into the staffroom as special children during their role as champions.


For more free ideas and resources about using the Rugby World Cup to encourage children to read for pleasure, please visit and check out the Read Rugby toolkit. It takes less than a minute to subscribe.

Many thanks.

15 Rugby Reads for Kids

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February and March are going to be marvellous months for rugby fans. They can also be a fantastic few weeks for rugby readers.

I’ve selected 15 different things that kids – and adults – can read about rugby to enhance their experience of the Six Nations¬†internationals – and beyond.

1   Non-fiction books full of facts and potted history. Easy to read. Available in library as well as bookshops. In the sport section.

2   The internet. There are some excellent rugby websites out there, including all the newspapers, Sky, the BBC and more.

3   Official Magazine of the Six Nations. Available in the newsagents now.

4   Newspapers. Either on paper or online. Previews. match reports. Interviews. Speculation. Usually written by passionate rugby journalists who really care.

5¬†¬† A variety of children’s fiction by authors Gerard Siggins. Chris Higgins, Tom Palmer, Dan Anthony and Andrew Smith. Again, in bookshops and libraries.

6¬†¬† England Rugby magazine. The magazine is only available to¬†online England Supporters’ Club members. But it’s good. It includes exclusive¬†embedded videos and audio.

7   Biographies and autobiographies of rugby players. Past and present.

8¬†¬† The ultimate rugby book is the IRB’s yearbook, full of stats and information about the last 12 months.

9   Match day programmes from international and domestic matches.

10   The England Rugby Annual, full of interviews and quizzes and other treats for kids. And some adults.

11   Rugby World. The best selling rugby magazine in the world. Monthly glossy. Available in white, red, blue and green. Well written.

12   Calon by Owen Sheers. Fantastic book about rugby union in Wales. Universal too.

13   Combat Zone. The first book in the new Rugby Academy series by Tom Palmer (me).  Books two and three out in the spring.

14   How to play rugby books. Several levels, starting with this Know the Game book.

15   The Rugby Paper. Weekly newspaper, out on Sundays. £1.50. Match reports, politics, lots of talk about the international game. Excellent.

With¬†just months¬†to go up to the Rugby World Cup there is a lot to read about the game of rugby. That’s good news. No doubt there’ll be much more coming our way soon, with the tournament being hosted by England – and with games taking place in Wales too.

Happy reading, everyone.¬† And…

To find out more about my Rugby Academy series, have a look here. Please.







Miss, I can read this!

I had my best day as an author in Bridgend, south Wales, two years ago.

I had just delivered an event to a group of so-called reluctant readers in a sports centre.  A quiz. A talk about sports reading. Afterwards, twenty lads were letting off steam hammering a ball at a librarian who had volunteered to go in goal.

And I was talking to their teacher.

She turned a copy of my book, Scrum, over and saw the Dyslexia Friendly sticker on the back.

‘What does that mean?’ she asked.

I told her. Barrington Stoke publish books that have been designed with special font, layout and page-colour (along with editing) that helps readers overcome many of the problems that dyslexia presents.

The teacher pointed across at a boy. Rhys, she told me, was dyslexic He wanted to read. But it was very hard for him. It affected his self esteem, she said. A lot.

She called Rhys over, putting the book in his hands.

‘What’s this?’ he asked her.¬†Then glanced at me, looking uneasy.

‘Look at it,’ she insisted.

Rhys opened the book, eyes glazed over already. But then something changed. He focused on the page in front of him. Then stared at his teacher.

‘Miss,’ he said, his mouth open, ‘I can read this.’

I’ll never forget that moment.

This week is Dyslexia Awareness Week. It runs from November 3rd to 9th. Brought to us by the British Dyslexia Association.