Category Archives: Uncategorized

Reading Leeds United

I wish my mum was alive to see this.

Monday will be my first day as Leeds United Children’s Writer in Residence. I’ve been taken on by the Premier League club to work with their education department and Leeds schools to promote reading for pleasure through football.

I write books and promote literacy because of my mum, but, as a kid, I struggled with reading. My mum, who was a teacher, used the only thing I was properly interested in to engage me with reading.

Leeds United.

She had me reading matchday programmes in the South Stand, the Yorkshire Evening Post every day and magazines like Shoot and Match each week.

VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100

Sadly, she died when I was in my early twenties. But she left a great legacy. I am a reader because of her. I am a writer because of her. I am Leeds United Children’s Writer in Residence because of her.

So, when I got the call from Mat at Leeds United Education to tell me the name of the first school that we’re going into I didn’t see it coming.

‘Where shall I meet you?’ I asked him.

‘Seacroft Grange Primary School,’ he told me.

I went quiet.

‘Is that okay?’ Mat asked.

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘That’s where my mum was a teacher.’

How Cumbria helped me write After the War

When I was researching my new book – After the War – I went to Kendal Library to read the Westmorland Gazette microfilms for 1945. It was there that I read about a group of Jewish children who were arriving from Europe to stay at the Calgarth Estate on Windermere.

This was part of my research into a story that many Cumbrians know very well. The Windermere Boys.

On 14th August 1945 ten stripped-out Stirling Bombers touched down at Crosby-on-Eden airfield. Thirty children emerged from each plane. They were given something to eat and drink, then driven – in buses and army trucks – to the shores of Windermere. To the Calgarth Estate where, during the war, the workers at the White Cross Bay flying boat factory had lived.

But the war was won and most of the workers had gone, although a community continued to live on the estate until the late 1950s.

The 300 children were Jewish refugees. Aged from infants to teenagers, mostly orphaned, they had come directly from the concentration camps of central Europe to Cumbria.

View image on Twitter

It was dark when they arrived, so they had little idea of this place that they had come to: Windermere.

What they saw in the morning astonished them. They have said since it was like coming from hell to heaven. Some refer to it as Wondermere.

You might have seen the BBC film – The Windermere Children – earlier this year.

Before the film was released, I heard the story on Radio 4’s Open Country and was immediately struck by how the Boys enthused about their relationship with the local people. That was something that the film – with so much to cover in only 90 minutes – didn’t explore.

But I was keen to explore it. For three reasons.

One. The director of the Lake District Holocaust Project, Trevor Avery, told me how the families of Calgarth welcomed the children. The book would not have been possible without his support and the work he has done at the Windermere Library exhibition, From Auschwitz to Ambleside.

Two. The Boys talking about the welcome they had on Open Country and on the audio files you can listen to on the Lake District Holocaust Project website (

Three. When I visited the exhibition at Windermere Library, I met Joyce and her niece, Marion. We got talking. Their openness and friendliness reminded me of how some of the Boys talked about their welcome from locals.

I have written a book about the Windermere Boys. For children. It is called After the War. It is a story that must be told again and again and through different media; and a story that Cumbria must be very proud of. First for taking the children in in 1945. Second, for devoting a whole floor of a library to ensure this story reaches future generations.

The children had suffered ghettos, concentration camps, death marches and seen family members murdered. But they were given refuge at Windermere. Lessons in English. Exercise to rebuild their strength. And they were fed as well as they could be in rationing Britain.

There is a story about how the locals gathered hundreds of tomatoes to give the children each a bowl of tomato soup one evening. That story is in the book. As are many examples of Cumbrian compassion.

Research in a book like this is vital. Talking to people who were there when the events happened. And reading the Westmorland Gazette was just as vital. I had this idea for a scene where one of the Boys would teach himself English by reading the local newspaper. A headline stuck with me and I had my character read it out to his friends:



It was exciting to be reading the exact issue of the newspaper that no doubt some of Boys would have read.

Over several months, I visited the settings of the story. The Lakes School is on the site of Calgarth now. The school kindly allowed me to watch one of the Boys – Arek Hersh – speaking with the students.

But it was another school in the area where I realised I was writing something important for the children of Cumbria and beyond.

I have a good relationship with Grasmere Primary School. They helped me when I published Armistice Runner, a story of fell running, set in Cumbria in 1918 and 2018, featuring a character based loosely on Skelwith Bridge fell runner, Ernest Dalzell.

The children read After the War before publication and their reaction and advice had a profound impression on me and the book. As did their compassion. The way they took to the story and empathised with the Jewish refugee children who arrived here 75 years ago was one of the most moving part so of writing After the War. If I wrote After the War for anyone, I wrote it for the children of Grasmere Primary School.


Welcome back!

I hope you, your pupils, colleagues and family are all well and that the partial transitions from lockdown back to school  are going ok for you all.

I’ve had a few requests for welcome back messages to share with  classroom bubbles and or something to add to an author wall.

So I’ve drafted a brief message here which may be of help in your classroom.   You can download it here .

I am also available for virtual visits more here.

And there are more posters to download here.

Or email me here if you need something more specific to support your school or fill in my contact form below with your school name and address for free poster pack with signed personalised materials.

Please be patient.  Our replies are not automated so you will get a personal reply.


PRIVACY & COOKIES POLICY                            TERMS & CONDITIONS



Ten literacy activities for children not able to get into school

The football is about to kick off again. For many children who won’t be able to get into school until September, this sudden summer of football action could be a great way to keep them reading and writing.

These ten activities offer a variety of ways to engage children with reading and writing for fun and keep them literacy fit for autumn 2020.

ONE Roy and Rocky of the Rovers Writing Kit. A set of eight activities designed to engage football fans with different aspects of writing using passion for the game as a way in.

TWO Listen to the seven-part story, The Mystery of the Stolen FA Cup Medal – read by a proper actor – and do the activities designed by the British Council.

THREE Learn to draw football star – Rocky Race – with the help of Roy of the Rovers illustrator, Lisa Henke:

FOUR Read about how football and other things in Tom Palmer’s life directly inspired the storylines in his books. And how being into football made him a reader in the first place:

FIVE Read Call of Duty,  a short story about a modern footballers volunteering for war. Linked to his First World War football novel, Over the Line.

SIX Encourage a young reader to read one of Tom’s series and receive a personalised signed certificate to congratulate them.


SEVEN Read the first chapters of 34 children’s books and read whole stories available only on Tom’s website:

EIGHT Have a go at a range of colouring sheets, many of them based around football books:

NINE Read a novel in sixteen chapters set at the last EUROs in France:

TEN Contact Tom and ask him a question about one of his books. Please do this via a teacher or a parent and ask them to pass on your questions using the contact form below.

We hope that helps. Happy reading and enjoy the football.

Families … stay up to date with what I’m doing – or simply say hello – on social media.
Twitter: @tompalmerauthor

Subscribe to Tom’s newsletter  – you can hear direct from Tom each holiday (3 per year) about new writing, preview chapters and exclusive competitions.  Please get your parent/guardian’s permission.

To sign up, please enter your email address below and click ‘Submit’.

On receipt, we will send you your first confirmation email. Please take a look at our privacy policy and terms and conditions.  In short, we will not share your details with anyone else.  If you wish to opt out at any point, please email with “unsubscribe” in the subject line or click here.   And if you change email addresses don’t forget to let us know!

PRIVACY & COOKIES POLICY                            TERMS & CONDITIONS

Virtual Visits in Lockdown

I had dozens of school author visits lined up for the spring and summer. Most were cancelled or postponed overnight. As had to happen. Three days after school changes were announced, I had a call from a headteacher I work with a lot.

We’re budgeted to pay you to work with us and we’d like to honour that, he said.

Then a couple of days after that I had another call from a school. Both wanted virtual author visits. I was thrilled. And grateful.

I’ve been doing virtual author visits in schools for a while now. One or two a month. Easy going. Normally, I’ll chat to a classroom full of children for half-an-hour. And I love it. It was a fun addition to my main jobs of writing books and visiting schools.

But now – in world suffering Covid-19 – I had to step things up to another level. I had to use more platforms and be more innovative with what I offered.

Here’s a summary of some of the things I’ve been involved with since making that decision:

Dixons Academy, Bradford. I’ve been working with year five on story modelling, showing them – in a series of twenty-minute videos – how I research, plan, start and edit a story based in their area. Children are feeding back to help direct what happens in subsequent films.

Cotmanhay Junior, Derbyshire. The headteacher and I are co-writing a story in ten parts set on the estate where most of the school’s students come from. One ten-minute read is posted weekly as text and as a short film read by one of the school’s teachers. The story is called This Book is For You and is about a boy who hates reading – at the beginning.

Tabuk School, Saudi Arabia. Tabuk set up a school writing competition with me acting as the judge. The children sent their stories to me via their teacher and I created a twenty-minute awards video announcing the winners giving back constructive criticism  on every story in the competition.

Kirkstall Valley Primary School, Leeds. Fifteen reluctant readers – but football fans – have been given signed copies of one of my books. They’ll read the book by a certain dates, then the head teacher and I will host a Zoom reading group with the children. The children will keep their book.

That’s four direct author-to-school models I’ve been involved with so far.

I’ve also done two Facebook Live sessions open to the public, but joined in by several schools. One on football stories, the other on the Second World War in fiction.

I’ve also written:

A five-part story commemorating the Battle of Britain 80th anniversary with the RAF Museums where I am Children’s Author in Residence. With reading comprehensions for each chapter.

An eight-part Roy of the Rovers How to Write about Football toolkit

And a teacher training/reading group on Zoom.

The above are just some examples of what I can do. But I’d be very happy to work with schools on bespoke ideas for all, or some, of your pupils.

And I know there are many many other authors out there who would like to work with schools in whatever way would work for you.

If you want some ready-to-go resources there are loads of free activities on my website relating to reading and writing sport and history. You can find them here:

My virtual visits page is here: Feel free to get in touch to ask more questions.

Thank you for reading.

VE day 75th anniversary

The commemorations of VE Day’s 75th anniversary from 8 to 10 May have been rightfully postponed because of the Covid pandemic.

There will be no street parties but there are still lots of ways to mark the occasion at home and in the classroom.

And the good news is that this very important anniversary will – all being well – be revisited on 15th and 16th August, when organisers hope to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day together. You can follow their plans here:

My forthcoming book – After the War – features scenes set on VE Day, 8th May 1945. In England where communities celebrate the defeat of the Nazis and in Czechoslovakia where Jewish children are liberated from camps and ghettos by the Russians.

The publication of After the War has been postponed too. But I had already created some online VE Day resources that – even though the book is not available yet – families and schools can use.

A book cover prediction sheet. Look at the cover of After the War and answer questions about what you think the story might be about.


VE Day paper dolls. Work as a family to decorate paper dolls of the children of VE Day. Then put it up as bunting to help mark the 75th anniversary of their liberation.

VE Day comprehension. Read the section of the book where the children talk about their very different experiences of VE Day, then answer some questions.

VE Day Black Out poetry. Create your own black out poetry using a VE Day scene from After the War.


You can find all the resources above and read more about After the War and the research I did to find out about what happened to children in England and on the continent on and after VE Day by visiting

Check out our gallery of school responses to After the War here


You can pre-order the book at your local independent – or other – bookshop too. The independent bookselling hub – – is great for this.

Thanks for reading.


Free Roy of the Rovers book and online chat

On Thursday 23rd April (from 10 a.m. to midday) I will be hosting a chat on Facebook Live on here to talk about my first Roy of the Rovers book, Scouted.

You can download Scouted for free here from now until the day of the chat. There’s a free Roy of the Rovers comic book on there too.

We’ve made the book free so that children and adults can enjoy a Roy of the Rovers story now that most of you are not able to get into school. I thought it would be fun to have a morning answering questions and finding out what people think of the book.

I hope you can join us at on Thursday 23rd April (from 10 a.m. to midday)  on here.