Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Week in Warrington

Last week I spent three days in Warrington - with a short detour to London.

I was in Warrington to do events with schools for the the libraries. It was great. My mum was from Warrington and going to her home town was a real buzz. She got me into reading - and writing - so it was nice to work with the children of her town. It was a great week. Warrington Libraries know how to look after you. Thank you Warrington.

After the event, I met my aunt, my mum's sister. We had a cup of tea in Borders. That might sound trivial: but it was the highlight of my week.

In between two of the days in Warrington, I went to London one night for the Puffin Party. This is annual party where authors, librarians, children's book experts, magazines, come together. It was great!

The food and drink was great (including ice creams covered in chocloate on sticks: I had ten) - as was meeting lots of other authors. Ross Kemp was stood at the bar. I also spotted Kevin Brooks, Charlie Higson, Sue Bentley (of the Magic Kittens!), Linda Chapman and many more.

This week I'm off to London, Rotherham and ending the week at the seaside with my family: I'm doing some events at the Sunderland Kite Festival. If you're around I'll be doing a penalty shoot out and dodging the kites.

Tomorrow I'm at an event in Sandwell. I'll be on stage with Alan Ahlberg. I'm not saying this to boast. I'm saying it to say what a buzz that will be. I've spent the last 5 years reading his books to my daughter. He's the business.

This is a boast, though. Foul Play was one of the Sunday Telegraph's 50 books for the holidays in their Travel section today.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Times

I went to the Times newspaper on Monday. They very kindly let me go in to see how they work. My next Football Detective novel - Dead Ball (May 2009) is set partly in a newspaper office - and I needed to see how such a place works.

It was great. I got a tour, met journalists and sat in on a meeting to plan yesterday's Times sports pages. There's so much work that goes into preparing a newspaper. I never dreamed it'd be so complex. They've got journalists all ovet the world watching sport, interviewing people and thinking. Then writing. Once all the writing comes in it needs to be sorted and set out by writers, designers, picture editors and others.

It didn't help matters that they had to use six of their pages for the football fixtures. However, they dealt with it brilliantly.

Thank you to the Times newspaper.

At the meeting I learned that Leeds have Scunthorpe away as an opening game. I can't wait.

Team Read

I was in Rochdale Library yesterday. Only 10 miles from home. Helping them to launch their Team Read programme.

Team Read is the 2008 Summer Reading Challenge, run by the Reading Agency. The idea is that all children age 5 to 11 are challenged to read 6 books during the summer holidays. This year the theme is sport: which is why it's called Team Read.

In previous years it's been called the Reading Mission and the Big Wild Read.

Ray Stearn at Rochdale Libraries had a good idea to spread the word about Team Read. Instead of going into all the schools to tell children about it, they got the children to come into the library. Four kids from all Rochdale's schools came in with a teacher - for an event with me yesterday and poet Craig Bradley* today. Then the kids go back to their schools to act as ambassadors to their schoolmates.

Ray went in goal for the Football Reading Game. He did well. After only letting in 30 or so of 120 shots, he was re-named 'Ray the Cat.'

You can find out about Team Read at any library in the UK.

* Have a look at poet Craig Bradley's website I admit he's a friend. But everyone I've recommended him to has been extremely happy with him.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Lancashire Book Festival and another review

I did some events for the Lancashire Children's Book Festival this week, Shout About Books. They were great. I like working in Lancashire very much (even though I'm from Yorkshire). They know what they're doing. The libraries are great and they really make you feel at home. Thank you Lancashire.

Also, today I was at a library in Stoke. Most of the children were Stoke City fans. It was good to see: people supporting their local team. I had a kick about with a lad called Josh, who was really into Stoke City. We had a kick about and he kept accusing me of fouling him. As if...

I got a review in the Times today. You can read it at: When I read it I was very happy. So happy I started singing football songs. I did the same thing when I got the book deal with Puffin. Chanting about Leeds, etc. This might seem odd, but I think it's because getting good news about my books is a bit like seeing my favourite team score. A sudden burst of happiness. Either that or I'm losing my mind.

There's also a review (and video interview) on

Holland. What can I say? Amazing. I hope they win it.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Tangshan Tigers

I read Tangsan Tigers by Dan Lee. It's a series of short novels for children ages around 7-9.

It's a great series. About an academy of martial arts fighters in China. The characters are from all over the world. The main one from England.

They are great stories and the characters - especially the martial arts master - are excellent. Try them. You won't be disappointed.

(And - by the way - I am not just saying this because they're published by Puffin.)

Booked Up!

I'm really excited: Foul Play has been chosen for the national promotion, Booked Up!

I've been sitting on the news for a few weeks, but the secret's out now. It means that around half a million year-seven children (in September) will be offered one of twelve books free. Mine is one of the the twelve. The project is run by Booktrust.

Thank you Booktrust!

I did some events at the launch of Lancashire's Shout About Books festival today. At Preston North End's Football Museum. It was great. I met a lot of Liverpool, Man U and Burnley fans. The best bit was playing table football against a Blackburn fan. He won - two games to one.

The festival goes on for a few weeks and sees some big names coming to Lancashire. David Gilman. Beverley Naidoo. Meg Rosoff.

The staff at Lancashire Libraries are brilliant. All friendly. All knowing lots about children's books. I'm lucky to live on their doorstep. Have a look at the Lancashire Libraries website if you want to know more.

The football fixtures are out next week. My four-year-old has asked to come to a match at last. Who will her first trip to Leeds United's famous Elland Road stadium be against? Cheltenham? Stockport? Milton Keynes?

Monday, 2 June 2008

A Week Off

I had a week off with my wife and daughter. Camping in Devon.

It was supposed to be a restful time in between dozens of events to promote Foul Play. But it rained. And rained. And rained. In the end we were flooded out and had to take the tent down in the pouring rain.

Now I'm back on the road. I did two events with schools as part of the Derbyshire Book Festival today. They were good fun. As always, I got a lot of stick for being a Leeds fan from the Derby County fans you find in Derbyshire. But they were less cocky this time... for some reason. The Forest fans, on the other hand, were great. An intelligent lot.

I'm reading a great book about football in Russia. Football Dynamo by Marc Bennetts. All about how football in Russia is changing.

Just read The Tangshan Tigers by Dan Lee too. A kids book about a martial arts academy. I am reviewing it for Junior magazine. It is great. Even if you have no interest in Karate, etc... try it. Really well written. Exciting.