If you can't access chapter one of my free World cup story at www.literacytrust.org.uk/worldcup, here is a rough not-very-well-formatted verison. Let me know if you are having any problems:
Foul Play: The World Cup Mystery
A classroom read by Tom Palmer
There was a knock at the classroom door just as Mrs Baker was about to start the English lesson. Danny watched her sigh, then get up off her seat.
‘Read something for a minute,’ she said. ‘In silence, please. I’ll only be outside.’
Then she disappeared into the corridor.
Danny pulled a World Cup guide out of his rucksack. He’d bought it at the newsagents that morning. It had facts on all the players, the stadiums and – most importantly – a chart to fill with scores and other statistics.
Four days to kick off.
It was Monday now. The tournament started on Friday with South Africa v Mexico. The day after that – Saturday – England were playing USA. And Danny couldn’t wait.
He had arranged for his friends, Charlotte and Paul, to come round. They’d watch it with his dad.
But what he didn’t know was that none of this would happen.
His friends would not come round. His dad would not be there. And nor would he.
Nor did he know that his dad was standing in reception. Waiting for him right now.
The noise levels in the classroom had risen as Danny was looking at the fixtures and wondering if England could beat USA.
The Americans had been sounding off on the TV, saying that they had beaten England in the 1950 tournament and that they could do it again now. Especially as England had key players missing.
Mrs Baker came back in.
‘Quiet please,’ she said. ‘I have an announcement to make.’
The room went silent. There was something in her voice. Something that suggested excitement.
‘Danny,’ she said. ‘You have to go home.’
Danny stood up, knocking his chair over. This was shock.
It had happened once before: when he was called home because his dad had been in a bad accident. He felt his legs wobble underneath him.
‘It’s nothing bad,’ Mrs Baker said in a soft voice. She knew his history.
‘What is it?’ Danny asked. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘Your dad is here. And he has some news. Good news.’
Danny frowned and gathered his bag. He caught Charlotte’s eye.
She shrugged, then smiled.
Danny started to walk across the room, edging past tables and chairs and the eyes of his classmates.
‘Shall I tell you what’s going on?’ Mrs Baker said.
‘I’m not sure,’ Danny answered, smiling at his teacher. There was something playful in her voice. As if she wanted to tell the class.
‘It’s up to you...’ she went on.
‘Okay,’ Danny said.
‘Your dad is here because he is taking you to the airport. You fly this afternoon.’
Danny stopped and faced his teacher.
‘Do you want to know where?’ she asked.
The noise in the classroom had built now. Danny felt someone tapping him on the back. He ignored it.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Please.’
‘Danny’s father has just been to see the head,’ Mrs Baker was talking in her classroom voice. ‘And he has arranged for Danny to have the next month off school. Somehow!’
The noise in the class exploded. Danny picked out words like ‘jammy’ and ‘lucky’ and ‘it’s not fair’ from the cacophony.
‘Why?’ Danny asked.
‘Because, Danny Harte, he is taking you to South Africa. To watch the World Cup.’
Danny had to put his hands over his ears, the class was so loud now.
‘Go,’ his teacher mouthed.
So Danny headed for the door. He looked back at Charlotte again, who waved, but looked slightly sad. Danny waved back.
Then he was in the corridor.
And as he walked towards school reception he heard the chant of En-ger-land, En-ger-land, En-ger-land coming from the classroom.
Danny had been to watch football abroad before. He’d been lucky. He’d seen games in Russia and Ghana.
It had happened because, in the last year, he’d found himself in the habit of getting involved with football crimes. Kidnapped strikers. Russian billionaires trying to kill England keepers. That sort of thing. His life had been in danger several times because of his new hobby.
He’d managed to solve three major crimes and saw himself as a sort of football detective.
But this was nothing to do with that.
He turned a corner in the corridor, a smile growing on his face.
Danny didn’t need to be a detective to work out what was going on. When his dad had had his accident, he had been blinded. As a result his life had changed a lot. But – also as a result – he’d been given compensation because the accident had been to do with his work as a fireman. His dad had said that one day they’d spend some of that money on something amazing.
This was the amazing thing. Danny knew it.
He could feel a thrill of excitement running through him.
Was this real? Was he really going to the World Cup finals?
He couldn’t wait to see his dad. To hear his plans.
But what Danny didn’t know was that this would not end up as just a trip to South Africa to watch football. It would end up as his biggest – and most dangerous – case yet. One that would push his skills as a football detective to the limit.
And it would all begin tomorrow...
Episode 2 will be published at 8 a.m. on Tuesday 8th June at www.literacytrust.org.uk/worldcup. Thank you for reading.