Thursday, 16 June 2011

I am a Dad Writer

I am normally described as a football writer. That's because I write books about football. But books about football are about more than football.

Take Mal Peet. His amazing football book Keeper is about rain forests, magic and ghosts amongst other things.

Take Dan Freedman. His football books are about relationships with girls, relationships with parents, etc.

Take Helena Pielichaty. Her football stories are about healthy eating, bullying, perceptions of foreigners and a hundred other things. As well as football.

Take Bali Rai, Michael Coleman, Alan Gibbons and a dozen others. We have our own obsessions that we pursue in our books just as much as we pursue football.

If you want to know what my biggest obsession is, it could well be dads. Being a dad. Being a son of dads.

I am a Dad writer as well as a football writer.

I had three dads.

I was adopted. My next mum and dad split up when I was four. Then, the dad who brought me up died when I was 21. That has made me think a lot about fatherhood. That all came to a head when I became a dad seven years ago. What sort of a dad should I be? Number one, two or three?

That was the time I started writing for children too.

My first book - Foul Play - is about a boy who solves football crimes. Spy and detective kids in books often have dead parents. It helps free them up to detect and spy. But I wanted Danny to have a dad he was really close to.

In Foul Play (and the other four books in the series) Danny reads crime books to his dad, who is blind. That's why Danny is so good at being a detective. He is empowered by the books he reads to his dad. They are close and Danny has to work within his dad's boundaries to solve the football crimes he solves.

In the Football Academy series I have thirteen boys, all with different dad relationships:

Boys United has a dad who backs his son all the way, but picks him up when he makes mistakes.

Striking Out has a dad that wants his son to give up football and concentrate on his schooling.

The Real Thing has a Polish boy and his dad, struggling with the bullying that the boy gets because of his accent and background.

Reading the Game is about a boy whose dad left when he was a baby and he's never seen him and he's not sure how to grow up.

Free Kick is about a boy whose dad wants him to be a chip off the old block, but the boy doesn't want that.

Captain Fantastic is about a boy who has a secret: his dad is in prison.

I am a football writer. But I am a dad writer too.

On Monday a lad came up to me at a school in Hull. He said his dad was in prison. He said he'd read Captain Fantastic. He said he liked it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Summer Reading Challenge 2011

The Summer Reading Challenge is about to launch for 2011.

This year the theme is Circus Stars.

My daughter has already spent ages on the website making her personalised character and watching author videos.

I love the Summer Reading Challenge. It gets children into libraries. It reminds me that going to libraries changed my life in several ways.

Here's how:

One: when I got interested in reading about football, they had books about how to play, histories of teams, biographies of players and stories that my mum borrowed for me.

Two: when I was a more confident reader, they were there with books on all the things I wanted to find out about, like Hitler, body language, Dadaism, world religions, European travel, the pyramids, etc, etc, etc.

Three: when my dad was dying and I needed somewhere to go and clear my head away from home, I went to the library. It was my escape.

Four: when I was there one day I found, by chance, a rack of university prospectuses and one course about Modern European Literature that inspired me to take A levels and dream of doing a degree, aged 23, which I did.

Five: when I needed to study in Leeds - even though my degree was in Reading, 200 miles away - because my mum was dying and I had to be near her, I was able to get all the books I needed for the course in Lededs reference library.

Six: when I started writing I needed facts and ideas to write about. I got them at the library.

Seven: when we wanted to get our daughter into books and she wanted to read dozens of books a month, we went to the library.

I could go on.

Getting children into libraries to do the Summer Reading Challenge will create the opportunities for them that libraries created for me.

Check out the website at There's even a video of me filmed by my daughter, talking about what she likes to read.