Friday, 25 May 2012

Film trailer for Black Op

One of my readers - Arun Hawkes - has made a film trailer for my new book, Black Op.

I hope you like it. I do. I think he's done a great job.

Black Op trailer

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why Euro 2012 doesn't need to damage our children's futures

Euro 2012 is expected to damage the grades that many children get in their GCSEs this summer.

Research from Oxford and Bristol universities shows that during European Championships and World Cups, the grades of most students drop in comparison to years when there is no major football tournament.

It's quite striking. And - no doubt - affects more than just the children doing their GCSEs.

In a bid to help combat this I have written a letter that schools can send out to parents. Not telling them to ban their kids from watching the matches: but offering them ten tips on how they can engage their children with reading during the tournament, keeping their minds in tip top condition.

In addition, there are lots of Euro 2012 literacy resources on the National Literacy Trust website that will be useful in schools.

Please contact me on if you have any problems accessing any of the resources.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Euro 2012 guides

The magazines stands are creaking with Euro 2012 guides.

Have a look at this.*

But which is the best?

And, equally importantly, which has the best wallchart?

On Friday I am working with twelve children for a whole morning to answer those questions for you.

So look out for our comprehensive review of these marvellous publications.

* - how did that children's book that is set during Euro 2012 get in there?

Black Op Book Launch

Last week saw me up in Newcastle launching Black Op.

I have just got this photo through of some children from one of the schools that attended.

The kids had won a writing competition and were given a copy of my book as a prize.

Most of them look pleased about that.

Also in the photo is Mike Williamson, the Newcastle defender. He kindly came along and took dozens of questions from the children.

Footballers get a bad press. Speeding fines. Racism. Cheating - on the pitch and off it. But I have met several footballers now and they have mostly been really nice men.

Mike Williamson was so good with the children - and with the adults. He talked about reading, about his children, about fitness and healthy living. I was very impressed.

Thanks to Newcastle Libraries and Benefield School for setting the event up. It was a pleasure to be there.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

F.A.O. Waterstone's Booksellers

I start my tour of twenty-something Waterstone's bookshops today in Manchester.

During the summer I will be visitng 27 stores, including the Bradford Waterstone's, where I used to work.

As well as hosting public penalty shoot outs for children, I will be scouring Waterstones for their best penalty taker.

The champion wins £100 cash.

This is all to promote my new Puffin children's book, Black Op. Black Op is about spies and football and is set during Euro 2012 in Poland.

Waterstone's confirmed for this challenge include: Manchester Deansgate and Arndale, Preston, Southport, Cardiff, Birmingham HS, Huddersfield, Doncaster, Kettering, St Albans, Portsmouth, Bridport, both Plymouths, Trafford Centre, Camberley, Southampton, Berkhamsted, Chesham, Aylesbury, Bradford, Leeds, York, Newcastle and (maybe) Truro.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Jim Sells is a Bad Man

The villain in Black Op is an ex England football star called Jim Sells.

Jim Sells (fictional) used to play for Spartak Moscow in Russia and - while there - he is corrupted and begins working for the KGB, then FSB.

In my book, he is the coach of an England youth team. He is also a spy master for five children who are using the team as their cover story.

But, when I was planning the book, Jim Sells (fictional) was good. He was based on my friend and National Literacy Trust hero, er... Jim Sells (real). He would coach the children in football and spycraft and help them save the England football team from certain death.

Jim Sells (fictional) was also slightly based on the author James Riordan, whose book Comrade Jim describes how he played for Spartak in the 50s while mixing with known spies and double agents. Great book. Sadly, Riordan died recently. I was lucky to meet him once.

When I was writing the book, Jim Sells (fictional) suddenly turned and betrayed the five children he was nurturing. It turns out he was working for the Russian secret services.

I'm not sure why. It just happened. One minute the children were looking for Sells, knowing he was in danger. The next minute, he was on a chopper from Poland to Moscow, having left them in a very perilous situation.

It was strange and hard to write, because Jim Sells (real) is such a nice man. But that's what happened.

My favourite author - Emile Zola - wrote an essay once, saying he set his characters off and let them do what they needed to do and that it wasn't really down to him. I had that in mind when I wrote it.

Of course, I'm no Emile Zola.

And I must stress Jim Sells (real) is no Jim Sells (fictional) ... as far as I know.

Black Op is published tomorrow by Puffin Books.