Tag Archives: Tom Palmer

The #25 profile – Tom Palmer

To my surprise I have read most of Tom Palmer’s books. When I was sent the first one I was happy to read it. A bit sporty, you know, but a fine story. And the books kept coming, and I kept reading and liking them. All that football… But the man writes a good story, and he is gold with boys. I know that’s a little sexist, but there you are. And he has written about girls and sport. Now that Tom’s moved deeper into war stories, he’s got even better. I have no idea where this will end.

Below Tom makes short work of my silly questions, and here is a handsome photo of him and his dog, Finn. Woof.

Tom Palmer 2018 (with dog)

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

Three. Amid a hundred-plus false starts over 20 years.

Best place for inspiration?

A moving train.

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

Yes.

What would you never write about?

Torture.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

A Russian oligarch’s bodyguard. A cruise ship prison cell. Not at the same time.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

Ernest from Armistice Runner, because he knows what it feels like to win a fell race.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

A good thing. Largely financially, to be honest. Though I’d like to see Armistice Runner on camera for the lovely scenery.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

Why do you support Leeds United?

Do you have any unexpected skills?

I have a superb reputation in the family for decorating cakes.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Famous Five.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Pontus Jansson.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

Categories that become corrupted very quickly.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

I’d have a chat with him first to find out what he is into, then suggest something. But – without any of that intel – I’d say Eoin Colfer’s The Legend of Spud Murphy.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing. Reading makes me really happy, but I think, when it’s going well, writing makes me even happier.

Well, this just goes to prove how weird people are. Leeds United … well. The author questions, the secret skills. Their Swedes. (I had to look Pontus up.) But Tom’s got great taste when it comes to advice on reading. And I’ll have a slice of that cake if you don’t mind!

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D-Day Dog

It’s possible to like war too much. Maybe you don’t stop to think about what war really means, or you get carried away by the excitement of weapons and explosions. And there is that idea of patriotism, duty to your country.

Tom Palmer, D-Day Dog

In Tom Palmer’s D-Day Dog 11-year-old Jack loves all things to do with war, as does his Reserve soldier father. They play war games at home, and Jack just knows that to serve your country is the greatest honour.

Then comes the school trip to the battlefields, and his father is called up, and life turns upside down. The children are told to find a dead soldier to read up on; someone whose grave they can visit. Because Jack has a dog, Finn, which he loves more than anything, he is pointed in the direction of a paratrooper who served in the war with his dog.

And suddenly it all becomes too real and Jack begins hating war.

There are probably many boys who love the idea of war and violence, and this book will be a good way of finding out what’s important in life – and death – and why people do what they do. It also brings attention to the Falkland war, Afghanistan, and Syria, where one of the girls in Jack’s class comes from.

Behind everything on the trip we see Jack’s love for Finn, for his dad, and his fear of what might happen to his family. For anyone unfamiliar with the details of D-Day, or with any war for that matter, this is a powerful little story.

And you know, they have dogs in Syria too. It’s just that Jack had no idea.

Armistice Runner

Tom Palmer doesn’t usually make me cry. Yes, I enjoy his books, which are thoughtful and deal with a mix of children today and people from the past, with a sports element, and the reader learns through them. But this one, Armistice Runner, was something else. Published in the Conkers series by Barrington Stoke, it’s a little longer than the usual dyslexia friendly books.

Tom Palmer, Armistice Runner

It’s about Lily who is a fell runner, practising for an important run near her grandparents’ house in the Lake District. She worries about her gran who has Alzheimer’s, and she fights with her younger brother.

In one of her more lucid moments, Lily’s gran brings out an old box for Lily. It used to belong to Lily’s great-great-grandfather Ernest, who was a fell runner before he went to war in 1918. Lily reads his log book, which is almost like a long letter to his dead brother Fred; about running and about the war.

It’s so gripping, and as the reader along with Lily herself desperately wants to discover if someone will be all right or not, Tom does a very naughty thing and interrupts both us and Lily with something much more urgent, and there was a wait to find out what happened.

Even if you’ve read countless other WWI stories, and this obviously has overlaps with many other tales, it also has something that belongs only to this book. It’s very good. And sad.

But also inspiring.

(As long as I don’t have to do any fell running. I’m still out of breath.)

Gorgeous cover by Tom Clohosy Cole.

Defenders – Killing Ground

Another football-based book from Barrington Stoke by Tom Palmer. Tom is good at writing stories about sport to tempt reluctant boy readers, and then adding something else to entertain and educate.

Tom Palmer, Defenders - Killing Ground

In Killing Ground we meet Seth, who lives with his mum in Halifax, a few minutes from the football ground. They both love going to matches, but now Seth’s mum is ill, so it’s becoming harder for her to go out.

And Seth sees things, old-fashioned looking people, sometimes scary looking. He’s not sure why or how, but it’s getting worse, and he needs to do something about it, and not just because the bad vibes in town causes Halifax to lose to Stockport (sorry about that!).

Are those Vikings he can see? Seth’s best friend Nadiya is good with books, and together they look up the facts about local history. But how to stop the Vikings from killing local, innocent people, a thousand years later?

Wings: Typhoon

Here is the third and last book in Tom Palmer’s Take To the Skies series for Barrington Stokes, and it is as enjoyable as the earlier ones. Although, truly, would you send your child to football camp if you thought they’d end up as fighter pilots through some sort of weird time travel thing?

Tom Palmer, Wings: Typhoon

We’ve had the first two world wars and now it’s time for the present and the way we ‘keep the peace’ without strictly speaking calling it war. It’s also time for the ladies. The two sisters staying in the house with Jatinder and Greg are not getting on as well as they used to, now that Maddie has started secondary school.

Her younger sister Jess notices the lack of women in the photos on the wall in the house, and asks about this, learning that women came late to the fighting in the air. As a leaving treat at the end of summer school, they get taken to the air show, and more specifically they get a go in the simulator.

Somehow Jess and Maddie find themselves at the controls of a Typhoon, en route to the desert to bomb an arms store, in order to save lives. The trouble is they actually need to cooperate with each other to be able to carry the attack off.

Nice ‘feminist’ pilot plot to finish the trilogy, showing children what they can do, if they have to, and if they put their minds to it. (And it doesn’t hurt to have some girl football in there as well.) Very inspiring.

(I didn’t even know about Typhoons – as planes – but with this Barrington Stoke book I can build my own.)

Wings: Spitfire

Neither Tom Palmer nor Barrington Stoke could have known how appropriate it would turn out to be to offer this series of three books about planes and past wars, set in a soccer summer school for young teens, right now. Spitfire is the second book, and as the title tells you, it’s about WWII.

Tom Palmer, Wings: Spitfire

In the first one, Flyboy, we met Jatinder who ended up in WWI, flying a plane, mysteriously taking over the part of a real WWI pilot who, like Jatinder, was a Sikh. In Spitfire we meet his fellow soccer fan Greg, full name Grzegorz Tomaszewski, whose parents are Polish. In the same strange way as Jatinder, one night Greg finds himself at the controls of a real Spitfire, somewhere off the coast of France.

Like Jatinder, he’s somehow turned into a real pilot, and he needs to grow up fast to deal with a dangerous situation.

Tom Palmer has clearly watched The Great Escape a few times, but there are worse films to inspire a bit of plot, and perhaps young readers today, whether dyslexic or not, won’t have seen the film.

This timetravelling into old wars appears to be connected with the boys’ soccer school host, Steve, whose house sits right next to an old airfield, and who enjoys talking to the visiting boys about what things used to be like. So here we have Britain’s pride, the two world wars, and these stories show us pilots from other backgrounds coming to help the British fight a common enemy.

It’s exciting and not a little emotional. The boys from today learn a lot from their visits to the past. And so should we, about all kinds of things.

(Naturally there is a Spitfire to build.)

Planes

‘You could have asked for a Spitfire,’ said Daughter.

Well, maybe I could have, but I didn’t and it’s not important.

I might have mentioned that Elizabeth Wein was handing out planes at the Scottish Book Awards in Glasgow in March, and I got one too. Not a Spitfire, obviously. Elizabeth handed out more planes at Yay!YA+ in April, but I felt it would have been greedy to ask for another one.

The not-Spitfire

I’d be willing to bet my plane isn’t a Sopwith Camel either, as that is a WWI plane and I trust Elizabeth went for WWII ones. Although, she did set her Ethiopian adventures during the period between the wars, so not necessarily.

Anyway, when she was last here Daughter asked for permission to build my non-Spitfire on account of her past as a plane builder. Apparently she used to buy them at the post office when she was little. I don’t remember that at all.

When she turns up this weekend I might get her to build Tom Palmer’s Sopwith Camel, even though it is not a Spitfire, and not polystyrene but the inside of a book cover.

There is something about planes.