BLISTERINGLY HOT FINISH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on July 19th, 2022 10:39 am Comments Off on BLISTERINGLY HOT FINISH!

After the wonders of Whitley Bay, we returned to our second base on the Isle of Wight. The island really is ‘wight’ at the moment due to day after day of heat and lack of rain!

  Lord Louis Library in Newport

On Monday 4th July we made our way to the Lord Louis library situated in the centre of Newport – the main town on the island. Our quest was to enthuse and entertain around 60 year 4 and 5 pupils from the nearby Newport C of E Primary School. We’d had several visits to this school some years ago and so this particular event presented a good opportunity to regain contact.

…And that’s exactly what happened! After a dramatic Mokee Joe presentation, the pupils (and staff) were captivated and as a consequence we now have two school visits scheduled for next term. We called in at the school the next day and were amazed just how many of our audience queued up to acquire signed books…many purchasing all 6 books of the series. Fantastic!

Penultimate school visit of the term was to our very best friends at Pheasant Bank Academy. We love this school!

  Pheasant Bank Academy

It’s where we launched our WW1-themed book, POPPY WARRIOR. On this occasion I was invited as a guest of their summer reading festival. Ten O’ Clock Caller was the book I chose to work with with lower KS2 and Scabbajack with upper KS2. Needless to say Kath and I were well-received by all of the pupils and staff and had a fabulous day there. A massive ‘thank you’ to Mr Schofield, the Head teacher. He is such a supporter of our books and a great ambassador of all we do to inspire reading in schools. We are hoping to keep in touch with the leavers (Year 6) by attending their next school in September – Rossington All Saints. See you all then…have a lovely summer everyone!

               Great School!

FINAL school visit, during the blistering heatwave, was to Langold Dyscarr Community Primary School.  Our son and author, Simon, had just visited the school to promote his famous Icky Doo Dah books and had offered to call again to do a talk for KS2. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his appointment, so guess who stepped in for him? Yes – you’ve guessed – dear old Dad…Peter J Murray! Our first visit to this school proved to be a great success and the KS2 audience went ‘crackers’ to get involved in all aspects of the Mokee Joe series. To say it was almost the end of term and that parents had already paid out for lots of summer school activities and what with the record-breaking heat during the day, we were totally amazed how many pupils queued up at the book signing to get their hands on our books. We were so impressed with the response. In fact all three of the schools referred to in this blog should be proud of the ‘reading culture’ they have developed amongst the school community. Oh, by the way, Kath and I love bees and have all sorts of pictures and cushions etc decorated with these lovely insects, so we were so pleased to learn that Langold Dyscarr has adopted our stripy friends as emblems of their school…COOL!

Oh well…that’s all for now. Over the summer I shall be completing my next new book ready for publication. It’s all quite secret at the moment, but watch this space as they say.  I will never run short of ideas for scary stories and the scarier the better!  Judging by the term we’ve just had, we won’t be running out of readers to digest them either! Brilliant! Stay cool and we’ll be back with you all again in September. Dark nights will be then be approaching! Watch out!

PJM (and Kath with a ‘K’)

SPACE BUNS INVADE WHITLEY BAY!

This post was written by peterjmurray on June 19th, 2022 7:24 pm Comments Off on SPACE BUNS INVADE WHITLEY BAY!

Kath and I have just had the most amazing week in the Whitley Bay area of the NE.

It was our first trip to the region since the Covid outbreak had put paid to our school visits, and it was soon apparent how much we had missed three lovely schools that are always keen to host us!

         Molly-inspired Space Buns hairstyles at Seaton Sluice MS

First call was to Sleaton Sluice Middle School. We arrived early, but not too early, to be greeted by Headteacher, Mrs McSparron; a not-so-old friend of ours. It was sad to learn that we were to be deprived of the Year 6’s (out on a school visit), but we still had a considerable audience of around 250 Years 5 to 8 to present to in a packed assembly hall. We’re currently rounding off our Mokee Joe series of books before moving onto new projects, and it was quite sad to think that for the foreseeable future we might not be talking again about the very books that got me started as an author. However the audience relished the dramatic presentation covering around 20 years of my writing. Books 1 to 6 of the series all went down a storm; some pupils already having read some of the books, but ending the visit feeling desperate to read the others. Of course, the pupils (mainly girls) were more than impressed with Molly Steven’s latest hairstyle and turned up at the book-signing the next day looking fab to say the least. Hope you like the pic. We always enjoy our visits to this school and hope to be back sooner rather than later with different books (and maybe different hairstyles to promote!). Thanks to all for being so welcoming.

Next port of call was to our VERY good friends at Valley Gardens Middle School. We have been visiting this

A very spooky pic from Imogen at VGMS…

larger than large school ever since I became an author many moons ago! We love being there…and fortunately the staff and pupils have always loved our visits. The school is so big that we spent two days there. Day 1 involved yours truly being on stage at 9am in front of around 400 KS2 pupils and 20 staff. The huge screen made for a very dramatic display of the Mokee Joe series of books and an hour and a half (without a break) passed at lightning speed! A repeat performance the following day in front of 200 Year 7’s also went extremely well. Subsequent book signings seemed to go on forever, as once more the Valley Gardens ‘bookworms’ queued for our books! Brilliant! The staff were so helpful in ensuring that the logistics of such a big book signing worked perfectly…a BIG ‘thank you’ from Kath and I. Thanks also to Imogen for sneaking me a little pic she concocted of a very scary looking character wearing the ‘Molly Stevens Space Buns’. I’m still not sure who it’s meant to be. (I just hope it isn’t me!)

           Great way to finish the week at Whytrig Middle School!

Final visit of the week was to another school that has followed my author career over the years – Whytrig Middle School at Seaton Deleval. And what a way to finish the week! Around 260 Years 5 to 8 sat in front of another huge screen and listened to me go on about the entire Mokee Joe series spread over 20 years. The great audience response was confirmed by another HUGE book signing the next day…and YES, you’ve guessed it…loads more pupils sporting the latest Molly Stevens hairstyle – SPACE BUNS! I’m a great believer in the saying, ‘If you  can’t beat them, join them’, and hence you will spot me and Kath in the latest pic with our very own Space Buns, courtesy of Clare’s Accessories!

WHAT AN A-MAZING WEEK IN WHITLEY BAY! BIG THANKS TO ALL AND SEE YOU AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

PJM

MORE ISLE OF WIGHT ‘PEARLS’

This post was written by peterjmurray on May 12th, 2022 10:58 pm Comments Off on MORE ISLE OF WIGHT ‘PEARLS’

Our work on the Isle of Wight continued in brilliant fashion.

Back to Bembridge Primary for a Mokee Joe Part 2 presentation (Books 4 to 6), followed by another revisit to the lovely Lanesend Primary to visit the Year 4’s.  A long-awaited reunion with Wootton Primary; on to a postponed visit to Newchurch C of E Primaryphew!…onto a first visit to The Priory School and finally to Godshill Primary in…yes, you’ve guessed it…Godshill!

Fans from The Priory School (Note the ‘Molly Space Buns’ evident)

I have to say that every visit was a wonderful experience for us. Kath and I are so impressed by the welcome we receive in all of the schools on this island and by the overwhelming response of our KS2 audiences to our books. In the case of The Priory School, we also felt privileged by the attendance of their Year 7 and 8’s…and many of them subsequently queued to acquire signed copies of the books. Brilliant!

I cant tell you how pleased we are to report that our objective of building a relationship with as many schools as possible has got off to a great start. Having a permanent base on the Isle of Wight allows us to revisit schools and continue the momentum we’ve initiated in working with teachers and pupils to increase a love of reading for pleasure as well as inspiring as many young children as possible to create imaginative writing of their own.

LONG MAY IT CONTINUE!

  • PLEASE NOTE – MOLLY HAIRSTYLE SPACE BUNS RECORD  (IOW) SMASHED BY WOOTTON

    The ‘Molly hairstyle girls’ at Wootton Primary. They look A-Mazing!

    PRIMARY – The mainland record is currently 51 pupils at Bader Primary in the NE, but the record for the IOW stood at 22 pupils at Dover Park Primary. That record is now 35 pupils at Wootton Primary – CONGRATS TO THEM. Will any other IOW school take up the challenge and beat them?? We will see!!

PJM

SMILES ON THE ISLE!

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 28th, 2022 3:56 pm Comments Off on SMILES ON THE ISLE!

We’re back on the Isle of Wight…Yeahhhh!

        Great Dover Park audience!

Shortly after the Easter break Mokee Joe was spotted in Lymington, sneaking aboard a ferry destined for Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. Kath and I were not surprised! This monster follows us everywhere; and so it was that the juniors of Dover Park Primary in Ryde were soon bracing themselves as Mokee Joe made himself known in their fabulous school hall on a bright-but-sunny Monday morning.

We spent a very pleasant hour and a half talking to Years 3 to 6, and by the end of the presentation they were not only keen to get their hands on the Mokee Joe books, but also to accept the challenge to have as many pupils as possible adopting the latest Molly ‘Space Buns’ hairstyle at the subsequent book signing.

    New IOW Molly Space Buns Record?

This challenge is really starting to catch on. And sure enough, the very next day no less than 15 pupils in this one-form-entry school were showing off their ‘Princess Leah’ Space Buns! Although this was a long way off the recent ‘smash record’ of 51 pairs of Space Buns, achieved just before the Easter break by Bader Primary in the NE of the mainland, we decided to accept the Dover Park effort as the current Isle of Wight record – much to their pleasure!

A big thank you to Mrs Kirby and all of the Dover Park Primary staff and pupils for giving us such a good start to our second wave of IOW school visits.

PJM

CHARMED IN YARM

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 24th, 2022 2:19 pm Comments Off on CHARMED IN YARM

Back in Yarm for the run-up to the Easter break, and no better place to be than in and around our favourite market town. Our good friend and librarian at Conyers High School, Kim Dawson, arranged our visits and then sadly went down with the dreaded Covid virus! It was so sad visiting her lovely school and her not being there, especially as we presented for the first time in their brand new school hall. The screen was ‘Movie Size’ and our images looked striking to say the least!

                 Fans at Northfield

Visits to Northfield School and Sports College, Conyers

Fantastic organisation by Conyers ‘helpers’

HighSchool and Bader Primary proved an excellent way to round off the Easter term. The first two schools provided large audiences of Year 7’s, followed by a large audience of KS2 pupils at Bader Primary. The battle of the ‘Space Buns’ record continued, but neither Northfield or Conyers could beat the record of 20 set at our Granddaughter’s school at St Barts (see earlier blog). Although it was interesting to see all of the Conyers book lovers and helpers sporting the hairstyle.

            Bader Primary SMASH the ‘Molly Space Bun’ record

But a HUGE surprise was about to follow during our last signing at Bader Primary. This amazing school turned out no less than 51 pupils looking fab with their Molly hairstyles. This record included one boy (who looked great by the way) and did not include the two TA’s also shown in the picture. To say I was moved by the sight in front of me would be a gross understatement. I’ve already asked David, the Headteacher, to acquire two framed pictures at my expense – one for the school library and one for us to have at home – and unforgettable moment in our long author career!

Thank you so much to all three schools for accommodating us at such a busy time of the term. We hope you think it was worth it…no question in our mind! What a great ending to the Spring Term. See you all again soon…and don’t each too much chocolate!

PJM

WHITE WOODS MULTI ACADEMY TRUST

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 24th, 2022 1:55 pm Comments Off on WHITE WOODS MULTI ACADEMY TRUST

All three schools in the White Woods Multi Academy Trust, each very local to us, proved that you don’t need to travel far to have a fab time whilst gathering another host of new fans and supporters of our work.

 

Whiston Juniors, Whiston Worrygoose and Dinnington Primary all gave us a great welcome; the staff and pupils being totally enthusiastic about our books and presentation.   Mokee Joe went down a storm, as usual, and lots of pupils provided a great source of amusement in donning the ‘Molly Space Buns’ hairstyle the next day during the book signing. In fact Whiston Juniors set up their own in-school hairdressing salon ensuring that just about every KS2 pupil was equipped with the new hairstyle – a mass of elastic bands being used up in the process. Alas, we could not accept their number of Space Buns as the new record…it’s in the rules (that we just made up!) that the pupils must acquire their own hairstyle at home prior to the school signing day (Mums and big sisters are allowed to help!)

Seriously, it was a brilliant week spent in these three VERY keen reading schools. Will we ever forget our two Dinnington singers, Skye and Kayla (hope I haven’t spelt your names wrong?) performing their own Mokee Joe song…Kath and I were more than impressed!

I was also proud to sign my name on the wall of the newly acquired library at Dinnington Primary, just above Cressiday Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon).

 

HUGE thank you to all three schools…hope to see you again soon.

 

PJM

SOARING UP AT UPLANDS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 12th, 2022 7:23 pm Comments Off on SOARING UP AT UPLANDS!

A good friend of ours contacted us to tell us she had taken on a new school (at least ‘new’ to her) down in Leicester. I say ‘down’ because it’s literally just a short drive down the busy M1 motorway from our base in South Yorkshire. The school in question is Uplands Juniors L.E.A.D. Academy and is a big 4-form entry KS2 school. Our friend and Headteacher, Mrs Carlisle, asked us if we would help stir up enthusiasm in reading at this big inner-city Leicester school.

Eager Mokee Joe readers at Uplands in their Quiet Area

Well, I have to say it was an easy job to do! The staff, pupils and everyone concerned with the school gave us the most fabulous welcome and and all seemed more-than-interested in our visit before we’d even got started. We launched ourselves into a full-scale Mokee Joe presentation with 240 lower KS2 pupils in the morning, and a repeat performance for upper KS2 in the afternoon. Exhausting, but well worth the effort! Both presentations went down a storm and by the end of the day it felt as if the entire school community had firmly established themselves as keen fans as well as being our very good friends!

But nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming experience of the book signing the next day!

Fortunately we had two amazing lady assistants to help organise and bring our willing fans to us to acquire books; a HUGE ‘thank you’ to Muntaz and Fariday – I don’t think we could have managed without you!

Lots of Space Buns in evidence at Uplands!MASSIVE ‘thank you’ to them); the book signing just went on and on and we couldn’t have managed without them. The Molly Space Buns hairstyle was also in evidence and this just added to the fun of the event.

We lost count of the books I signed, but it must rank as one of the biggest signings I can remember. Kath and I made a point of speaking to every child and it should be pointed out that every pupil without exception was a delight to talk to…polite, friendly and VERY enthusiastic.

The whole two days we spent at Uplands passed only too quickly and we’re so grateful to Mrs Carlisle for inviting us there. We’re already planning to be back in September, and quite frankly, it can’t come soon enough. Hope everyone at Uplands has a lovely break over Easter and please keep in touch until we see you again.

PJM (and Kath with a ‘K’)

BLOWN AWAY AT ST BARTS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on April 2nd, 2022 2:51 pm Comments Off on BLOWN AWAY AT ST BARTS!

It was with some trepidation that we visited our lovely granddaughter’s school down in Newbury, Berkshire! The last thing we, or our granddaughter, wanted was an author visit that didn’t come up to expectation! That would have resulted in diminished ‘street cred’ in both parties!

We needn’t have worried!

The presentation at St Bartholomew’s School (affectionately known as St Barts) to around 270 Year 7’s and around 60 Year 6’s from nearby St Nic’s and John Rankin primary schools, went down a storm! The audience were brilliant – one hundred percent attentive and always interacting wonderfully at all the right moments. By the end of the presentation, our granddaughter had no worries about being related to the author and was even brave enough to take a stand so that the audience could see who she was!

The next day there was a real ‘buzz’ in the library as around 100 Year 7’s queued to acquire signed copies of the books. What really

           Space Buns everywhere!

impressed us was the way that some of the older students rallied round to assist as our ‘Mokee Joe fans’ waited patiently in the line. The other thing that really impressed us was the number of Year 7 girls who had adopted the ‘Molly-character ‘Space Buns’ hairstyle. They all looked amazing and I felt so proud that so many girls had gone to the trouble! MASSIVE THANKS! We took a fab photo of the girls and as soon as I  get the go ahead I will include it in this blog. Watch this space!

       Great workshop with Year 7

Book signing over, it was straight into a workshop with around 20 Year 7’s, starting first with a Q and A session, followed by a writing challenge to create a character of their own. The real challenge was to SHOW us the character by describing how that character behaved in a dramatic scene, rather than TELLING us directly about the character. Molly, in the Mokee Joe series was used as a good example. Once more the pupils reacted brilliantly and threw themselves (not literally!) into their writing tasks. We hope to see some of their finished work in the near future, but the signs were good. Some of the Year 7’s (in fact most of them!) were only too keen to read out their work-in-progress.

Kath and I felt genuinely sad to leave St Barts after such a fabulous couple of days and we cant thank the pupils and staff enough. Needless to say we intend to return before too long, and there is currently discussion underway to embark on something along the lines of forming a stronger link with the school. But you will have to wait on that one ( SUSPENSE is my favourite word).

  • Final thanks to Mr Randall and to the librarians Ms Hewetson (and her assistant, Caroline), for all of their help and brilliant organisation of our visit.

Hope you all enjoy the books, have a great end to the term and a very happy Easter.

PJM

OOOH…ECK(INGTON)!

This post was written by peterjmurray on March 20th, 2022 11:46 am Comments Off on OOOH…ECK(INGTON)!

Dare you enter the world of Mokee Joe!

Following World Book Week, it was off to not-so-far-away Eckington to meet up with a large audience of Year 7’s at Eckington High School. Helen, the lovely librarian, was there to greet us and before long we were in action telling the life-changing story of how I became an author and created the infamous Mokee Joe. The pupils were great and I was quite moved to get a cheer at the end – hopefully because they enjoyed it and not because they’d had enough! We were so taken up with the response that we made an on the spot decision to donate half of the book sales the following day to the Ukraine appeal. Having such a good life as we do, visiting lots of great schools and meeting so many nice people, only accentuates the misery of those poor people out in Ukraine suddenly finding themselves homeless and destitute! It’s therefore pleasing to report that the book-signing was a huge success and a very significant sum of money was left at the school towards the appeal. Thanks to everyone at Eckington School for looking after us so well and responding to our visit in such a positive way. Hope the Year 7’s enjoy the books!

     Great time at Holme Hall Primary

Next port of call…Holme Hall Primary School in Chesterfield. Wow! This cosy small school

New record – TEN girls with the Molly ‘Space Buns’ hairstyle!

was so keen for our return visit and to say we had a great time again is an understatement. The one-form entry audience really enjoyed the presentation, including the Year 6’s who had seen a similar Mokee Joe presentation back in the day when they were in Year 3! The book signing the next day was tremendous, with Years 3 to 5 keen to acquire signed copies of the books, and Year 6 equally keen to top up their supply from those they already had. Thanks to all the staff and pupils at this lovely school and we hope to be back with our Bonebreaker presentation next year (Already requested! Great!)

Finally for the week, it was back to Eckington, but this time to Eckington Junior School, old friends of ours! We’ve always loved our visits to this school and this trip proved no exception. In fact, I would say that this was one of our best visits to date! The MJ (not Michael Jackson!) presentation went down a storm and we had a fab time at the book signing the next day; so many girls were inspired to appear with the Molly ‘Space Buns’ hairstyle! The current record of SIX girls with the hairstyle at Sheffield Girls High School was smashed, with no fewer than TEN girls adopting the style here at EJS.

Pete with teacher and former pupil, Jade

Just to make me feel old, we met up with one of the teachers, Jade, who told me she’d already got some signed copies of the Mokee Joe books from when she’d been a pupil at the school during one of my visits some year ago! Well, she enjoyed the new presentation, and I’m pleased to say that she quickly acquired the later books to complete the series!

Big ‘thank you’ to Kirsty, Jade, Mrs Cherry and all of the staff for being such good hosts. Hope to be back next year!

PJM

A BLISTERING WORLD BOOK WEEK!

This post was written by peterjmurray on March 6th, 2022 5:23 pm Comments Off on A BLISTERING WORLD BOOK WEEK!

We decided to visit local schools close to our South Yorkshire base for World Book Week, and what better schools than Sheffield Girls High School, and Birkdale Prep School…both in the Broomhill area of Sheffield and right in the heart of the University ‘buzz’ zone!

It  was also a return to roots for me and Kath, as Kath was born and brought up on good old ‘Ecky Road’, and places like the Botanical Gardens, The Nursery Tavern and other localities stand firm in my memory of when we were going out together.

Kath with Katherine (after the transformation!)

Kath with Katherine (before the transformation)

A friend of ours, Katherine Russell, is the librarian at the Girls High School. She used to be in charge of children’s books at Waterstones in the nearby Meadowhall Shopping Centre, and she has always been an enthusiastic supporter of our books. It was great to link up with her again…and didn’t she look great in her World Book Day outfit! She was more than embarrassed when I told her she looked rather fetching in it! Well, we had a great time with the girls from Years 4 through to 7. They packed into the senior school hall and proved a very enthusiastic audience for our presentation. Lots of girls queued up around Katherine’s lovely library to acquire signed books the next day and I have to say we were a bit reluctant to leave after having had such a great time. We will be back!

After having a very busy time in and around the locality, it was Birkdale Prep School next, very close the Girls School. The audience of around 100 boys and just five girls (they’ve recently gone Co-ed), were dressed as their favourite book characters for

Lots of fab ‘Molly Space Buns’ at Sheffield Girls High

Lovely librarian ‘Becky Poppins’ at Birkdale Prep

World Book Day. And what a day we had! The lovely Mary Poppins (AKA Becky the Librarian), could not do enough for us to make sure our visit on this very special day was ‘special’. The audience went crazy for the Mokee Joe presentation and I’ve a feeling that next year this fab school will have one or two Mokee Joe characters turning into school on the big day! Just to make the day even more special, one of the boys was called Hudson, after the name of the super hero in the Mokee Joe series. In my 17 years as an author, I’ve only met three Hudsons and one of those was whilst we were working in New York. Hudson embraced his sudden rise to fame and queued up with his peers the next day to acquire a full set of books. Good luck, Hudson. You’re going to need it!

Ethan and Brogyn, two World Book Day stars!

Thanks to all staff and pupils at both schools for giving us such a good time and fond memories

Alfie (like George, his brother) wearing an amazing ‘Mokee Joe Book 4 Hat’ at Rockingham Primary

for sure of a World Book Week when so many of us need something positive to focus on with so much distressing news surrounding us all today. As I always remind the pupils in front of us, reading is such a great way to let your imagination run loose and allow your imagination to run loose; a great means of escape from the harsh reality that sometimes surrounds us.

Meanwhile, it turned out that our last school on the Isle of Wight before leaving for the North, Queensgate Primary, had totally embraced the Mokee Joe books and two ‘stars’ of World Book Day at the school, Ethan and Brogyn, are are shown in the pic. Don’t they look great!

I also happened to notice on my Twitter page, some lovely pics from lots of schools I’ve visited recently, in particular lovely group photos at Conyers High School, in Yarm, lots of Molly hairstyles at Sheffield Girls High, two fab top hats being worn at Rockingham Primary in Kimberworth, Rotherham…the list goes on! MASSIVE THANK YOU’S TO YOU ALL.

Book lovers at Conyers High School with copies of Ten O’ Clock Caller

PJM

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