BACK IN THE SWING!!

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 14th, 2022 7:43 pm Comments Off on BACK IN THE SWING!!

We have had the most amazing few days at Pheasant Bank Academy and Mary Swanwick Primary School. It’s been nothing short of fantastic and to say that Kath and I now feel well and truly back into the swing of things is an understatement!

Beautiful Display at Pheasant Bank Academy

Pheasant Bank Academy holds a special place for us (and always will!). It’s where we were inspired to write my POPPY WARRIOR book, and it was great to see that the display boards in the school are still testament to this fact. The headteacher at that time was Mrs Pippa Robinson (a very good friend of ours); she has now moved on to Serlby Park Academy where we visited recently. Her successor as Head to Pheasant Bank is another good friend, Mr Ryan Schofield (both he and Mrs Robinson are real characters in the book). On this visit we decided to present the Mokee Joe books to Years 5 and 6. To make the visit even more interesting, our son, Simon, the author of Icky Doo Dah, visited Years 3 and 4 on the same day. WOW! The Murrays well and truly took over the school for the day and Mr Schofield and his staff hosted us like true VIP’s. A massive ‘thank you’ to them all. The pupils at the school are devoted fans to our books, and the subsequent book signings seemed to take forever! But no one is complaining! This is what authors like me need to inspire more writing and more visits. Keen fans like the Pheasant Bank pupils are our ‘bread and butter’!

Some of the many highlights of the visit:

  1. The super-fast contact to my website by a super-fan, Teagan. I also replied super-fast, so the both of us were more than super-pleased!
  2. Will we ever forget Max! He was so keen to get his hands on a Mokee Joe book 1 translated into Spanish, that he went home and wrote out and practised giving me some nice complements for my work in Spanish! How could I refuse signing the Spanish version of book 1 after that. WELL DONE, MAX!
  3. One of the teachers commented on a boy sat in a quiet corner of the playground reading the first Mokee Joe book in the full set of books he’d just purchased. The teacher told us that the boy in question does not normally have any interest in books and reading! How special is that!!

Thanks to everyone again at Pheasant Bank Academy. We WILL be back!!

From Pheasant Bank Academy, it was quickly off and onto the M1 heading south for Chesterfield. Our newly-acquired Scabbajack

Tight Covid restrictions at Mary Swanwick Primary!

and Dawn Demons fans were waiting with baited breath to get their hands on signed copies of the books. We love visiting Mary Swanwick Primary. Apart from the school being haunted and and providing added inspiration for my Poppy Warrior book, the pupils are great lovers of my spooky scary books and very brave in going for what I consider to be the two scariest books of the 17 books I’ve written. Very brave!

We signed loads of books and just in time for the weekend so that these keen pupils could bury their heads in them! I was so touched when one girl told me that she’d set the timer on her watch to count down the time to me being back to sign a book for her. That is such a complement. Who says that kids these days are not interested in books! Try telling her that!

Big thanks to all of the lovely staff, and especially to Miss Law for hosting us. We will keep in touch and be back before long. We’ve already pencilled in a Bonebreaker presentation for the not-too-distant future. See you all soon.

PJM

MOKEE JOE GOES VIRTUAL!

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 11th, 2022 5:48 pm Comments Off on MOKEE JOE GOES VIRTUAL!

Hi Everyone!

Did you have a good Christmas…and hopefully virus free??

Well, it’s good to be back with you again. A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL…from me and Kath. We sincerely hope the Covid situation will ease (as it was doing before Christmas!!) and that we will be back with you before too long. I can’t tell you how much we miss being with you in your lovely schools!

Since my last blog after arriving on the Isle of Wight, we returned to Bembridge Primary School and had an amazing book signing. Just about everyone in the school went crazy to get signed copies of the books. Wow! Such big fans at this lovely school. We will be returning very soon to cover books 4 to 6 of the Mokee Joe series and look forward to being back with our good friend Mrs Chambers (Head teacher), and hopefully, once again, to ‘wow’ our KS2 audience!

Currently, we’re back in our Northern base in South Yorkshire, visiting schools in and around Rotherham/Chesterfield. This morning I did a ‘remote’ presentation in the school hall at Roughwood Primary School. I wasn’t sure how well it would work. You can imagine standing in an empty hall in front of a giant TV screen and talking to it is to say the least  a ‘strange’ experience! The head teacher, Mr Williams, and the ‘techno expert’ , Callum, were fantastic in helping me set up and it all worked a treat. After the Mokee Joe presentation I went round each of the six KS2 classes to meet them face to face and to challenge them to answer a few questions based on the presentation. I couldn’t believe just how much info they’d all absorbed and remembered! Well done to all of them!

Tomorrow I’m presenting my Scabbajack book to the pupils of Mary Swanwick Primary in Chesterfield, before returning to Roughwood Primary to do a book signing (not virtual!!) I can’t wait to see them all again…they are lovely pupils and most of them live on the same housing estate I was brought up on…Kimberworth Park. How special is  that!

Keep watching this space. I’m going to update with more info an pics as they come in. See you soon.

PJM

BACK ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 24th, 2021 3:32 pm Comments Off on BACK ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT

Kath and I love spending time on this wonderful island. I’ve been coming to the IOW ever since I was a young child and have always been captivated by it’s strange atmosphere of history and timelessness. It’s the ideal place to inspire the writing of my creepy stories. In fact, I’ve already started a new compilation of spooky tales set in various locations around the isle. But that’s all I’m prepared to say about it for now. ‘Watch this space,’ as they say!

    Mokee Joe strikes again!!

Right now, I’m taken up with Bembridge Primary School. It’s new to me and Kath, but the headteacher is an old friend (not really old!) and her name is Mrs Chambers. We’ve worked together several times at her old school (again…not really old!) at Broadlea Primary. This morning I performed my dramatic Mokee Joe presentation, but only focussing on the trilogy of the first three books. I’m pleased about that, because it gives me a chance to return and present books 4,5 amd 6. Bembridge Primary is a school that any author would be glad to return to!

Today’s audience of Years 4,5 and 6 were a joy to perform in front of.  They were soooooooo enthusiastic and keen to join in at every opportunity, and presenting just the first three books gave

         Kath with a new friend!

me more time to interact with the audience. We had some real laughs as pupils came on stage and helped bring to life several of the story’s dramatic scenes – especially the part where Hudson meets Mokee Joe for the first time in the local supermarket. That was a scream!  We can’t wait to return tomorrow to sign books for our new fans.

In between school visits we love to visit all our favourite haunts around the island. We called in to Ventnor recently to the Spy Glass Inn. I love the atmosphere in this old ‘smugglers’ inn; it’s crammed full of all manner of marine artefacts. But Kath always seems to get drawn into meeting up with some of the old sailors. The guy in the picture was so big I hardly dare challenge him when he insisted on buying Kath a drink!

PJM

BACK WITH A BANG!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 13th, 2021 10:51 am Comments Off on BACK WITH A BANG!

Since returning from the Isle of Man, our feet have hardly touched the ground!

Two days at Serlby Park Academy, a visit to Willoughby Road Primary, and visits to very local schools  – Willow Primary School, Hooton Pagnall Primary, Wath Victoria Primary and finally to West Melton PrimaryPhew!

Pete with his great friend, the REAL Miss Robinson!

Our great friend, Miss Robinson, welcomed us into Serlby Park Academy to perform POPPY WARRIOR, first to a KS2 audience, followed by a presentation to Years 7 to 9 in KS3. With Remembrance Day just around the corner, the WW1-themed book was more than appropriate and both audiences embraced the topic totally. The audiences loved the fact that many of the characters in the story are real teachers at the real Pheasant Bank Academy…including their own Headteacher, Miss Robinson, who was Head at Pheasant Bank at the time of writing…Though it has

Poppy scarves in abundance at Serlby Park Academy!

to be said that the real Mr Schofield stole the show again, the image of his glaring expression creating spookiness and humour at the same time! A big ‘thank you’ to all at Serlby Park Academy for hosting us so well over our time there, and I would like to add that the older KS3 audience were one of the most attentive audiences I can remember…a real credit to this lovely school.

It was off to another Delta School next to visit our friends at Willoughby Road Primary Academy in ‘Sunny Scunthorpe’. And it really was the most glorious sunny day! The only problem was the sun glaring through the car windscreen as we headed east along the M180! But we made it safely and another KS2 audience were once more taken up by our POPPY WARRIOR presentation in a packed hall. Mrs Jupp and her lovely staff looked after us in their usual VERY hospitable way and each and every one of the pupils were a pleasure to be with. The book signing the next day saw so many signed copies of the books passing into eager hands. We also got some great feed back including some inspired work from several of the pupils. Thank you to everyone at the school for giving us such a brilliant second visit. We can’t wait to be back again. I really do need to get on with the next book!

Pete at Willow Primary, sitting by amazing entrance display.

Schools almost on our doorstep were next in line. First local visit was to Willow Primary and a return to Mokee Joe! I have to say that I still get most pleasure from performing this spooky presentation of my first ever book! It creates such a ‘buzz’, especially when I don my Mokee Joe outfit and chase some very brave KS2 pupil around the school hall! A large audience of Years 4 and 5 were totally taken up by the ‘Mokee Joe Experience’ and by the end of the performance it seemed we had recruited a new small army of MJ fans! This was certainly borne out the following day when we ran out

         Great story from Dusty

of MJ books during a hectic book-signing. But at least it gave us an excuse to return a few days later to sign more books for the rest of our new fans. In addition to the MJ response, this school has totally embraced my books, and in particular, Bonebreaker. I can’t remember seeing so much book-inspired work produced from so many keen KS2 pupils. It was touching to say the least to see a wonderful picture of one of the pupils (Arthur), dressed up as the ferocious Sigard the Bonebreaker on the school’s Viking Day. I was also presented with a short book by Dusty (love the name), and I’ve included a pic of her work here because it was so neat and well-presented.  ‘Well Done’ to everyone at the Willow Primary – fab staff and fab pupils creating a real reading culture in their lovely school.

Lovely Willoughby Road POPPY WARRIOR -inspired work

Three more local visits followed to Hooton Pagnall Primary (very difficult to find!), Wath

Erynne from Year 5 at Wath Victoria gave me her exciting book to read – GREAT!

Victoria Primary (very hard car park to get into) and West Melton Primary. These three schools are all members of the James Montgomery Academy Trust and I have to say that there was a great feeling of ‘togetherness’ in each of the schools between staff and pupils. We thorough enjoyed presenting POPPY WARRIOR to three extremely attentive and willing KS2 audiences. I would also like to add that I was flattered to be invited to Wath Victoria on the day of their OFSTED inspection. They had complete confidence in me as I stood before a large 2-form entry audience, including a very ominous OFSTED inspector. Thankfully, all went more than well and I’ve heard that the gentlemen in question was taken up with the WW1-themed book (it turned out he was a historian…phew!) It was also special to be presenting the POPPY WARRIOR story during the actual week of remembrance. In fact, the presentation at West Melton was on Remembrance Day, the finish being just ten minutes before the eleven-o-clock two minutes silence. We still have to do our book signing here on Monday next (can’t wait to see them all again) and then we’re almost done until after Christmas.  Just one more school on the Isle of Wight would you believe!

But what a time we’ve had. So many great schools and hoards of KS2 pupils keen to work with us on our literacy-inspired visits.

Like I said earlier…I really do need to get on with the next book!

PJM

REELING ON THE ISLE OF MAN

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 31st, 2021 6:16 pm Comments Off on REELING ON THE ISLE OF MAN

Kath and I are actually ‘reeling’ from the success of our fabulous Isle of Man tour. As if the first week wasn’t brilliant enough, our second week was just as fab!

Amazing IOM scenery at White Beach, Niarbyl

A ‘mind-blowing’ second visit to David Jenkin’s Bunscoill Rhumsaa, followed by thoroughly enjoyable visits to St John’s Primary, Marown Primary and our last visit of the tour to Cronk-y-Berry School. In between our visits, our good friends, Karen and Rob Riley, took us out to explore some of the amazing places on the island, including White Beach, at Niarbyl, and a ‘wallaby-spotting’ excursion to a nearby nature reserve. Previous attempts to find wallabies had failed and we wondered if we were ‘victims’ of some bizarre Manx joke! But no! On this occasion, Karen found us TWO wallabies and I even managed to capture a pic of one on my phone – though it seems only I can see it!

One or two spooky events took place during our second-week visits:

  1. I randomly chose a boy and a girl to play the Palmer twins in the POPPY WARRIOR story. It turned out they were brother and

        Fab audience at Bunscoill Rhumsaa

    sister.

  2. At Marown School, a big bird suddenly appeared at a window high up in the hall where I was presenting. The bird pecked on the glass seemingly to attract our attention to it.
  3. One school reported hearing mysterious footsteps in the corridors and a smell of pipe tobacco – just as in the story I was relating. Which school? It’s a secret between me and the headteacher! We don’t want to scare the pupils!

Maximus and Lily – REAL twins at Cronk-y-Berry School

Every one of our EIGHT school visits was an absolute joy! Staff were so welcoming and the pupils were friendly and polite (and more than enthusiastic!) without exception. It really does inspire hope in this world of ours, which constantly gives the impression that everything is ‘doom and gloom’. All that Kath and I can say is that if these masses of KS2 pupils are our hope and inspiration for tomorrow, then they surely must be REAL hope for everyone. (Sorry to get carried away, but it needs saying!)

It makes me really proud to thinks that so many pupils on the Isle of Man are currently engaged in reading my book, and even prouder is the fact that they are reading it is a real tribute to all of those brave WW1 soldiers who gave their today for our tomorrow…as the words on the wall of Cronk-y-Berry school proclaimed.

Hope you had a great ‘HOP TU NAA‘ on the island and see you all again…but not such a long wait this time.

PJM

BACK ON BROADWAY ( ISLE OF MAN!)

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 13th, 2021 4:11 pm Comments Off on BACK ON BROADWAY ( ISLE OF MAN!)

              Back on Broadway!

We’re back!! Kath and I can hardly believe we’re finally back at one of most favourite places on the planet – the Isle of Man. Thankfully, our boat crossing from Heysham to Douglas was very smooth and completely without incident – a great start! We chilled out the following day in our wonderful accommodation on Douglas seafront. Our good friend, Paula Noble, did us proud in allowing us to stay in her luxury flat in Broadway. Yes…Broadway. But a long way from New York!

On Monday, we launched into our school visits to Dhoon, Michael and Laxey schools.

     A Dhoon School reader called Reda!!

…And what a start. Our good friends, Max Kelly and Karen Riley, gave us a great Manx welcome and ensured that our first few days passed without a hitch. The new book – POPPY WARRIOR – had all of the pupils hooked with its ghostly theme of two identical Year 5  twins (Josh and Jess) being haunted by their Great great grandfather – a casualty of World War 1.

So many lovely things happened during our presentations, including meeting a year 6 boy who just had to be a keen reader, called Reda, (pronounced ‘reader’)! An expert technician who helped us with our first set up, called  Ruadhan – a big thank you to him!  And we thoroughly enjoyed the help of our young actors and actresses, playing Josh and Jess, Inara and Mika, Bonnie and Evan and Daisy and Daniel (who actually looked like identical twins). A MASSIVE ‘thank you’ to them all…they were brilliant!

More lovely events followed:

  1. Chilling out at The Shed in old Laxey Harbour

    After a great presentation to our first BIG audience at Laxey school, and an even BIGGER book signing, Kath and I made our way down to the Laxey Harbour and discovered ‘The Shed’…a great beach-side cafe with fab sea views, and even more-fab coffee! We love this little place!

  2. We received a clutch of very well-written and complementary letters from the Year 5’s at

         Pete with Yr 5 Michael letters

    Michael School, saying how much they had enjoyed our visit. Needless to say, their letters are going home with us and will be saved as a memory of our latest IOM visit.

  3. Bunscoill Rhumsaa Junior School re-united us with so many ‘old friends’ (not so old, really!) and the POPPY WARRIOR presentation went down a blast with our biggest audience to date – no less than 8 classes of Yrs  3 to 6. Jacob and Halley played the parts of Josh and Jess and the audience were more than keen to join in the interactive parts of the presentation. One young boy really amused me by asking me if I was Icky Doo Dah’s dad!! I hope he was really referring to Simon, our son, who I’m told does have a strong resemblance to me!

Oh well…that’s all for now. A relaxing and recharging time over the weekend, before four more presentations planned for next week. If the week ahead goes half as well as last week, Kath and I will be more than pleased. Watch this space, as they say!

PJM

KNARESBOROUGH TO ISLE OF MAN!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 11th, 2021 5:18 pm Comments Off on KNARESBOROUGH TO ISLE OF MAN!

Just prior to our long-awaited trip to the Isle of Man, we had a more local visit lined up to Aspin Park Academy in Knaresborough.

         Kath and I love Knaresborough

Aspin Park Academy proved to be a most wonderful 2-form entry primary school. The staff and pupils greeted us like old friends and we were soon in front of our first audience, around 120 year 5 and 6 pupils. To say they were enthusiastic would be an understatement! They quickly fell under the spell of Mokee Joe and launched

   Mokee Joe strikes again!

themselves into the presentation with great interaction and gusto! One girl volunteered to be chased by the 7-foot tall monster and it turned out it was her 10th birthday! I feel sure it was a birthday she’ll never forget. All in all, great fun, and just as satisfying was a repeat performance to a similar number of year 3 and 4 pupils in the afternoon. Will we ever forget the image of tiny Rosie (year 3), standing beneath the imposing figure of Mokee Joe complete with his huge boots! A HUGE thank you to Ms Robertson and Ms Selway for all their help and their highly efficient organisation in making the day pass so well for us. At the end of our lovely visit we stayed over at an inn we know  in not-to-far away Darley (I used to teach at a school nearby), and returned the next day to do a MAMMOTH book signing. Wow! So many eager readers! Hope everyone is enjoying the books and we hope to see you again…so many more books to tell you about!

PJM

HAPPY (ECSTATIC) IN HEXHAM!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 6th, 2021 7:23 pm Comments Off on HAPPY (ECSTATIC) IN HEXHAM!

  Kath and Leonie – Great team!

After a more-than-successful visit to Ovingham Middle School, it was ‘all guns blazing’ as we made our way up the road to our old friends at the newly located Hexham Middle School. Our two hosts for the next couple of days were our good friend, Ms Roff, and the newly-appointed Ms Hayler (or as we prefer to call her – Leonie the lovely librarian (great alliteration!).

The first presentation was to a large number of KS2 pupils and the Mokee Joe series was our chosen subject. It was nice to meet pupils who had no previous experience of us and hence I found myself launching into the spooky character’s misgivings with perhaps even more gusto than usual. I feel sure that being ‘inactive’ for such a long time due to the dreaded Covid virus, also caused an upsurge in energy levels  throughout the performance!

Well, evidence of our impact was certainly borne out the following day during the book-signing. I

            New start – New school!

can’t remember so many new fans coming on board in one go! The KS3 pupils proved just as enthusiastic and seemed more than ‘hooked’ on our Scabbajack and PS13 books – again queuing around the walls of the new library waiting to acquire signed copies of the spooky narratives.

No wonder Kath and I love coming to this school! Everything was so organised (thank you, Ms Roff – again!!) and what with the new building (and brand new library), we hope to return here indefinitely. A special ‘thank-you’ to Ms Tyler for all her help. We would have struggled to cope during the extensive book-signing without her.

See you all again soon. Hope the new school lives up to its expectations. It’s looking more than impressive!

PJM

WE’RE BACK!!

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 28th, 2021 5:11 pm Comments Off on WE’RE BACK!!

Great Bonebreaker drawing presented to me by Eadie in Year 4

I can’t believe we’re back! School bookings are now rolling in and we have over 20 school visits in place over the next few months.

First of our return visits to schools was to the wonderful Ovingham Middle School. To say the pupils (and staff) are fans of ours is surely an understatement! What a welcome from Ms Quinn and the school community. The two books I spoke about to Years 4,5 and 6 were Bonebreaker and Dawn Demons. Around 200 pupils made up our enthusiastic audience, and as usual, pupils clamoured to take part in the action, taking up theatrical parts of the main characters in the stories. Wilfrid and Dunstan – the 2 Saxon boys, and Billy and Calum, the ‘today’ heroes of the stories, were brought vividly to life by young actors and actresses from Years 5 and 6. After fun and thrills with Bonebreaker, Year 4 returned to class to leave the slightly older (and braver?) Years 5 and 6 to face the wrath of the Dawn Demons! Cries of OOHH, AHHH, ERGHH and WOW rang around the hall as some of Billy and Calum’s terrifying encounters with the demon dollies were described.

An early sketch of a Dawn Demon by my cover artist, Paul Bryn Davies

OVINGHAM BOOK SIGNING: WOW! Nothing prepared us for the response to the previous day’s presentation. Almost every Year

4 purchased a signed copy of Bonebreaker, and almost everyone of Years 5 and 6 eagerly acquired their own personal copies of Bonebreaker and Dawn Demons. The queues of excited pupils snaked around the walls of Ms Quinn’s fabulous library and I don’t think we would have coped without the amazing help of her library ambassadors, Sam, Alexis and Thamyra. BIG thanks to those three girls from me and Kath. We enquired about employing them for our further school visits, but Ms Quinn was having none of it!

All in all, this was probably our best visit to Ovingham Middle School, but it seems we say that every time! We are already looking forward to being back again. Hope to see you all again before too long!

PJM

THE BIG RESTART!

This post was written by peterjmurray on July 29th, 2021 12:48 pm Comments Off on THE BIG RESTART!

Hi to all our fans! Yes…we’re still here, itching to get back into doing what we like best – getting into schools and exciting pupils re literacy, our books, and of course…all things spooky!  And dare we say that September may be the restart that we’ve been so long hoping for!

A good few schools have already booked for long-overdue visits, including our fave schools on the Isle of Man, schools in Northumberland, and more recently the Delta Academy Trust schools for which I’m still proud to be their Patron of Reading.

Spooky tree in spooky spot on the Isle of Wight

We’ve used much of the lockdown period to buy and upgrade a new house in Yorkshire, but also, more recently, to seek out a second home on the Isle of Wight. Keen fans will know that we’ve always felt a strong connection with the island; over the years I’ve been inspired by its historical atmosphere and spooky nooks and crannies to come up with some great ideas for my writing. Kath and I love it there, and we intend to spend much more time on the island…so watch this space!

I’m very pleased to say that our grandchildren, Will and Liz, have finally

Kath with Lizzie (our new Mokee Joe fan!)

reached an age where they are no longer too scared to read my books! Liz is 11 years old and has just ended her time at primary school. She is well into my Mokee Joe books  – currently on book 4 and loving it. Will is 7 years old and prefers to quiz me about what happens in my books rather than taking time to read them! He is obsessed with the Moonwailer book and got very upset when I put on a really scary werewolf mask and chased him around the garden – ha ha!

GRRR…!

Oh well…I’ll close for now. The phone’s just rang and another school has booked for next term. West Melton Primary in my hometown. Can’t wait! Enjoy the rest of the term and we’ll hope to see you soon. Keep on reading…and writing too if you’re in the mood for it.

PJM

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