LIVING BY THE WALL!

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 30th, 2018 6:13 pm Comments Off on LIVING BY THE WALL!

After visiting two great local Berkshire schools, Spurcroft Primary in Thatcham and Springfield Primary in Reading, Kath and I headed back up the A1 to Hexham. We moved into a 300 year-old cottage in the appropriately named village of Wall, just a short distance from the famous Hadrian’s Wall. As soon as we arrived the weather changed and gale force winds buffeted our cottage and moaned down the chimney during the night…what a great spooky start!

         Pete outside Church Cottage in Wall

Never mind! Two great days followed in Hexham Middle School, one day working with Years 7 and 8, and a second day with Years 5 and 6. We performed a full-blown Mokee Joe presentation, presenting my very first book (Mokee Joe is Coming!) right through to the new and final Mokee Joe book (Scourge of the Emirates). Both key stages seemed taken up with the Mokee Joe story and sat extremely attentively whilst I entertained and enthused them. It was also great to show them the first book in Spanish and Japanese, and very satisfying to present a copy of the Spanish book to a Spanish girl in the audience, Ayala. She and her family sent us a lovely card afterwards expressing their gratitude. Usual great thanks to our lovely Hexham friend, Ms Roff…she always spoils us and organises everything so efficiently. We’ve already invited her around to our cottage in Wall for tea and cake…she never refuses!

After signing lots of books for our Hexham Middle School fans, Kath and I spent the weekend as tourists, visiting some of the local attractions….Hexham Abbey, The Sill visitors’ centre on Hadrian’s Wall, other locations along the wall…and of course being dragged into the shops with Kath striding out in front of me…M&S, Beales, Waitrose, Tesco and lots of coffee shops!

St Joseph’s RC Middle School was our next port of call and another good friend, Mrs Coulson, was waiting to greet us.

               Lovely library at St Joseph’s

We performed the ‘Mokee Joe Finale’ presentation again, in front of another big KS2 audience, and then again, the day after, at Ovingham Middle School. By Thursday, Kath and I were reciting the performance in our sleep! But every audience is different and the response is so enthusiastic that we never get bored! We met another delightful Spanish girl at Ovingham, Lucia, and presented her with a Spanish book. The next day she acquired a whole set in English…a true Mokee Joe fan to say the least! I must also mention that the Ovingham First School Year 4’s joined in with our presentation and sat for two hours completely rapt. During the subsequent signing, almost every one of them acquired books and were so thrilled to see us – so glad they joined in!

More presentations followed at nearby Corbridge Middle School  – Mokee Joe for KS2 and a Scabbajack/Dawn Demons presentation for KS3…all great spooky fun! Another Mokee Joe presentation at Ovingham for Years 6/7 and then it was wall-to-wall signings on the last weekday to complete the tour! PHEW!

Big thanks to Ms Quinn and Ms Watkins at Ovingham and Corbridge respectively…fab ‘hostesses with the mostest’ and to all the teachers and pupils in the Hexham area for giving us such a brilliant time.

We will be back!

PJM

DUKE OF KENT TAKEN BY STORM!

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 24th, 2018 5:26 pm Comments Off on DUKE OF KENT TAKEN BY STORM!

Kath and I chose to arrive at the Duke of Kent School, deep in the Surrey hills, from the relatively nearby town of Dorking. We travelled there on Sunday afternoon and stayed overnight in readiness for our school visit the following Monday morning. Thank goodness! The threatening weather forecast proved correct and we drove the 9 miles from our hotel in driving wind and rain along high-banked winding lanes, falling tree branches and even a lorry (victim of his GPS system) stuck in front of us! When we finally arrived in time for a warming breakfast with the staff, it took a large and strong cup of coffee to steady our nerves!

…All very worthwhile, though!

Without exception, every pupil and member of staff made us more than welcome.  And the day could not have passed better…and so quickly!  Assembly with the entire school followed by workshops with Years 3 to 8 (and even an unscheduled half hour chat to year 9), all proved a pleasure, the enthusiasm of the pupils making it all very easy and thoroughly enjoyable.

Alas, the long journey back to Newbury at the end of the day proved exhausting again…rain, sleet, snow and heavy traffic. However, the return journey the next day for the book signing could not have been easier! Bright sunshine, stunning scenery and quiet roads…my brain was starting to get confused about just where this school was situated. We signed loads and loads of books for our keen new fans and again it proved a great experience.

Thank you to Ms Anand for being such a caring and thoughtful hostess during our visit and our very best wishes to all at the school and good luck in the future, especially re all things literary. We are hoping to be back before too long, and maybe with or son and illustrator (Simon) in attendance. The Murrays may well try to take over!

Hope the weather stays kind to you all.

PJM

PERFECT AT PARKLANDS

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 12th, 2018 10:08 am Comments Off on PERFECT AT PARKLANDS

Kath and I were lucky enough to be invited to an ‘outstanding’ school in Leeds. One of the teachers, Ms Huby, had worked with us at Rawmarsh Rosehill in Rotherham, and since moving to Parklands Primary, she thought it would be good to invite us there.

…Well, we had a great time there presenting our Mokee Joe series to a more-than-enthusiastic audience of KS2 pupils. The headmaster, Mr Dyson, and all of his staff and pupils gave us a great welcome and by the time our morning session was over we felt reluctant to leave.

The next day we had a great book signing and stayed on for lunch.  Again, all went extremely well. During our time at Parklands we had some memorable events take place. Will we ever forget the look on Jiri’s (hope I’ve spelt it correctly) face as Mokee Joe homed in on him…pure terror!  Another great moment was meeting up with Callum…an author in the making, and it was a pleasure to read his book along with its great illustrations (Super D)!

Finally, a big thank you to Codie (I think with a ‘C’ and not a ‘K’) for being a lovely hostess to us during our lunch.

Since visiting this lovely school, Twitter has gone ‘mad’ and I’ve never seen so many tweets re our visit flying around …brilliant! Thank you, Mr Dyson. Hope to see you all again in September with more scary books and a scary presentation to go with them. In the meantime….keep on reading!

PJM

BIG CHRISTMAS FINALE

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 17th, 2017 5:53 pm Comments Off on BIG CHRISTMAS FINALE

Mokee Joe by Kai Poole (aged 10)

After launching the new Mokee Joe book 6 in South Yorkshire, on our return to our Southern base our first job was to call in to New Scotland Hill Primary in Sandhurst. This was a visit carried over from last term and our son, Simon, had raved on about it during a visit of his own. We soon found out why! It was a lovely school and our welcome couldn’t have been warmer.  Ms Brewer ensured that everything passed smoothly and a perfect presentation was followed by a perfect book signing. In fact the book signing was organised with military precision to levels never seen before! Fantastic! The KS2 pupils were really up for it and seemed inspired not only to read, but to produce work of their own. Hope you like the pic sent to me by Kai Poole….thanks Kai, you’re a star! And thanks to everyone at New Scotland Hill Primary – we hope to be back!

The following week, we headed back up North, where three more schools provided us with a perfect finish leading up to our Christmas break, the first being St Mary’s RC Primary School at nearby Edlington. Despite being close to our South Yorkshire base, it’s an area I don’t know very well. However, we were more than pleased to quickly discover that this smart, compact school was a hub of enthusiasm for our scary books and our Mokee Joe presentation was more than well-received. After walking down the road and spending lunch in Ollie’s café (well-recommended), we returned to work with the Year 6’s on our Ten O’ Clock Caller short story workshop and the afternoon passed all too quickly. A HUGE ‘thank you’ to all at St Mary’s for making us so welcome. We look forward to working with you again…can’t wait!

Second school of the week was to Rosehill Juniors in Rotherham, one of our most favourite and well-visited schools and big fans to say the least! As usual, Mr Wagstaffe, the Headteacher, was there to greet us and we were soon performing our Mokee Joe – Scourge of the Emirates performance to a packed hall. It was great fun donning my Mokee Joe outfit and chasing one of the unsuspecting Year 6’s, carefully dodging the Christmas tree and other festive decorations! We always sign a vast number of books the following day and this occasion proved no exception. Great reading school – great fans! Thanks again to Mr Wagstaffe and all of the staff and pupils. Hope the staff enjoy the biscuits we left for them and that Mr Wagstaffe didn’t scoff them all!

Our final school proved a brilliant choice – St Gerards RC Primary at Thrybergh – another location close to our Northern base. On our arrival we were astounded to see that the innovative Mr Drury had  rigged up his classroom and turned it into a pseudo TV studio with blackouts and backdrops and a screen already displaying my new Mokee Joe book….incredible!   With 62 KS2 pupils crammed into the space in front of us, we launched into a wonderful hour of scary literary fun and everyone had a great time to say the least.  Brilliant! This lovely school has a real family feel about it and we are proud to be a part of it…I really need to write more books so I have an excuse to get back again.

Ah well…that’s about it until 2018! What a great term working in so many fab schools. We are truly privileged! HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE AND SEE YOU AGAIN SOON.

(By the way…I’m working on a new book…ssshhhh!)

PJM

MOKEE JOE 6 LAUNCH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 20th, 2017 6:51 pm Comments Off on MOKEE JOE 6 LAUNCH!

Well, at last, the final Mokee Joe book is out! Without doubt it’s the most exciting and action-packed book of the series and it’s called: Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates….And where better than Dubai for the action to take place – including the final battle on top of the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa.

         Launched at last!

Our choice of location to launch the book was my home town of Rotherham, in South Yorkshire, to visit four schools there at the beginning of my author career, more years ago than I care to remember! Our son, Simon Murray, author and illustrator, chose to accompany us. Simon produces the amazing black and white, pen and ink drawings inside all the Mokee Joe books, as well as producing his own lovely picture books for the younger KS1 pupils, Icky Doo Dah (www.ickydoodah.com). Simon did a wonderful demonstrative art slot during each presentation before slipping away to enthuse and inspire KS1…this greatly added to the impact of our visit.

Roughwood Primary was our first choice of ‘launch pad’ for the new book…and what a choice it proved to be! We’ve been visiting this school for a great number of years and have fans spanning over several generations. The presentation took the audience right back to the start of the Mokee Joe series, introducing the main characters, Hudson, Molly and Ash, and following their horrific encounters with Mokee Joe through to the thrilling climax in the United Arab Emirates. We were astounded to learn how many of the pupils had been to Dubai for holidays…but none of the staff, alas! The book signing the next day was as popular as it always is…avid fans and avid readers lined up the length of the school hall, desperate to get their books and to have them signed. A big thanks to Mr Cadman and his staff for being so willing to take part in our ‘Mokee Joe Finale Tour.’ And of course, to all the pupils for being such supportive fans. Enjoy your trip to Dubai everyone – I promise that the book will definitely take you over there!

Our second school visit of the tour was to Northfield Lane Primary at Wickersley, situated very close to our Northern home. Since our last visit, around ten years ago, the school has acquired some interesting ‘pod-type’ buildings and we quickly got lost inside them, weaving our way along the warren-like corridors. Despite building work going on around us, the presentation was again well-received and by the end the pupils were definitely at ‘fever-pitch’! Another great book signing ensued the next day and books were also put aside for a number of excited Year 6’s, who had left for a residential trip prior to our arrival. Unfortunately, Simon didn’t get chance to weave his ‘Icky Doo Dah magic’ with KS1 at this school, but he has promised to get back before too long. After all, his Nan lives just around the corner and offers him a great place to stay!

Onto our third school – Anston Park Juniors. This was to provide our biggest KS2 audience of around 340 pupils.

The Burj Khalifa – the final battle!

We played to a packed hall and once again enthused our audience to ‘Mokee Joe hysteria’! During each of the presentations, I dressed myself up as the infamous Mokee Joe monster and chased a brave and willing volunteer across the hall. I was amazed how fast my victims sprinted back to their place (and safety!) and even more amazed how fast I moved…there’s still life in the old man yet! As per usual, the headteacher, Mrs Bartholomew, and the deputy, Mr French, immediately capitalised on our visit and launched follow-up work and competitions based on the my books along with Simon’s illustrations. The subsequent book signing just about broke all records and I’m sure must qualify for a Guiness Book of Records entry for the most books signed by an author in one session. We had to return the next morning to finish off and then spent the rest of the day recovering from the experience! Thanks once again to everyone at this delightful school…and I mean everyone. We just love our visits!

Final visit of the week was to Reignhead Primary in Beighton, near Sheffield. We chose this school because it was one of the first and most pleasant of the schools we visited right at the beginning of my author career. Well…Kath and Simon and I are pleased to report that Reignhead is just as pleasant and as nice a place to visit as it ever was! Yet another great presentation well-received and the book signing produced its very own ‘Black Friday’ experience at the end of school the next day. Will we ever forget the boy I chased wearing my Mokee Joe outfit and him with a plaster cast on his broken leg hidden beneath his trousers! And he still managed to outsprint me…incredible!

Well…what an amazing week! The launch could not have gone better. The Rotherham Advertiser also did me proud with great coverage of the new book and a competition launch on their Captain Jack page with six copies of the new book up for grabs. You may wish to check it out!

Time to rest and recharge now…more schools to visit before Christmas…and more Mokee Joe victims to terrorise in the school hall. Ha ha….

PJM

MORE HIGHS AT DENBIGH HIGH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 5th, 2017 1:59 pm Comments Off on MORE HIGHS AT DENBIGH HIGH!

Our last school visit before a short break was with our good friends at Denbigh High School in Luton.

It proved to be another very tiring, but fulfilling day, working with Year 7’s in the morning and two workshops in the afternoon. The presentation centred around the Scabbajack and Kruschmeister books and was very well received – the audience a little on the quiet side at first, but by the end of the presentation bubbling with excitement and definitely in a mood for Halloween (that very night!)

Workshops involved guests from the nearby Linslade Middle School and they joined in brilliantly, pupils from each school coming up with some very professional story writing in line with the task I gave them. I never cease to be amazed by the talented young writers out there. They fill me full of hope (as well as fear of impending competition!).

Once again we really enjoyed our time at Denbigh High School. It is easy to see why this school has been classified as ‘outstanding’. Thank you so much to Amy Lane and her team for all of the wonderful hospitality we received.

Hope you survived Halloween after my visit!

PJM

HIGH SCHOOL HALLOWEEN HIGHS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 4th, 2017 5:16 pm Comments Off on HIGH SCHOOL HALLOWEEN HIGHS!

      Halloween display at St Peter’s

As Halloween approached rapidly, Kath and I made our way to one of favourite schools in Huntingdon,Cambridgeshire – St Peter’s. I have been Patron of Reading at this wonderful school over the past year and enjoyed

Well done, Lisa! You can almost feel the heat!

every minute of it. The object of the exercise was to build an author/school relationship to enthuse reading and inspire writing and from what we have seen during our visits I think between all of us we’ve more than realised our objectives.

After an earlier flooding disaster in the lovely library, the amazing librarians, Rachel and Lisa, had somehow got everything back in order for our recent visit. Moreover, Lisa had put together a stunning artificial camp fire decoration in the centre of the library floor for my 90+ Year 7 students to gather round for my story telling sessions.

    Molly’s new look for the new Mokee Joe book

The day was quite exhausting with two ‘camp fire’ story telling sessions, a prize giving resulting from competitions during my last visit and two workshops in the afternoon. Phew! But didn’t we have a good time! It was brilliant and Kath and I enjoyed ourselves so much. I think one of the highlights was awarding prizes to three Year 10 girls who had presented hairstyle designs for Molly’s new look in the final Mokee Joe book. They were ‘blown away’ by the fact that the cover artist, Paul B Davies (he designed the original poster for Stephen King’s terrifying ‘IT’ movie), had studied their designs in creating Molly’s new look.

Thanks, Rachel, Lisa, and all of the lovely students at St Peter’s for making us so welcome and for making my job as Patron of Reading so easy. It’s been an absolute pleasure! We are looking forward to signing lots of books for your Year 7 students and seeing whether they dare take on the challenge I gave them – to read them in bed!  Bye for now.

PJM

CARRFIELD, TEMPLE NORMANTON, RAVENFIELD

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 4th, 2017 1:30 pm Comments Off on CARRFIELD, TEMPLE NORMANTON, RAVENFIELD

Leaving behind the majestic countryside of South Oxfordshire, we headed off on a familiar journey up the M1 towards our Northern roots in South Yorkshire.

Many of our school visits arise via word of mouth, and our next port of call was down to a teacher-friend of ours from East Dene School. Andy Morton, now moved to Carrfield Primary School at Bolton-on-Dearne, had sung our praises and set up a visit. Well…we had a fabulous time at this new school (new to us!) launching into our Mokee Joe presentation with gusto…and didn’t the Carrfield kids love it!

The visit was over all too soon, but not before we found out that there’s lots more great schools in this area, which for some reason have escaped our attention. We’ll soon put that right!  It also turned out that Carrfield is a keen footballing school, so we promise to be back VERY soon with our Kruschmeister story.  ‘Thank you’ Mr Morton…it seems we are going to be very busy in your neck of the woods for some considerable time!

Reading a great book in the fab new Temple Normanton library

It was on to Temple Normanton next; a small village school with only 41 pupils making up our KS2 audience. But what they lacked in numbers they more than made up for in enthusiasm. We decided to perform our Bonebreaker and Ten O’ Clock Caller presentation and it wasn’t long before the pupils were  ‘hooked’ on our books! The following day we carried out a book signing in their recently renovated library and were astounded just how many books were acquired by avid readers. Brilliant!

Thanks to everyone at Temple Normanton for looking after us so well. We will be back again before too long, we promise!

Final school of the week was just a stone’s  throw from our Northern base in Rotherham. Ravenfield Primary – a school which we have driven past many times, but never stopped to visit and do our stuff…until now! We decided to talk about Mokee Joe and describe how I became an author – especially relevant as it all happened in Rotherham over 14 years ago. In fact, my niece, Donna, who reminded me of the classic game of Mokee Joe, which gave rise to the creation of the series, works in the school with the Foundation children. She even managed to get over to see us during the subsequent book signing and say ‘hello’. To make matters even more interesting, one of the younger pupils in our audience, Henry, introduced himself as a distant relative of mine! It turned out that Harry’s granddad is my cousin and his gran a close friend of mine back in our schooldays. We have since found out where they live and had a fab reunion with them. If you’re reading this blog, Jess and Wendy…’Hi’ from me and Kath and see you again soon.

All in all, a great week working in the area where I was born and brought up. Three great schools and three more lots of keen fans! What more could a northern author want!

PJM

 

ON THE BANKS OF THE LEAFY THAMES!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 4th, 2017 12:42 pm Comments Off on ON THE BANKS OF THE LEAFY THAMES!

            Leafy Thames at Moulsford Prep

After the delights of Northumbria, it was time to sample the delights of an ideally-situated beautiful prep school on the banks of the Thames. Moulsford Prep are good friends of ours and it always proves a real pleasure to get in front of a packed, all-boy audience, and spook them with my scary books!

This time it was the turn of the Kruschmeister – the huge, savage football player who delights in taking the opposing players legs from under him (and usually cracking a bone or two at the same time!). I talked about the prequel, Scabbajack, first, and really got some tension into the Yr 5 to 7 enthusiastic and attentive audience. I have to say that the downbeat and dilapidated setting for both books seemed far removed from the lush Oxfordshire school grounds outside!

Yet again, Kath and I were made extremely welcome during our stay and I really hope that we contributed significantly towards the success of the Moulsford Prep Art Week. Many of the boys were asking about the Mokee Joe series…it seems there are more than a few avid fans. Hence, if Mr Martin is willing to have us back, we will return early in the next academic year to present the final book in the series…due out in a few weeks time – Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates.

Thanks to everyone at Moulsford – hope you enjoyed your half-term break.

PJM

NORTHUMBRIA PART 2

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 6th, 2017 8:34 am Comments Off on NORTHUMBRIA PART 2

Our time in this lovely area continues to provide great school visits for us.

Stunning area!

St Joseph’s is a middle school I visited over eight years ago, but still with vivid memories of performing my early Mokee Joe presentation there and it being well received. This time I presented the Scabbajack and Kruschmeister books to a huge audience of around 340 Years 5 – 8. The sun came out before the start of the presentation and threw a ray of light across the projector screen obscuring most of my dramatic images! It didn’t matter…imagination is more powerful than any electronic image, but soon the sun lowered and faded and everything came right. The success of the presentation can only be judged by the book-signing that took place in a prefabricated classroom during a heavy shower of rain the following lunchtime! With the help of our ‘hostess with the mostess’ Kirsten…we signed books for around 150 pupils in that confined space. At one time, poor Kirsten was standing on a desk directing ‘traffic’ like some super-efficient New York cop! All in all we had a brilliant time at St Joseph’s and we’re already planning to return early next year to launch our final Mokee Joe book. See you all then.

Final visit was to a new school to us…Corbridge Middle School. The town of Corbridge provided a stunning backdrop to this visit

        Great town…great school!

and Kath and I had a great time exploring the ancient buildings as well as wandering along the banks of the River Tyne. The school was fab and we got a great welcome from staff and pupils before performing our Bonebreaker trilogy for a big audience of Years 5 and 6. We stayed overnight in a B&B so we could return the next morning to do a book-signing. The B&B was so close that we could see the school from our bedroom window! The book-signing was yet another ‘mega’ experience and no wonder my signing hand is beginning to suffer!

So there you have it…four brilliant Middle Schools  in one of the most beautifully scenic areas in the country. And now over 1000 pupils eagerly absorbing our scary books during the ‘spooky season’ with dark nights drawing in and Halloween just around the corner. I doesn’t get any better! Thanks to everyone and see you all again VERY soon!

PJM

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