LUVLY JUBLY!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 19th, 2018 5:01 pm Comments Off on LUVLY JUBLY!

Three ‘cracking’ schools…three fab experiences…hopefully for our audiences as much as for us! We had the best time ever with Herringthorpe Juniors, Sir Edmund Hillary Primary and Pheasant Bank Academy. Luvly Jubly!

Let’s start with Herringthorpe Juniors – VERY local to the setting of the Mokee Joe books. In fact the hero of the books, Hudson Brown, lives very close to the school on Tennyson Road. His best friend and co-hero, Molly Stevens, lives on nearby Browning Road. Our KS2 audience could hardly believe it!  We entertained the juniors with two separate performances, lower KS2 followed after break by upper KS2. Due to this arrangement, the presentations were extremely fast and both audiences and myself hardly had time to take a breath! Things must have gone down well, because the book-signing the next day seemed endless; so many eager fans desperate to read the books! I was even accosted (in a nice way!) by a very eager parent in the office area, so excited to get her hands on the latest and final Mokee Joe book. It turned out she had been a Year 4 during one of my first school visits at the beginning of my author career and had the rest of the books! It was both very flattering and, at the same time, it made me realise how old I’m getting! Time stops for no-one…not even the author of Mokee Joe!

Sir Edmund Hillary Primary next, in Worksop. We visit this school every two years to see Years 5 and 6. We are always guaranteed a great time, so many lovely pupils and staff giving us a great reception. No Mokee Joe this time! We presented Scabbajack, Ten O’ Clock Caller and my recently resurrected collection of spooky stories, PS13. The presentation went down a storm, as did a workshop in the afternoon with Year 5 on ‘How to write a seriously, scary short story’ (good alliteration!).  Again, a fab book-signing the next day with so many avid readers waiting to digest the books. Thanks to everyone…see you all again in two years time!

A-maze-ing library!
A-maze-ing library helpers!

As if the week hadn’t gone well enough already, our last visit of the week was more than special! Pheasant Bank Academy in Rossington, near Doncaster, is responsible for inspiring my very next book!  Will we ever forget the display of blood-red blooms lining the car park during our first visit to this great school some time ago! The blood-red blooms in question were poppies and the mystery of how they got there sent my brain and imagination into overdrive to come up with a gripping, action-packed story themed on World War One. Of course the story has to be spooky to fit in with my genre, and believe me it really is! Miss Robinson was more than keen to allow me to use the name of her school in the book and to even to use her own name as the fictitious head of the school. I thought this was very brave of her as she hasn’t read the narrative yet and has no idea what she gets up to!  On this occasion, though, our visit was to officially open the new school library and in addition to throw in a ‘little’ presentation to all 350 + of her amazing KS2 juniors.  Once again we loved it and everyone seemed to have a great time. The library was opened just prior to the book-signing the next day and I was more than pleased to cut the ribbon alongside her VERY willing band of library helpers. The school and library have to be seen to be believed…wonderfully painted walls everywhere depicting different time eras…all down to the talents of a wonderful artist who we’ve had the pleasure of meeting on previous occasions at Whetley Academy in Bradford, a school in the same trust as Pheasant Bank (Delta Trust).

I shall be keeping in touch with Pheasant Bank Academy over the coming months in preparation for the publication of my new book (title still a secret!) and looking very much forward to launching the book there around September next year.   I have a meeting planned with Paul Davies, our brilliant cover artist, in a few weeks time and I just know he is going to come up with my best book cover yet! All very exciting!

Watch this space!

PJM

THANK YOU RICHARD COATES PRIMARY

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 10th, 2018 6:20 pm Comments Off on THANK YOU RICHARD COATES PRIMARY

I was so pleased to be handed a wad of lovely letters from fans at Richard Coates Primary School a few weeks ago. Having just got round to reading them – I’m even more pleased! A HUGE ‘thank you’ to:

…Grace, Zac, Ivy, William. L, Evie, Ava, Mya, Max, Ewan, Charlie, Gabriel…and to someone who forgot to sign their name!

Every letter was well-written, full of complements (great!) and so many questions! Far too many questions to answer, but the most popular question seemed to be ‘What is your favourite book?’ so I’ll answer that one and say I have loved writing every one of them, but the very first book is always special to an author…so I will say ‘Mokee Joe is Coming!’ has to be my favourite.

I read the letters in my office, right beneath my Mokee Joe framed poster. (See

One of my lovely letters from Richard Coates fans.

pic). I’ve also taken a picture of one of the letters to see if the writer can identify it?

Well…thank you again at Richard Coates for taking the trouble to get in touch and I hope to see you very soon with my brand new book; it should be out by next September. Watch this space, as they say!

Bye…

PJM

 

VIP TREATMENT IN LUTON

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 1st, 2018 7:16 pm Comments Off on VIP TREATMENT IN LUTON

Next stop, Denbigh High School – old friends of ours! Hence the VIP treatment and a parking space reserved for us on our arrival! VERY much appreciated!

    VIP treatment at Denbigh High

Over 250 Year 7’s sat for most of the morning listening to me rave on and on about our super-scary stories, and just in time for Halloween. Excellent! As usual, the Denbigh audience sat in nerve-shredding silence, frustration growing as I left them on a string of ‘cliff-hanger’ endings. After a well-received lunch, we were back in our favourite place – the school library. Two workshops passed at lightning speed and I have to say that I particularly enjoyed chatting to seven Year 8 boys about my books and reading in general. They, like everyone else, were a delight to be with. Denbigh High School is always a pleasure to visit and our thanks go to the pupils and staff for giving us the usual high level of hospitality during our stay. A special vote of thanks to Mr Amjad for looking after us so well and ensuring everything passed smoothly. See you all the book-signing on Friday.

Final visit of the week was to Putteridge High School…a school new to us. Around 180 Year 7’s this time…a good few less than the previous two Luton schools; but what they lacked in number they more than made up for in enthusiasm and attentiveness! The atmosphere during the presentation was ‘electric’ to say the least. Lots of  great interaction and stacks of correct answers to our questions resulted in a good number of free bookmarks being awarded to an ever-growing number of fans!

…So another BIG thank you to all at Putteridge High School for providing a fab end to our Luton Week and to Ms Jablonska for being the perfect hostess. We can’t wait to see you all again. We sincerely hope this is the beginning of a long and lasting author-school relationship…but only if you are brave enough!

PJM

BACK TO LUTON

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 31st, 2018 7:24 pm Comments Off on BACK TO LUTON

You may be wondering why Kath and I spend so much time in Luton. The answer is simple: the schools there are fab and we love working in them.

PS 13. Thank goodness Chiltern Academy doesn’t look like this!

We work with ten Luton/Bedford schools in total now, all members of the growing (and exciting) Chiltern Trust. Our first visit was to a brand new school, Chiltern Academy, only launched back in September of this year. The 200+ year 7’s have the school to themselves at the moment, but not for long. The school will relocate to a new site within a brand new building, ready for its expansion to accommodate somewhere around 1200 pupils. Brilliant! And we are looking forward to being a part of its development.

Back to the present time, on Monday we were more than happy to enthuse and entertain the Year 7’s with three books absolutely ideal for ‘Halloween Week’: Scabbajack, Ten O’ Clock Caller and PS 13. Presenting the books over the best part of 2hours was an absolute delight and everyone had a great and spooky time. Two workshops in the afternoon were just as enjoyable…lots of avid readers (and writers!) hanging on every creepy word.

Ms Lane looked after our every need (as per usual) and ensured the day passed VERY smoothly. Thanks to all at Chiltern Academy for giving us such a great Halloween start. See you all at the book-signing on Friday. If you think Halloween will be over by then, you are very much mistaken. For me and my fans, Halloween is an all-year-around event!!

PJM

GEMS and JEWELS in GOSFORTH!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 24th, 2018 3:38 pm Comments Off on GEMS and JEWELS in GOSFORTH!

Days 3 and 4 of our NE visit were spent in Gosforth Central and Gosforth East middle schools respectively. These are two of our favourite schools and with good reason – there are so many pupils and they are all fans of our books!

Gosforth Central gave us around 250 Year 5’s and 6’s to make up our KS2 audience. Gosforth East (GEMS) gave us around the same. Both audiences were an absolute delight to work with. We got through all of our six Mokee Joe books with ease, climaxing on the final narrative set in Dubai. It turned out that many of our audience had already visited Dubai and were well-familiar with the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalif), the world’s biggest aquarium and the amazing dancing fountains, to name but just a few of the action-packed settings used in the narrative. Brilliant!  A BIG thank you to the staff of both schools and to Sarah, the librarian at Gosforth Central, for looking after us so well. And, of course, to all of the pupils who are now ‘devouring’ the books in the Mokee Joe series. I know that at present you are still at school whilst we are on half-term down here in the south, but have a lovely half-term next week…and then you can smile and think of us being back at work!

Great writing, Isla!

A final mention of a lovely moment when Isla presented me with the start of her new story, ‘The Mysteries of the Mongol’ complete with a stunning illustration on the cover. What was very touching was that Isla informed me that my visit and presentation had inspired her to pick up her pen and write. Well, Isla…I’ve now read it and enjoyed the first few chapters very much. Your imagination is  as strong as mine (well, almost anyway!). I look forward to reading the rest of your novel during my next visit.  In the meantime…keep on writing…

PJM

*Apologies to anyone who has contacted my website recently and not received a reply. It turns out that there is a malfunction on the site and this is being rectified as I type this message (Wed 24th October). So please get in touch again if you wish and I’ll get right back to you.

PJM

NORTH EASTERLY MAGIC!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 16th, 2018 5:33 pm Comments Off on NORTH EASTERLY MAGIC!

Our week up in the North East has got off with a ‘BANG’ to say the least! There’s no shortage of avid readers up in this area and it’s pleasing to report that most of them are reading (or have read) our books!

Mokee Joe fans from Belsay School

First stop on Monday morning was Ponteland. Our host, Mr Harvey (Belsay School), had organised a get-together of Year 6’s from six primary schools local to the area to assemble at Richard Coates Primary to see my presentation. The schools were all fabulous to work with and I feel I must mention them by name – Ponteland, Whalton C of E, Belsay, Heddon, Stamfordham and ,of course, Richard Coates. The presentation was fast and furious, but at least it seemed to engage the 300+ audience as I covered the entire series of Mokee Joe books produced over the last 14 years. A HUGE ‘thank you’ to Mr Harvey and all of the staff from each of the schools for taking the trouble to bring our audience to us…we hope you got as much out of it as we did. We really hope to visit you again in the not-too-distant future.

DAY 2 – Highfield Middle School.  We have visited this school a good

            The Amazing Highfield Librarians

number of times throughout my author career…and not without reason. The teachers have always pulled together to create a fantastic reading culture in this BIG school community. Once again Kath and I were received like ‘old friends’ and shown the utmost friendliness by the youngest Year 5 to the eldest of the Year 8s. We love working at this school! Mr Bell and his team of keen librarians set about arranging the hall in readiness to accommodate all 400+ pupils. They did a sterling job and I began my presentation in front of a brilliant audience where everyone could see and hear exactly what was going on and join in at every opportunity. One and half hours passed VERY quickly to say the least! The staff and pupils were so appreciative I felt I could have gone on forever!

Tomorrow, we return to officially open the school library and sign books for our willing fans…it could be a very interesting experience and I just wonder if the record for the number of Mokee Joe books signed in one afternoon might well be broken??

   Phoebe with her fab ‘Molly’ hairstyle

Well…I think the record WAS just about broken! I think my signing hand was broken too by the end of it! The signing went on forever and everyone was just ‘buzzing’ about books and artwork and all things to with literacy. Brilliant! We even signed a book for Phoebe who had overnight adjusted her hair to Molly’s new hairstyle (Molly is the girl hero in the Mokee Joe books) and it seems that ‘space-buns’ are fast becoming really trendy.

A ‘HUGE’ thank you to Mr Bell for all his hard work, and to the staff and pupils for ensuring our visit was such a memorable one.  We will be back…and the sooner the better!

PJM

‘R’ FOR CHALLNEY

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 6th, 2018 1:27 pm Comments Off on ‘R’ FOR CHALLNEY

Wow! What an amazing couple of days in Luton! OK…so Luton may not be the most attractive location in the UK, but the schools are nothing short of brilliant to work in. Challney High School for Girls proved no exception.

Great logo!

We were immediately impressed by the school and its campus – very attractive – and drawn to the logo decorating the wall outside the school reception (see pic). After working in this school all day Thursday and spending much of Friday signing books, Kath and I decided the ‘C’ in the logo should be replaced with an ‘R’. Never have we been treated with such ‘RESPECT’ as shown by the Challney Girls. We worked with just over 200 Year 7’s, but the elder pupils were just as keen to meet and chat with us, remembering us from our visits to their primary schools in the not-too-distant past.

A very big presentation on Thursday morning followed by two workshops may well have proved exhausting, but incredibly worthwhile as our keen followers hung on every word and joined in at every opportunity.

To finish off our great visit, on returning home we discovered a ‘little note’ had been slipped into one of  our bags. I reproduce the message below:

‘Hi Pete

I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me. The first time I read your book (Bonebreaker) I wanted to be an author. I attempted to write a book where all your evil characters and the good characters in your book go into a haunted maze. Other people go into the maze and think it’s just a Halloween stunt…but it’s not…and the good characters have to save everyone! Anyway, thanks for inspiring me again.

Best wishes from your biggest fan!

I suspect my ‘biggest fan’ is a bit on the shy side as she didn’t sign off to say who she was. But if you’re reading this, then an even bigger ‘THANK YOU’ from me. It’s little messages like this that keep authors like me inspired to carry on writing!

…So thank you, Ms Anonymous, thank you Challney girls and thank you Challney staff…you did us proud. We will be back!

PJM

 

BRILLIANT AT BAILY!

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 28th, 2018 9:35 am Comments Off on BRILLIANT AT BAILY!

Kath and I have visited this school a good few times during my author career, but nothing could have prepared us for the fantastic response we got during our recent visit. Our lovely librarian friend, Ms Mumford, accepted our offer to introduce the final instalment in the Mokee Joe series – Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates – set in the glamorous location of Dubai.

Come the day of the visit, I felt a little bit nervous of only having just over an hour for my presentation, which normally lasts for just under two hours! The big audience of Years 4,5 and 6 sat before me in stiff silence as I launched into a ‘potted’ coverage of  how I became an author followed by speedy snippets of the first five books. By the time I reached the intro of the final book, the audience were totally relaxed, rocking with laughter at my non-stop jokes and funny anecdotes, but at the same time gripped with descriptions of the ensuing battles between the hero, Hudson Brown, and his terrifying enemy, Mokee Joe.

It was a fabulous hour of fun and it passed only too quickly! Once again, the Francis Baily audience did themselves proud…totally engaged, interactive when required, and to use the old cliché – ‘you couldn’t hear a pin drop’ during my readings.

The calm before the storm in the school library!

All very well, but how would the book signing go the next day? Ms Mumford kindly allowed us to use her  fabulously cosy library, and she and Kath set up the signing area with lots of Mokee Joe books for the pupils to browse over.

…What followed had to be seen to be believed! So many boys and girls eager to get their hands on the books and ‘devour’ them at the earliest opportunity! The excitement as they looked over the books, ran their hands over the richly-embossed covers, and enjoyed the smell of the newly printed pages… Who says that children are not excited by books anymore!

The signing went on for the whole of the afternoon and we still hadn’t finished by the close of school. In fact we returned the next day to finish off with a Year 5 class who unselfishly volunteered to curtail their excitement for a further 24 hours.

All in all a wonderful experience and the reason I am so keen to keep on writing and working with such an enthusiastic and enjoyable age group. The children at Francis Bailey proved great friends, polite and helpful without exception. Thank you to them (and the staff) for everything.

We will be back!!

BACK WITH A BANG!

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 23rd, 2018 11:09 am Comments Off on BACK WITH A BANG!

I can’t remember starting a new academic year with such an amazing week as last week. Three ‘cracking’ schools in my native South Yorkshire – Dronfield Stonelow Juniors, Thurcroft Junior Academy and Kiveton Park Meadows Juniors provided the perfect start-back after the long hot summer holidays.

Pete with Mitchell – a life-long fan, at Kiveton Park Meadows.

I have visited each of these schools a good few times during my author career and have many fans spread over several generations within these lovely school communities. As one of the young teachers said to me at Kiveton Park Meadows, ‘I’ve grown up with your Mokee Joe books and can’t believe you’re here today to present the final book in the series.’ (Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates). Needless to say I signed a book for ‘young Mitchell’ the very next day!

I want to congratulate the head teachers and staff on the warm ambient nature of each of their schools as well as managing to create a fabulous reading culture throughout every year group. Will we ever forget the length of those queues of children desperate to get their hands on our books and ‘devour’ them at their earliest opportunity!

As one of the teachers said to us. ‘I can’t believe how many children are already sitting in the playground, shivering in the cold, but totally absorbed in their reading.’  I quickly pointed out to her that they may well have been shivering with fright rather than cold!

Thanks again to everyone for making us so welcome…enjoy your books and have a great run-up to Christmas…but don’t forget that Halloween is just around the corner!

PJM

JERSEY PEARLS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on July 3rd, 2018 3:47 pm Comments Off on JERSEY PEARLS!

Kath and I have just finished off the academic year with one of our best author visits, ever!

We last visited Jersey two years ago at the invitation of Le Rocquier School in conjunction with the Jersey Library Service. Such was the success of the trip, we were invited back and had no hesitation in accepting. But this time our son, Simon, was also invited to work with the younger pupils on the island with his extremely popular Icky Doo Dah books.

Day 1. Whilst Simon headed off to primary schools, Kath and I started our week at Les Quennevais Library, meeting up with our friend and Head Librarian, Cathy Bithell. The library is shared between being the school library and the branch library, so it made sense to bring in a large group of Year 7’s from Le Quennevais School, followed by a similar-size group of Year 6’s from the nearby Mont Nicolle feeder school. Well…both groups were an absolute delight to present our two chosen books, Bonebreaker and Dawn Demons. We even managed to find enough floor space to act some particularly scary bits from the books with the help of the more-than-enthusiastic students!

Day 2 found us back with another very good friend and librarian, Moi Mabbs, at Le Rocquier. This time we performed our usual BIG stage presentation to all of Year 7, followed by a lovely short-story workshop with a smaller group of Year 7’s in the afternoon. Again, Bonebreaker and Dawn Demons were our chosen books and again, they went down a storm. A special ‘thank you’ to Ross on this occasion for being a great help as our sound technician (and a great Viking fan in addition!)

Day 3 was the day of the ‘Jersey Sing’ and many schools on the island were far too busy to engage with author visits. However, one of the smallest schools we’ve ever visited – St Christopher’s – were still able to accommodate us and we spent a fun-filled morning with all of the 14 KS2 pupils. The little classroom became a theatre as the two younger Year 3 boys along with slightly older girls took to the ‘stage’ and brought my Bonebreaker story to life.  At the end of the session we travelled back over to Le Rocquier to proceed with a VERY big book-signing for the eager Year 7’s we’d entertained the day before.

…And then it was onto the beach to meet up with Simon for a swim and a sunbathe. In fact, this became our routine as the week progressed…presentation in the morning, book-signing early afternoon followed by a welcome relax on the beach. In the glorious weather the beaches had a real Mediterranean feel…brilliant!

Day 4 found us back at Les Quennevais library to meet up with two groups from nearby St Peter’s Primary – Year 5’s and Year 6’s.  Both groups were an absolute delight to work with and by the end of each session the 25-30 pupils were ‘buzzing’  and desperate to read our books.

Day 5 proved to be the busiest day of all! A big presentation back at Le Rocquier to five of their feeder schools (Year6’s), a workshop with a group of Year 8’s, a book-signing back at St Christopher’s (apart from one girl who found our books too scary all of the pupils acquired both books!) and finally back up to St Peter’s Primary where around 60 Year 5’s and 6’s were frantically waiting for us! PHEW! A manic, but extremely fulfilling day.

No time for beaches on our final day! Simon packed and left on the evening ferry and Kath and I collapsed, watched TV and packed for our departure the following morning.

As I said earlier, this was one of the best ‘author tours’ we’ve ever had…we’re already planning a return trip next summer to present our Mokee Joe series. We can’t wait. BIG thanks to all staff and pupils on Jersey for making the Murrays so welcome. And special thanks to Moi and Cathy for all their work and support.

We love you all…

PJM

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