BRIGHT START IN THE DARK DAYS

This post was written by peterjmurray on January 15th, 2017 4:52 pm Comments Off on BRIGHT START IN THE DARK DAYS

Great auience at Inkpen Primary

The days are dark, the weather’s dire and it’s Blue Monday tomorrow. But guess what…Kath and I are having the time of our lives! We kicked off our new term  to a blistering start by visiting three new local schools (new to us!) – Spurcroft Primary in Thatcham, Birch Copse Primary in Tilehurst and Inkpen Primary…in Inkpen! In between these visits, we visited our old friends at Francis Baily Primary and did a morning workshop with a large group of Year 3’s.

…So a very busy week, but all very enjoyable and heart-warming to say the least.

Each of our ‘new’ schools gave us a lovely welcome and it proved an absolute pleasure to introduce our Mokee Joe series to lots of pupils in KS2. The subsequent book signings were VERY busy and it was so humbling to chat and while away the time with our many new and enthusiastic fans. We were bombarded with drawings of Mokee Joe, ideas for stories and loads of questions about me and my books. It was easy to see that our new fans were more than inspired.

Kath and I would like to express here in writing our thanks to Cath Airey, Kevin Cooling and Jane Kanisius for being such great hosts during our visits. We hope you will have us back again before too long to build on the great literary start we feel we have made at your lovely schools.

BIG thanks to Mr Pilsworthy and the Year 3 teachers for ensuring our Year 3 workshop at Francis Bailey was such a success. We’re already looking forward to our next visit in a couple of weeks to view the work that the children come up with.

…And finally…very best wishes to all reading our ‘dark’ books in the dark days ahead!

PJM

AMAZING FINISH AT APJS

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 11th, 2016 10:18 am Comments Off on AMAZING FINISH AT APJS

Zak and Pete at APJS

Our last school visit in the run-up to Christmas was to Anston Park Juniors, very good friends of ours and great fans of our books. It’s a big school, and with 300+ pupils sitting in front of us, we launched into our Kruschmeister presentation, but not before talking about the prequel – Scabbajack.

An hour and a half passed very quickly and to say the audience was attentive and enthusiastic is an understatement; they hung on every word. The next day resulted in a mega book-signing which went on for just over three hours. In fact, Kath and I had to return to base to grab more supplies!

We were inundated with great feedback from the pupils, some handing over pictures and artwork they’d been inspired to come up with, others keen to show us stories they’d started and lots of pupils eager to read their newly-acquired books in bed that very night!

Some special moments too. Like meeting Zak, the Year 6 boy with the same name as the hero in the two books (hope you like the picture, Zak), and Alicia, the girl with the injured leg, but still keen enough to provide Kath and I with little Christmas presents to say ‘thanks for coming’.

Well…what a way to finish. Is there any wonder we enjoy what we do and just want to keep on writing. And speaking of writing, I need to get on and finish my sixth Mokee Joe book. I’m almost there, but just need a great ending. I can’t wait to have the book in my hands early next year.

In the meantime, a BIG ‘thank you’ from Kath and I to everyone for a great term and we hope you have yourselves a merry (spooky) little Christmas. See you again in 2017.

PJM

 

BACK UP NORTH

This post was written by peterjmurray on December 3rd, 2016 9:03 am Comments Off on BACK UP NORTH

Fab Librarians at Samuel Barlow Primary

Kath and I travelled north to make a first time visit to the Samuel Barlow Primary School near Mansfield. In fact the school is very close to Sherwood Forest, true Robin Hood country. We were invited to this school by Mr Durkin, someone who is destined to become a good friend of ours. Like the other staff at Samuel Barlow, he is dedicated to making the school a real reading den, where both staff and pupils value the experience of reading and enjoying books. Unfortunately, Mr Derkin was under the grip of a chest cold during our visit on a very cold Friday morning, but still managed to sit through our Mokee Joe presentation delivered to the whole of an enthusiastic KS2 audience.

We delivered our short story workshops during the afternoon and returned the next day to do a book signing. Miss Pye and the three lovely Year 6 librarians did a great job in assisting us through a very hectic and exciting signing…we are still staggered at the number of pupils who queued up to get books. We wish Samuel Barlow Primary all of our best wishes for the future and hope everyone has a great ‘spooky’ Christmas holiday reading our books. Thank you  Mr Durkin for inviting us…hope you are back to full health very soon.

Having escaped Robin Hood’s arrows, we quickly moved on to my home town of Rotherham and visited Thrybergh Fullerton Primary for a full day. Again, a lovely school and a lovely day spent with a relatively small KS2 audience of around 70 pupils. Everyone seemed taken up with my Mokee Joe character and lots of books were signed the next day…great!

Back down to Chesterfield next, to enthuse and entertain two schools in one go…Barrow Hill and Poolsbrooke

Pete and Ben with younger readers at Barrow Hill

Academies. These two small village schools joined forces at Barrow Hill, just across the road from an aunty of mine. After spending a day with the two schools, we turned up the next evening to join in a great initiative of Barrow Hill Primary in holding a reading evening. The children (and some of the staff) even turned up in their pyjamas. The event was somewhat ‘lively’, especially with having so many of the younger KS1 children in attendance, but when it came to my turn to read/tell a spooky story (Ten O’ Clock Caller), I was astounded at the silence that suddenly took over. Thanks to all at Barrow Hill and Poolsbrooke for a lovely couple of days and to the children for the lovely printed letter of appreciation they handed to me. We’ll keep in touch and hope to be back with you all before too long.

Pete standing by the 60th Anniversary Redscope display

Final school of the week…Redscope Primary School…my old school!It’s always a joy to be back there, reliving my boyhood memories. The new football book, Kruschmeister, and the prequel, Scabbajack, went down an absolute storm. We sold and signed books the next morning at the school’s Christmas Enterprise Fair and judging by the reaction, there’s a lot of spooky reading ahead over the coming weekend. Whilst we were at the school we took time to look over an exhibition to mark Redscope’s 60th anniversary. It was fascinating to find my name entered in the school’s registration book along with my old address, date of birth (secret!) and my dad’s name (Thomas). We also made time to check out the brass plate engraved with my name and date of me opening the superb children’s reading area just outside the school building. All of this served to make me feel quit emotional and very proud to be an ‘Old Redscopian’. Thank you Ms Walpole and all of the wonderful staff and pupils for giving us such a good time during the busy run-up to Christmas. See you all again soon.

PJM

CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 27th, 2016 10:15 am Comments Off on CHRISTMAS IS COMING!

CHRISTMAS IS COMING…but not before we entertain and enthuse around 8 more schools in the festive run-up to the big day!

It was back to Luton again first, to spend a whole week working at Beech Hill Primary – obsessive and devoted fans of ours (did you see my recent tweet!). The school hall was out of use so I went back to being a teacher again and did hour-long workshops in classrooms working with all of Years 5 and 6. Bonebreaker was the theme for Year 5 and Ten O’ Clock Caller/Kruschmeister for Year 6. I’m pleased to say that all of the workshops were well-received and our eager fans seemed to get a lot out of them. By Friday I’d realised how tiring teaching is…Kath and I returned to our Berkshire base feeling very satisfied, but completely exhausted! However, it’s schools like Beech Hill that keep us going; they have developed such a strong reading culture among the entire school community and we feel proud that we and our books are a part of it. Thank you Mr Hawkins and Mrs Carey for being great hosts as well as good friends. We’ll see you all again next year.

 

LOVELY LUTON SCHOOLS

This post was written by peterjmurray on November 11th, 2016 6:21 pm Comments Off on LOVELY LUTON SCHOOLS

After a short break and celebrating our granddaughter’s 7th birthday, we set off late on a Sunday afternoon for the dreaded M25 to make our way up to Luton. The journey was well worth it!

Dallow Primary School was our first port of call the next day, just minutes from our lovely hotel accommodation which was slap bang in the centre of Luton. Arriving at the school we were a little disappointed to find out we were only working with one year group, but the large contingent of Year 4’s proved a great and enthusiastic audience for our Mokee Joe presentation. In the afternoon we enjoyed further work with the Year 4 classes in 3 lively workshops talking about ‘settings’, and in my case, of course, ‘spooky settings’! We enjoyed our day very much at Dallow Primary School and thanks to Mrs G-B and all the other staff for making us so welcome.

The following day was spent at Denbigh High School – a new school to us, though we have met many of the pupils before from their feeder primary schools. We entertained the Year 7’s with a 2-hour presentation during which they proved one of the best audiences ever! Fabulous! After providing us with a lovely lunch, we carried out two afternoon workshops, one with around 20 boys from Year 7 and 8 – again, fabulous!This was followed by a second workshop with a large group of high-ability Year 7 writers joined by a smaller group of Year 6’s from nearby Beech Hill Primary – a school that is very dear to us! The workshop was a great success and by the end of it these talented writers were producing work of a standard that had me distinctly worried (future competition)!

During our entire day at Denbigh High, the pupils were VERY respectful and more than polite to us. They were all a joy to work with. The staff were also delightful to be among. Thank you so much Ms Lane and everyone at Denbigh High for looking after us so well. We look forward to working again with you again in the future…I have the feeling that this was the first of many visits!

Next week we are back in Luton again for the whole week…maybe we should buy a flat there! There’s certainly lots of great schools in the area.

PJM

LOCAL GOLD

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 28th, 2016 8:19 pm Comments Off on LOCAL GOLD

Three schools local to our base in Berkshire and two schools local to our Yorkshire base, proved great visits and gave Kath and I a great time in the run-up to half term.

Great library display at Francis Baily

Parsons Down and Francis Baily in Thatcham and Falklands Primary in Newbury are all old friends of ours. Our job in all three schools was to present the new book, Kruschmeister and its prequel, Scabbajack. Our big KS2 audiences responded wonderfully to our spooky presentation and were more than enthused to get their signed copies of the books in readiness for half-term reading – though I suspect most fans started at the first opportunity! We challenged our readers to dare to read their books in bed; some seemed keen to rise to the challenge whilst others stated they would prefer to play safe and digest our creepy stories in daylight!

A BIG ‘thank you’ to Ms Cole, Ms Mumford and Ms Prentice for all their help and support. It was such a pleasure to almost fall out of bed and arrive at these lovely local schools within minutes, something we are looking forward to doing much more frequently in future. There are a good many schools in West Berkshire and Kath and I are more than willing to call in and do our best to help the staff raise the all-important profile of literacy in the curriculum.

OFF UP TO YORKSHIRE…

It was away up the M1 heading towards South Yorkshire next. Rawmarsh Rosehill Primary and Oakwood High School were our

Always welcome at Rosehill Juniors!

targets for the new week ahead.

I think we’ve visited Rawmarsh Rosehill more than most schools over the last ten years or so and that’s because it’s a school that never fails to deliver. Our very good friend, Mr Wagstaffe, has always regarded literacy as a major part of the school ethos and this is reflected strongly in the reading culture he and the staff have developed in the school. They also have a strong football interest among the community and hence I couldn’t wait to introduce Kruschmeister to them. One of their Year 6’s is a great footballing potential – a girl in Year 6 called Sydney; it was fab to meet up with her and sign her a copy of the book. I asked her and some other keen footballers at the school to tell their team mates about the book and spread the word…I hope they don’t let me down…I very much doubt it!

Scabbajack v Mokee Joe at Oakwood High School

Final call was to a school where we have a very strong connection – Oakwood High School.  Both my sisters attended this school and I lived close by as a boy for a considerable time. In fact some of my old school pals went to Oakwood. I attended a school called Old Hall, and I have fond memories of playing against Oakwood when I was a member of my school football team. The school has just been moved to a brand new building and Kath and I were more than impressed as we drove into the car park. We did a great presentation to a marvellous Year 7  – about 220 pupils in all – in the schools new hall/theatre setting with raised seating and a very large cinema-size screen. Brilliant!

Many of the pupils knew us from their primary school days and were already big fans of ours. It was a win-win situation for everyone! The next day we officially opened the new library and signed countless copies of the new book for our enthusiastic fans. 23 books were awarded as prizes for pupils who had completed work based on our books and our congratulations go out to them. Our thanks also go out to the two great librarians, Sally and Julie,  for all their help and enthusiasm. As we always say, great librarians are so essential in maintaining interest in reading and literacy in the school environment…a BIG thanks to both of them.

I was due to visit one more school before the half-term break, Anston Park Juniors, more massive fans of ours. Alas! My voice went and we’ve had to postpone the visit until later in the term! As Kath always reminds me…I talk too much! Never mind, I will rest my voice over half-term and allow Kath to get a word in edgeways for once!

Have a lovely rest everyone and see you all soon.

PJM

RAVE REVIEWS FOR KRUSCHMEISTER

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 17th, 2016 2:14 pm Comments Off on RAVE REVIEWS FOR KRUSCHMEISTER

 Reviews are finally coming in for my latest super-scary, football-themed book, KRUSCHMEISTER. Here are some of them:

1. I read this book in three sessions…I found it hard to put down. Spell-binding! Michael McCrossan.

2. Really good story line and illustrations. Very frightening, but in a good way. I would rate it 10 out of 10. Grace

3. I’m not a football fan, but I love scary stories…and so I loved this book. Brilliant!  Samantha

4. I think my favourite part of the book  is the big derby match. As a supporter of a football team with a huge rival I think you capture the atmosphere perfectly. This is not to say that I did not find it scary…its terrifying, especially when Zac wakes up at 2 am ! Sophie

5. Kruschmeister was a very mysterious and intense book to read. I loved all the wild twists and interesting characters. The book was so magical it felt like it was coming true; I loved every word of it. Jessica

 

Please can we have lots more reviews messaged to my website…it would be great to hear from some of the footballers among you, both boys and girls.

PJM

BIG SCHOOLS – BIG FANS – BIG BOOK SIGNINGS!

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 10th, 2016 4:12 pm Comments Off on BIG SCHOOLS – BIG FANS – BIG BOOK SIGNINGS!

Big fans at Valley Gardens

We have just finished one of the best two-week tours of all time; the fabulous North East of England did us proud yet again.

Hexham Middle School, Whytrig Middle School, Valley Gardens Middle School, St Columba’s RC Primary School…all amazing places to visit! After our Hexham visit, reported in the last blog, we moved on to the other schools listed above and presented the latest book, Kruschmeister, and the prequel, Scabbajack. The two books proved a  huge success and we had problems immediately in running out of books during our signings. Never mind…son, Simon, stepped in back home and dispatched more books out to our desperate fans.

We’re now back home and reeling from the response to our books. In fact we have just packed and sent out another big

Back to our friends at St Columba's RC Primary

consignment of books to Valley Gardens and Kath and I would like to thank the pupils at this amazing school for their patience and understanding in waiting for their spooky reads. We would also like to thank Vinny Turner at the lovely St Columba’s Primary for their enthusiasm and help in agreeing to put in an order for books subsequent to our visit. By the time we got there we had no books whatsoever! I guess we must be doing something right!

On a lovely day on Thursday 6th October we returned to the Edmund Hillary School in Worksop, not far from our northern base.

Our very own 'mega fan' at Edmund Hilary School

We last visited this school two years ago and had an amazing time. We wondered if this return visit would be as good?  No worries whatsoever! In fact, this visit proved even more amazing. It quickly became apparent that we had not been forgotten and our range of books was firmly established on the bookshelves of the Edmund Hillary School family community. We presented our new book, Kruschmeister, along with the prequel, Scabbajack, to the new year 5’s and 6’s,  and it all went down brilliantly. We returned the next day for a book-signing and were ‘blown away’ by the fantastic response. In fact, one mega fan came along and insisted on purchasing our full range of books and almost needed a trolley to carry the books back home with him. (see pic).

A HUGE thanks to all at Edmund Hillary School for making Kath and I so welcome and having so much enthusiasm for the work we do…this is what really drives us on!

PJM

 

SUPERB IN THE NORTH EAST

This post was written by peterjmurray on October 2nd, 2016 8:56 am Comments Off on SUPERB IN THE NORTH EAST

South East….North East…what does it matter! We are lucky in that the schools we visit seem to be equally fabulous wherever we go!

Pete at Burnside

We arrived in the wild fells and moors outside Hexham on a very windy late afternoon. Our accommodation turned out to be a gem of a place – loved by walkers and ramblers no doubt. It’s called Burnside, located close to the village with the cutest of names – Edmundbyers. Our host, Jenna, settled us in and looked after us during our three day stay. It proved the ideal retreat after busy days working in school.

…And speaking of schools…our hosts over the next few days was non other than Hexham Middle School. We did two presentations; the first to Years 5 and 6 and their choice of books was the Mokee Joe series. The audience were more than appreciative and a pleasure to perform in front of.  The next day the KS3 pupils – Years 7 and 8 – proved just as appreciative during our Bonebreaker presentation. It made a real change to see Year 8’s keen to come up on stage and use their acting skills in bringing the narrative to life.

All in all our Hexham experience was extremely enjoyable. It was our second visit in a relatively short time, and I have a feeling there will be many more visits to come. A big thank you to Mrs Johnson, our hostess who did so much above and beyond the call of duty in ensuring everything passed smoothly. Hope to see you all again soon. In the meantime….keep on reading!

From big book-signings at Hexham it was over to the other side of the A1 to Whitley Bay to visit our good friend,

St Mary's lighthouse, near to our caravan.

Janet Rutter, at Whytrig Middle School in Seaton Delaval. We hadn’t been back to this school for some time and it turned out that only the Year 8’s recalled us from our last visit. We launched into a presentation of Scabbajack and Kruschmeister and the entire audience sat spellbound. I can’t wait to get back there for a book-signing after our Whitley Bay weekend.

We’re staying in a luxury caravan and really enjoying it. I couldn’t resist visiting the nearby St Mary’s lighthouse today (Sun) and climbing the 137 steps to the top. The spiral stairway is bolted to the wall and is open and rickety. By the time I’d been up and down it I was shaking and my hand was imprinted with a tight grip of the rusted metal stair rail! Kath wouldn’t go anywhere near it and I really don’t blame her.

Apart from our Whytrig book-signing next week, we are also looking forward to visiting Valley Gardens and our old friend, Jon Roys. He is going to love the Rotherham-based Kruschmeister setting, as like me, he is from Rotherham.

Our final NE visit next Tuesday will be in Wallsend with St Columbia’s RC Primary. Again, friends of ours, and keen on hearing about our latest book – Kruschmeister. I know they will be thrilled with it. And I do believe that one of the teachers, Mr Turner, is taking us out for dinner…maybe to downtown Wallsend!

Watch this space!

PJM

SUPERB IN THE SOUTH EAST

This post was written by peterjmurray on September 26th, 2016 5:16 pm Comments Off on SUPERB IN THE SOUTH EAST

After a week of writing and re-charging, Kath and I were on the road again, this time heading for Huntingdon to take up my new post of Patron of Reading at St Peter’s School. We were to spend two very happy days there working with hundreds of pupils from Years 7 to 10.

Great library display at St Peter's

After the usual great time with Years 7 and 8, it was with a certain degree of hesitation that we agreed to present our books and our work to older pupils; around 200 Year 9’s followed by 200 Year 10’s…but we needn’t have worried. Both audiences were a delight to speak too and perfect ambassadors for this fabulous school. The lovely librarians, Mrs McMordie Jackson and Mrs Bond were more than impressed as to how well our sessions with the older pupils went.

During our visit we talked about lots of our books, but focussed on our new book, Kruschmeisterand the

Fantastic Four in St Peter's Library

prequel, Scabbajack. The book-signing subsequent to the presentation was a huge success with lots of fans, new and old, lined up around the library eager to get their hands on signed copies of our books. We also carried out a short workshop with Year 10 on ‘research techniques’ and with Year 7 on ‘characterisation’…both sessions received with great gusto by the pupils involved.

It was a shame to leave St Peter’s after having had such a great time, but at least we will be back twice during the academic year and we’ll be staying in contact for most of the time. In fact some of the older pupils have already been challenged to design a new look for the good guys in the Mokee Joe series in time for the release of the sixth book – Mokee Joe: Scourge of the Emirates (set in Dubai). We can’t wait to see what they come up with, and our amazing cover artist – Paul Bryn Davies – will put their ideas into a new poster to go with the book. How’s that for an incentive!

Thanks to all at St Peter’s for a brilliant time. I’m so proud to be attached to your great school. Best wishes from me and Kath and a BIG ‘thank you’ to some of you for your complementary notes – they are saved in my office as proof that even older pupils are happy to hear me ‘spouting’ on about my life and my books!

Staying at the fab Decoy Barn in Fritton, Norfolk

We headed away from Huntingdon down into deepest rural Suffolk ready to spend a day at Northfield St Nicholas Primary – another school where I am Patron of Reading and a school that already knows my books intimately. I was very happy to do workshops throughout the day with all of KS2 and what a great day we had! Again…great enthusiasm and more than a warm welcome from staff and pupils  – now all old friends, especially Mrs Gulliver – the librarian who always looks after us so well. Thank you, Julie. You really spoil us!

At the end of the Summer term we received an invitation to a ‘Horror Fest’ at Lowestoft Library and we have accepted. It’s on Nov 5th (easy to remember) and I will be there doing all sorts of things, including dressing up as Mokee Joe and giving away free scary posters to anyone who turns up from Northfield St Nicholas – I think I’d better takes lots of posters! Finally, a special ‘thank you’ to our hosts at the ‘hidden gem’ the Decoy Barn accommodation in Fritton. What an amazing place! We will be back!

See you all soon…don’t have nightmares!

PJM

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