Make a list of the characters you have met so far in the book:

Jack, Huddersfield Town, Striker

Fred Bullock, Huddersfield Town, Captain

Frank Mann, Huddersfield Town (a half back, although this information is not given in the novel)

Sid Wheelhouse, Grimsby, Defender

Percy Summers, Grimsby, goalkeeper

Arthur Fairclough (name not given in the novel) Huddersfield Town ‘gaffer’

Chris Buckley, Arsenal, Captain

Henry Norris, Arsenal


Make notes on what the book tells us about each of these characters and use the internet to find out more. Make footballer collectors’ cards featuring each of these, following these examples.

Quiz – watch the video below first – answers below, no cheating!

Answer key HERE!

Like all authors, I’m often asked “Where do your ideas come from?” and sometimes I know the answer. Or at least an answer.

I had accepted an invitation to write for Barrington Stoke. I knew of the Barrington Stoke books – short, easy to read, many of them aimed at teenagers but with a younger reading age. I’d always thought it would be hard to write such a book in the way I wanted, but thinking of the approaching 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, I agreed to take up the challenge.

It was a hard-hitting Siegfried Sassoon poem that started it off. Here’s the first verse, which I quote at the beginning of Tilly’s Promise:

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark …


The poem is called Suicide in the Trenches, and goes on: He put a bullet through his brain … No one spoke of him again.

For this, Sassoon blames not the enemy, not the generals (though he had plenty to say about them in other poems) but the crowds at home who encouraged boys and young men to go and fight, and jeered if they wouldn’t.

I wondered about a boy like this – who was he? Where did he come from? What finally drove him to despair?

Although there’s no suicide in my book, the simple soldier boy became Georgie, and the story is told by his sister, Tilly, who becomes a nurse. Once I had the idea of Tilly making her sweetheart, Harry, promise to look after Georgie – a promise he’s reluctant to make, for good reason – I had my story.

The publishers, Barrington Stoke, have made a special website called READING WAR, which gives background information to both TILLY’S PROMISE and a story by Tom Palmer called OVER THE LINE. Find the website here:

WRITING IDEAS: Find out more about the poet Siegfried Sassoon (from his name you might think he was German, but in fact he was English, with a home in Kent) and what happened to the Military Cross medal he was awarded for bravery. He is known for his blunt, very direct, hard-hitting poems about the First World War.


You could find the whole text of SUICIDE IN THE TRENCHES, and see which bits I used, and which bits I left out. You could look at another of his poems, for example MEMORIAL TABLET, and write the beginning of a story based on that – maybe set in the village where Tilly lives with her family, but using a character you make up yourself. It’s an unusual poem in that it speaks from a viewpoint ‘beyond the grave’ – that of a soldier who has been killed in the war. You could try using that in your story.


After her mother is killed in the Blitz and her father drowned in the North Sea, 12-year-old Anna Cooper is sent to live with an uncle she has never met – the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London.

Amid the Tower’s old secrets and hidden ghosts, the ravens begin to disappear and Anna must brave the war-torn city to find them.

With Nazi forces massing on the other side of the channel, the fate of Britain might be at stake, for an ancient legend foretells that “the Kingdom will fall” if the ravens ever leave the Tower.

As Jessie learns about Nazi Germany at school, past and present begin to slot together and she uncovers something long-buried, troubling and somehow linked to another girl and another white dog…

Lindy, her mother and boy cousin Cameron sail across the U-boat-infested Atlantic Ocean in the early days of WWII, to a new life in the Canadian prairies.

There in well-lit, ration-free, safe and kindly Saskatoon, they must each make their own adjustments and face their own challenges, while back home their loved ones are suffering bombing and shortages.

‘This is our war-work,’ says Lindy’s mum, “to come through this with honour.”

Born in Kent, in 1888, Walter Tull became not just the first black British professional outfield football player – for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town – but also the first black officer in the British Army.

His leadership and courage in the trenches of the First World War won him a recommendation for a Military Cross that was never awarded because of his skin colour.

His story takes the reader from his childhood in an orphanage, through his footballing years, to his eventual tragic death, aged 29, on the Somme. His legacy lives on.

It’s an ancient manuscript no one has ever been able to decipher. And there are rules that say it is forbidden to even try to solve it. A secret hidden for centuries.

But Brodie Bray likes a challenge, and when she receives a coded message through the post her life changes for ever. She’s chosen for a secret team working to crack this most complicated code in the world to uncover the secret it hides.

A beautiful and timeless story about the uncertainty and destruction caused by war. Tilly is a young nurse doing her best to help in the war effort. When she hears her brother Georgie must go to the front line in France she is devastated. Georgie isn’t like other people – he has learning difficulties and doesn’t understand what the war means. Tilly asks her sweetheart Harry to keep Georgie safe. But they soon learn that the nature of war makes any promise hard to keep.