Book Title: Defenders Series
Author: Tom Palmer
Illustrator: David Shephard
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
In the ‘Defenders’ series, best-selling author Tom Palmer brings together his passions for football and history in three haunting stories aimed for children aged 8-12. Published by Barrington Stoke, these books are ‘super-readable’ due to their accessible layout including a dyslexia-friendly font and tinted paper.
The Defenders stories follow the adventures of a boy called Seth, who lives in Halifax, loves football and is coming to terms with his mum facing a very serious illness. Seth has the unusual ability to see ‘shadows’ of the past; ghost-like appearances of people from different points in history. Although the three stories do follow through in sequence, they can also be read separately. Here we review all three books in the Defenders series.
Defenders: Killing Ground
In the first story in the series, Seth’s home town of Halifax experiences the appearance of strange scorched earth circles popping up in different places, from the wild moors to the beloved football stadium. Seth, who can see shadows of the past, discovers that dark and supernatural forces are at play when he witnesses a horrifying Viking massacre in the stadium itself. Together with his friend Nadiya, it is up to Seth to put an end to the violence and save the town.
This book has a really exciting storyline and is quite gruesome in parts, not shying away from the violent nature of the Viking invaders. The book would hold a particularly high appeal to readers who like action stories or football.
This book features on our Vikings booklist.
Defenders: Dark Arena
The second book in the series sees Seth coming face to face with shadows from Roman Britain. Seth’s mum needs to stay in hospital to undergo important treatment so Seth and his friend Nadiya visit London together. Football-lover Seth is interested in the new stadium being built by a Premier League football club, but it soon becomes apparent that something untoward is happening and the lives of the workers there are in danger. As Seth encounters the shadows of slaves from Roman times, he and Nadiya are forced to confront their own fears as horrible injustices in the present day mirror atrocities from the past. This story brings a really interesting dimension for pupils learning about Roman Britain and the way the Romans treated their slaves. This is a fast-paced story with a fun history quiz at the end of the book.
This book features on our Romans booklist.
Defenders: Pitch Invasion
By now Seth and Nadiya are becoming experts in solving mysteries from the past. In the third and final book, Seth takes a holiday in Cornwall with his Mum while they wait for news about whether her cancer treatment has worked. The visions of the past that Seth encounters in Cornwall are as gruesome as ever, this time including severed heads raised high on spikes surrounding an Iron Age hill fort. With a little help from Nadiya, Seth discovers that the heads were a means of keeping intruders out of the hill fort in Iron Age times. At the same time, Seth meets two young refugees from Aleppo who share his love of football. As past and present collide, Seth must face the horrible shadows of the past while helping his two friends to feel welcomed into their new home.
This book features on our Stone Age to Iron Age booklist.
In the Defenders series, Tom Palmer has cleverly achieved a means of helping readers to engage with history in a relatable and accessible way. The stories are exciting and filled with topical issues such as supporting a parent with a critical illness, welcoming refugees and modern slavery. There are some fairly gruesome parts in these narratives, such as the Viking massacre which is not for the faint hearted but does tackle the violent reality of the Viking invasion head on. In each story, historical events are echoed down the ages as the same social themes that shaped civilisations in the past repeat themselves in modern times. I recommend Tom Palmer's books as an essential addition to school libraries.
Tom Palmer also has some supporting materials on his website and offers school visits. To find out more visit http://tompalmer.co.uk/defenders/.
Look out for our special World Cup themed guest blog post by Tom Palmer later this week!
Many thanks to the publisher for kindly sending me review copies of these books.