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Lowestoft teacher teams up with Theo Walcott

PUBLISHED: 10:35 07 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:17 06 July 2010

A LOWESTOFT teacher has joined forces with one of England's most talented footballers to create an exciting new series of children's books.

Children's author Paul May, who teaches at Roman Hill Middle, worked with World Cup hopeful Theo Walcott to create four fictional stories based around the Arsenal star's own experiences as a young footballer.

A LOWESTOFT teacher has joined forces with one of England's most talented footballers to create an exciting new series of children's books.

Children's author Paul May, who teaches at Roman Hill Middle, worked with World Cup hopeful Theo Walcott to create four fictional stories based around the Arsenal star's own experiences as a young footballer.

Two of the books, TJ and the Hattrick and TJ and the Penalty, were published just over a week ago. Another two will come out in August.

“The character TJ is based on Theo,” Mr May explained. “He used to be called TJ as school. TJ is very fast and has a very powerful shot. Theo told me how he knocked someone over at school with a ball when they were coming off the field!

“It was exciting to meet Theo and work with him. I'm a Norwich City fan and I never thought that I would watch Arsenal games so closely!”

Mr May, who lives at Maypole Green, near Beccles, was approached to work on the project because of the success of two of his other children's football books, Troublemakers and Defenders.

The TJ books are designed to encourage boys to get into reading, something that Mr May and Theo Walcott felt passionately about.

“He was really enthusiastic about the idea of getting boys to read,” he said. “Encouraging boys to read is important and I think these books can do that. Boys might pick them up because it's about football but they're about other things too, like growing up.”

In the books, TJ is the new boy at a school that has been going downhill, and the kids have been left with nowhere to play football. A new PE teacher, Mr Wood, then comes in and things start to get rather more exciting.

The characters are inspired by people Theo knew at school, and Mr May believes this gives the books a realistic edge. “There was a girl who was better than all the boys, so we put a character like that in the books,” he said. “He had a really good PE teacher, and he said to me he was always there for them, he was always on their side. Mr Wood in the books is always looking out for the kids.”

Despite their realism, the books also reflect the almost fantastical nature of the former Southampton player's rise to the top as a Premiership and England star.

“The books are inspired by the amazing things that happened to Theo,” he said. “He didn't actually play in a competitive football match until he was 10. Then he was taken to the World Cup at 17. From not playing football to going to the World Cup was amazing.

“We were trying to communicate the idea that you can be successful if you work hard at something. You might think you're always going to be the person that gets picked last in the playground, but if you work hard you might be able to get into the team.”

Mr May has published 15 books in total, including the very successful Greenfingers, which just been translated into Japanese.

TJ and the Penalty and TJ and the Hattrick are available in all good bookshops.

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