Tommy Donbavand

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Tommy Donbavand is the author of our new series Snow-Man, the world's chilliest superhero!

 Tommy has thrived in writing numerous stories for Badger Learning including, The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom and Once Upon a Time from reluctant reader series, Gems; Head is Dead and The Colony from their Graphic Novels collection; Raven, Just Bite, Ward 13 and more in the Teen Reads series; MC Cesar, Ringtone and the Girl in the Wall from their Dark Reads series.

He is also the author of the 13-book Scream Street series, published in over a dozen languages worldwide and has written several titles for reluctant and struggling readers, including Wolf, My Teacher Ate My Brain, and Uniform – which won the 2011 Hackney Short Novel Award.

Originally from Liverpool, Tommy now lives in Lancashire with his family and an increasing number of pets. He sees sleep as a waste of good writing time.

As an author, Tommy has visited hundreds of schools and dozens of book festivals to teach creative writing and promote a love of reading.

If you're interested in booking Tommy for a School visit, please email events@tommydonbavand.com

Q&A with Tommy Donbavand

 

What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?

My older son, who suffers from dyspraxia, found reading hard as he was growing up. We read together as much as we could at home, but things were different at school; there's was nothing in reading schemes about Biff, Kipper, Chip and magic keys that excited him enough to pick up a new book.  I realised that reluctant and struggling pupils needed exciting stories if they were going to be encouraged to turn the page and so I began to pitch ideas to publishers who specialised in that area.

 

What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?

Struggling readers face all kinds of problems when opening a book - far more than most of us appreciate. To them, they have to WORK at reading a story - they can't just let it wash over them like the rest of us. Every word, sentence and paragraph is a challenge to be overcome - and only then can an authors' words hit home in terms of story, character and meaning. I see it all the time in schools across the country - and these pupils should be applauded, not criticised. They have to FIGHT to get to the meaning of a book - something most of us would fail at miserably.


What is your favourite type of character to create?

The bad guy!  Villains are so much fun to invent - especially if they come with secret lairs, diabolical weapons and over-worked minions!

 

What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High Interest appeal that really engages young readers?

A good story is a good story - no matter who it is written for. The fact that I have to watch the vocabulary, spellings or turns of phrase that I use when writing my books for struggling readers is not in any way important. I want as many readers to enjoy my adventures as possible, and that means I have to write each one carefully. Story comes first - readability comes later.

 

What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?

I think they make a HUGE difference. If you're a struggling reader, you don't want to be reading a simple 'Thomas the Tank Engine' book while your friends are engrossed in the adventure of authors for older pupils. If we can make sure that all the pupils in class are reading the same author - albeit at several different stages of writing - no-one is excluded, embarrassed or left out. It is for that reason that I'm very proud to write for Badger Learning.


Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom and Once Upon a Time?

Girls with attitude!  Growing up, all the girl characters in the books I read were either meek nobodies who looked after the coats while the boys went on their adventures, or spoiled brats just waiting for their comeuppance.  I prefer to write about girls who are keen to get stuck in and show the boys what they're made of.


What are the major themes of your work?

Friendship, standing up for what you believe in, and fighting evil (particularly evil dressed in titanium-plated robotic battle armour!)

 

What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?

Much less than you would suspect. Struggling readers are just that - readers who struggle to access words on the page. That doesn't mean they are stupid, or incapable of understanding a story. In fact - some of the smartest pupils I've ever met have reading problems. It's down to me to make sure the story is understandable - and if that means one or two pupils learn a new word or phrase along the way, so be it.


What is your favourite children’s book?

Danny, The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?

Write, write, then write again.  Fill notebooks with stories - you'll get better with every tale you write.

The Terrible Tale of Melody Doom

I've always wondered what would happen to the children of super villains after they've been captured and sent to prison - or worse! Did The Joker have a little face-painted toddler waiting for his disturbing dad to come home? Perhaps Lex Luthor had bald triplets who were forced into a life of crime to support themselves after Superman had foiled their father's evil plans? So, I put Melody Doom in the worst possible position - sent to live with a happy, jolly foster family - and sat back to see how she coped!

Tommy Donbavand

Melody Doom
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Once Upon A Time...

Fairy tales are scary! In the original version of Cinderella, her two wicked step-sisters cut off parts of their own feet in order to try to squeeze them into the glass slipper. And, speaking of shoes, Snow White's nasty step-mother was sentenced to dancing in red-hot iron shoes until she died! The original versions of all our favourite classic tales were pretty nasty (until a certain mouse-obsessed cartoon company got hold of them, that is). So, I figured I should send a pair of very different sisters into one of these tales to see if they could separate the pink princesses from the painful punishments!

Tommy Donbavand

Once Upon a Time
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You can read more about these titles and other titles from the Gems series here.

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Reviews for Home by Tommy Donbavand


I thought it was a great short story. Even though it was very short, the characters had real depth to them and you could tell what kind of family they were and what their life is like. I liked the theme of the story because Zombies are supposed to be scary and evil yet the story was the complete opposite. It was very different and I really enjoyed it. 
Chloe Year 9





Short chapters, very easy to read but a very sad and emotional story especially considering it was a Zombie story and you expect it to be like all the others with this theme. At the end though it is so much more than that! There are so many relatable feelings towards each character coupled with the harsh reality of losing someone you love. 
Alex Year 12




The story is so well written and emotional as you always want Max to be with his family and to not have died in the crash. Danny was my favourite character as you could feel his emotions so clearly. All in all a very moving and heart-warming short story. 
Mrs Hodgson - Librarian