James Hook’s unusual new career path inspires kids to ‘Chase a Rugby Dream’

Former Wales and Lions playmaker has co-written a book inspired by his own experiences as a rugby mad kid

James Hook with his new children's novel 'Chasing a Rugby Dream - Kick-off'
James Hook with his new children's novel 'Chasing a Rugby Dream - Kick-off'

WHILE James Hook did not follow the well-trodden path of publishing an autobiography towards the end of his distinguished playing career, the children’s novel he did co-author has enough of himself in it to give a real insight into the childhood which created the man who was capped 81 times by Wales and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

‘Chasing a Rugby Dream – Kick-Off’ charts the trials of tribulations of Jimmy Joseph and his tight-knit gang of friends as they encounter mean-spirited teachers, school bullies, kindly legends of the sport and a whole lot more, with rugby as the driving force which keeps the quartet going.

Packed with action, drama, colourful characters and valuable life lessons, the book is based in an unnamed Welsh town, but will appeal to and inspire all kids (and parents) with an interest in the game. 

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The book was supposed to come out at the start of the summer, which would have coincided with Hook hanging up his boots some 15 years after signing his first pro contract, but coronavirus pushed the start date back to 1st October. You can order an advance copy HERE.

Hook is already taking his initial steps into rugby coaching – he is in the process of completing his Level 3 qualification and is working on skills and kicking with both the Ospreys and Swansea University – but he hopes to balance that with continuing to write. The second book in the series is nearing completion and the plan is to follow Jimmy and his friends in several more instalments as they continue on their rugby journey.

As this novel is aimed primarily at kids of primary school age, we decided to get someone from the target audience to interview the author and write a review. Robbie’s fee for this will hinge on whether he tidies his room.

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Robbie’s review –

I would give this book 10 out of 10. It is DEFINITELY the best book I have ever read. Every time I read it, I wanted to go out to play rugby in the park.

It feels real and super realistic, and I can just imagine it happening in a real primary school. It is inspirational. I like that Jimmy is the underdog but he never gives up and he works so hard to be the best player he can be.

The book talks about lots of things that I like to do, for example YouTube videos, and I like that some of my favourite players are mentioned in the book.

There is also some really funny bits.

At the end of every chapter, something really exciting always happened which sucked me in to read more.

I can’t wait for the next book to come out.

Robbie’s 5 questions for James Hook –

1. Have you always wanted to be a children’s book writer?

“Not really. This came about when I was still playing in Gloucester and I picked up my eldest son, Harrison, from school one day to take him to a book fair. He was about seven-years-old at the time, and he’s rugby mad – a bit like yourself, Robbie – so he really wanted a rugby book but we couldn’t find one. There was a lot of children’s football books but the only rugby books there were facts books and histories of previous World Cup and that sort of thing, so that’s when I started coming up with the idea.

“I thought it was a real shame that there wasn’t anything out there to inspire kids, and get them reading, so I decided to give it a shot.

“I didn’t really know where to start – I had no experience of writing books – but when I returned home to the Ospreys in Swansea, I decided I wanted to do something about it.”

2. How long did it take you to write the book?

“That’s a good question. It was a family friend called Mal Pope who put me in touch with David Brayley – my co-author – and we hit it off straight away. We pretty much started writing there and then, and we met every week for about six months. The thing that took longest was finding a publisher to back the book and get it out there. We had a book which we were really proud of and we just needed someone like Pete Burns at Polaris Publishing to come along and help us.” 

3. How did you think of the storyline?

“It was quite easy, really, because a lot of it was about my life growing up. Some of it is complete fiction, and some of it comes from Dave’s memories and imagination as well, but the relationship Jimmy has with his grandparents in the book is pretty spot-on in terms of how close I was with my grandparents.

“I wore glasses from the age of nine or ten years old, I was asthmatic, my parents split up at a young age, so all those things you read in the book are pretty much based on my life as a kid.

“I don’t know if you read the part about Jimmy’s favourite snack being salad cream on toast? Well, I used to always sneak into the kitchen and make salad cream on toast. Have you ever tried it?”

Is that what I need to do to get 81 caps for Scotland?

“It’s worth a shot!”

4. When you were younger, was there a Mr Kane character?

“Uhm, I suppose so. At every school there is that teacher who is a little bit stricter, and I suppose he is a combination of all those strict teachers you come across in school life, and rugby coaches from my personal experiences. He wasn’t very nice to Jimmy, and I think every child has their challenges growing up, so hopefully Jimmy’s experiences and how he handles them can help if some other kids are having a similar sort of tough time.”

5. Have you started writing the next book?

“We’ve pretty much come to the end of the next book. It needs to go through editing and things like that, but we’re quite far down the line. This first book was delayed because of coronavirus – it was supposed to come out on 4th June – so we’re well ahead of schedule in terms of having the second book ready to go.

“That’s going to be an interesting read as well, so we’ll have to catch-up again and you can let me know what you think of that one.

“It all depends how books one and two go, but we’d like to make it a series that follows Jimmy for as long as possible and see where he ends up.”

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‘Dark Blue Blood’ is a black and white book which should be read all over

About Robbie Barnes 1 Article
Robbie is 10-years-old and in P6 at Towerbank Primary School in Portobello. He plays mini-rugby for Portobello Hornets. His favourite players are Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Ian Barnes (who claims he was really good at rugby).

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