readilearn: Interview with Allison Paterson about her non-fiction book Australia Remembers – just in time for Remembrance Day

  • Published on November 9, 2018

Interview with Allison Paterson author of Australia Remembers

This week, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Allison Paterson and her beautiful non-fiction picture book Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials. With the observance of Remembrance Day occurring on the weekend, the interview is timely.

This post is but one of several celebrating Allison’s beautiful picture book in Romi Sharp’s Books on Tour. Please read to the end of the post for details of other posts celebrating Allison’s work.

About the book

The book explains, in a way that is detailed but accessible for a young audience, the origins and significance of both Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Explanations of the traditions and symbols ensure that children understand why it is important to observe these historical events and why we should never forget those who fought for our country, and those who keep us safe today.

This volume is the first in a series. The second volume Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force will be released in 2019.

About the author

Allison Paterson grew up on a farm surrounded by sheep, dogs and chooks. She loved to read and enjoyed endless hours in the school library. She became a teacher and her love of reading and children’s literature forged a pathway to becoming a teacher librarian, the perfect job for a book-loving teacher.

She also loved to write, a path that has now led to the life of an author, immersed in words, books and sharing stories.

Her book Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front, the children’s version of the adult non-fiction title Anzac Sons: the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars was longlisted for the 2016 ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) and CBCA (Children Book Council of Australia) awards. She based these stories on the more than 500 letters written by her grandfather and his four brothers when they were serving on the Western Front.

Granny's Place and Shearing Time by Allison Paterson

But war is not all that Allison writes about. Her picture books Granny’s Place and Shearing Time were inspired by memories of her grandparents and life growing up on the farm.

She was a recipient of a 2017 May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship. The resulting young adult manuscript Follow After Me will be published in 2019.

Allison presents talks in a range of situations and to audiences from Kindergarten to retirement villages, Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services, libraries, book shops and of course, she loves to visit schools.

She is a book reviewer for Magpies Magazine, a publishing consultant for Big Sky Publishing, and a member of both Speakers Ink and the Green Leaf Press team – a support service and agency for authors, illustrators and presenters.

The interview

Hello, Allison. Welcome to readilearn.

Thank you for inviting me.

Allison, Congratulations on your book Australia Remembers. It is a comprehensive record of the significance of ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day and provides details of military events and commemorations in clear child-friendly language and terms.

Why was it important for you to write Australia Remembers?

quote from Allison Paterson

I have an enduring interest in Australian history and military service and have previous books published regarding these topics, including Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front, which is the children’s version of my adult title Anzac Sons. They are based on a collection of over 500 letters sent from the Western Front by my grandfather and his four brothers.

The courage and sacrifice of my ancestors inspire me every day. The concept for Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials has come from my experience of being a teacher librarian and writing Anzac Sons.

quote from Allison Paterson about the importance of remembering

Honouring the service of all members of our armed forces became very important to me. I believe that self-understanding and knowledge of service help to develop community spirit and empathy for others. Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials is designed to ensure that the next generation shares the history and understands the traditions of these important commemorative occasions.

What do you like best about your book?

Australia Remembers is beautifully designed and the collaborative product of the fantastic publishing team of designers and editors at Big Sky Publishing. The team have taken my words and ideas and moulded them to create a visually appealing, engaging and invaluable resource for Primary teachers and parents.

Australia Remembers is promoted as the first of a series, written specifically for children from 6 to 12 years, that will focus on Australia’s military history. Will you be involved in the writing of other books in the series?

I’m currently writing the next in the series and will be involved in upcoming titles as well.

Can you tell us briefly what the focus of other books might be?

Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force is underway and will be released in 2019. It explores the history of the Army, Navy and Air Force in Australia, along with the shared and specific customs and traditions which have developed, sometimes over centuries! It will be a terrific resource for answering the questions which arise around our commemorative services. The next is still being conceptualised, so I best not give away too much of that!

Allison, you were a teacher-librarian for many years. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Writing has always been in my life, so I don’t think I can pinpoint a time when I made a conscious decision to be a writer. I did need to decide a few years ago to resign from an awesome job as a teacher-librarian to pursue writing as a career. Today I am a full-time writer, interspersed with author talks and workshops in schools and casual consultancy work for Big Sky Publishing.

How did your role as a teacher-librarian help you decide what to write?

As a teacher-librarian, I felt that I was supplying teachers with the same non-fiction resources regarding the origins and traditions of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. In addition, the lack of information regarding war memorials was significant. An idea was born! I wanted to provide a very useful and curriculum specific book that filled those gaps and would be valued by both teachers and children.

quote from Allison Paterson

Today, as both a writer and presenter in schools, I am frequently asked to talk about my books. In doing so I confirmed my long-term concern. In discussions with mid-to-upper Primary-age children there is a widespread misconception that the experience of the Anzacs began and ended at Gallipoli. Once a specific Year 6 topic, today it is not until Year 9 that the curriculum outlines the service of Australians after the birth of the Anzac legend.

quote from Allison Paterson about the importance of honouring our ancestors

Students may have opportunities to visit the Australian War Memorial on school visits, and teachers and families do fill the gaps, but, generally the misconception that World War I was Gallipoli seems to be common in the Primary years. I hope that both Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front and Australian Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials help to address that gap in knowledge.

Australia Remembers is a non-fiction book. It includes information and details about events that occurred before you were born. How did you know what to include in the book?

There were hard decisions to be made! Largely I thought about the questions that children (and adults) have asked me about Anzac Day and Remembrance Day and ensured I was answering those. I also consulted with other teachers whose opinions I valued. For instance, the publishing team debated whether Two-up should be included – we didn’t want to promote gambling. We threw the question out to the teachers. Two-up stayed and we presented it simply as a game of chance that the Anzacs played for entertainment.

How is writing a non-fiction book different from writing a fiction book?

Knowing when to stop researching a non-fiction book is not as clear and making decisions about what to include is significantly different. In writing my YA novel, Follow After Me (BSP, 2019) I wrote about the years of World War I, so my previous research for Anzac Sons meant I needed to do little research. The research I did do was generated by what I specifically needed to know, rather than by what I think a reader wants to know, as in Australia Remembers.

I understand that you are now a full-time writer. Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

Definitely quiet! I am most creative in our lovely study with a window overlooking my herb garden. During summer I have regular visits from a solitary blue-banded native bee who loves my purple basil flowers – even it can distract me with its noisy buzz and delightful gathering of pollen.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

All three! I’ll add scissors and sticky tape when creating non-fiction. I always do a design of the book as I develop it. I print out the text, cut it up into sections and play with positioning in a sketch book.

Your book is illustrated mainly with photographs? Where did you get the photos?

The photos were gathered from various sources including the photo library of Big Sky Publishing, photos I have taken, images shared by St Andrew’s Anglican College (all with parent permissions, of course!) and the photographers of the Bendigo RSL Military Museum were also very generous in sharing their images.

How did you feel when you wrote this book?

I felt a mixture of emotions. I was excited to be involved in such a valuable project, but the stories of service and sacrifice highlight the futility and tragedy of war. A child recently asked me the simple question – Why do wars happen? It is a difficult one to answer and really is a question that I wish was no longer relevant in our lives today …

How do you hope readers will feel when they read Australia Remembers?

quote from Allison Paterson about the importance of commemoration

I hope readers will feel grateful for the lives they enjoy today and, as they investigate the commemorative role and history of the countless memorials spread across Australia, that they develop a resolve to always remember those who have served.

How would you like teachers to present your book to children?

Teachers will be able to use Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials as a direct resource to cover aspects of the curriculum with questions and activities included in the book. Extensive teacher notes are also available in the teacher pages at Big Sky Publishing, and also via my author website. Almost every double-page spread includes a question for children to consider and to stimulate discussion. It is also a book that will appeal to children to pick up and read, so it is great for both public and school libraries.

Which of your book’s messages is the most important one you would like them to discuss?

The concept of serving others and being prepared to make sacrifices to help others in time of need is very important to me, but then I’d also like to add showing respect and gratitude for the way of life we have today.

advice for children as writers by Allison Paterson

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

Keep your stories! I wrote my children’s picture book years ago and it was published in 2016. I have stories I wrote when I was a child and they provide great inspiration. When your parents tell you to clean out your wardrobe don’t throw away your writing books!

Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?

Bryce Courtenay and Jackie French are high on my list! I read a lot of historical fiction.

thank you writers and illustrators for sharing information about your books and your creative process

Thank you, Allison, for sharing these insights about your book Australia Remembers and your writing process. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

To find out more about Allison, visit her website

 Or connect with her on social media:

Facebook: Allison Marlow Paterson

LinkedIn: Allison Paterson

 Australia Remembers can be purchased from all good bookstores including:

Booktopia, Dymocks and Collins, and from the publishers Big Sky Publishing.

author spotlight Allison Paterson

This interview is now available free, in a ready-to-print format, in Literacy Resources Author Spotlight  Author Spotlight – Allison Paterson. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

To find out more about Allison and her book, check out these other posts in Books on Tour.

Allison Paterson blog tour schedule

Monday Nov 5 – Sunday Nov 11


Monday Nov 5

Tuesday Nov 6

Wednesday Nov 7

Thursday Nov 8

Saturday Nov 10

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    Yes, it is very timely, Charli. It’s good to know that the Day is being remembered, and Servicemen and women are being honoured, all around the world.

    I enjoy Allison’s company and wisdoms in real life, Norah. This interview and background into her new work is as good. Most enjoyable and I can’t wait to see the book for real! 🙂 x

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Dimity. It’s lovely to have your perspective on Allison and her work. You’ll appreciate her new book. 🙂

    I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview, Robbie. Your book is a great record of your mother’s wartime childhood experiences. All the stories work together to make a collective history.

    Thanks so much, Colleen. I’m pleased you enjoyed the interview with Allison.

    What a great interview. So nice learning about Allison and her writing. Such a great idea to record history about those who fought for our freedoms in a manner that children can understand. 🙂 x

    Thanks so much for reading, and for your lovely comment, Debby. I agree, and Allison has made the information easily accessible for children and others.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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