Playgroup Interviews: Tony Wilson




Tony Wilson followed in his Father's footsteps. His Dad was an AFL footballer, playing in the 1971 Hawthorn premiership. Tony grew up marvelling that. He had the knack himself. He was drafted in 1991 under the Father and Son rule. He never did play a game as fate came to wave its tricky, unpredictable wand. Flash forward some years and Tony is a well-known children's book author- and as much as footy made an indelible mark on him, so had books and words and stories.

“Reading is important uncluttered space, time in our own head, a chance to build ‘imagination muscles’ and reading is a beautiful way to connect person to person, in the case of young read-out-loud listeners,” Tony said.

The amalgamation of a love of sport and a love of literature granted Tony and his young readers with much joy. He was writing about sport and creating characters that left children in awe, inspiring them. Most recently, his book featuring The Selwood Boys struck a chord with children and parents alike. Not only were young kids enjoying reading these books, they continue to revisit them; they are leading them outside, honing their kicking skills in the fading daylight. These books are allowing children to dream the big and wondrous dreams only young minds can lasso.
 

“I had a fanatical zeal for footy, and indeed some of my most memorable picture books were the recently rebooted ‘I barrack for’ series about favourite AFL teams.”

Back in 1998 Tony left a career in law to focus on creative writing and TV projects which saw him explore imagined ideas.

“I made a resolution back then to pursue creative ideas that I thought had legs, and one of those was a weird idea I had about a granny turning into a dinosaur (Grannysaurus Rex). I hadn’t written a manuscript before, but I knocked something out with a good idea, but not great shape for a picture book. It was pared back by 1000 words, and came out in 2004. That’s what got me started.”

Tony has written 15 books, three for big kids (adults) and 12 for children. You can see that Tony extends a persona that children understand and like. He has visited many schools over the years. He has observed and engaged the bored, the brainy and the bold. It is nice to see a strong man be gentle, and funny, with children so young, eager and impressionable. 

Tony tells kids that they haven’t found the right book yet when a very few say they don’t like to read.

“The kids who pick up the reading ‘bug’, who hunger for the next chapter or book, are at such an advantage in life. It teaches them concentration, storytelling, imagination – I was lucky to be one of those kids. I credit my parents reading to me so much.”

When Tony stops to reflect back upon his own childhood, he cannot think of one bad thing, so he knows he was fortunate.

“We lived in a loving and happy household, where children were encouraged and well cared for. I adored footy, so going to the footy with my dad is a very strong memory, but also holidays at Wilsons Prom, games with my siblings, street Olympics, billycarts and, yes, books!”

Tony describes children as enthusiastic, fun, funny, easily bored, but genuinely interested in stories.

“And very very interested in the connection between themselves and the storyteller/reader.”

He cites ‘Story Box Library’ as a great site to visit where notable actors and performers read Australian picture books. He said that technology can be good for books too. He is not against kindles and audiobooks- any alternatives that help children enjoy great stories is a good thing.

Many people recognise Tony as the author behind the newly released The Cow Tripped Over The Moon. His book, illustrated by Laura Wood, was shared nationwide during Simultaneous Storytime. It is a prime example of how important stories are in creating bonds. The book has brought many people together to enjoy the simple act of reading, together. It has been a wonderful story, travelling from small country town libraries, to big city streets and read many times over before bed.

“Nothing replaces that before bedtime cuddle and read.”

Tony shows that life does not always lead us down the path we imagined, but in books we imagine and connect once more.

By Sinead Halliday


Tony has more picture books coming. Hickory Dickory Dash at the end of the year, and Jed Kelly next year. Hooray!