In The Beginning There Was… Toby the Teddy

June 21, 2016 Amelia Harrison

Where to begin?! This hardback picture book has been almost 18 months in the making, and is a dream neither Catherine nor I ever thought would become a reality… until it did. I know I certainly didn’t think that two girls in their early 20’s could do something like this, especially not us!

It all began at the start of 2014 when Catherine was completing her second degree, Master of Teaching (Primary) at the University of Melbourne. She was working as a student teacher at a primary school in Melbourne’s inner city. She rang me one day after placement and said that one of her students, who was 7 years old at the time, was giving her a lot of trouble as he was attempting to dial 000 from every single phone he could get his hands on – his home phone, his mother’s mobile, the classroom phone, and even the school PA system! At this point in time I was about to complete my second tertiary qualification, the Bachelor of Paramedicine at ACU – and I guess she thought I might have been able to help her come up with a strategy to get through to this kid.

Catherine said she initially tried to speak with the child but he couldn’t quite comprehend the severity of what he was actually doing, and was totally unaware of the consequences of his actions - he just thought it was hilarious… So naturally, as his teacher, Catherine decided she wanted to teach this class about 000 with a focus on how and when it is appropriate to call for emergency services. We both did quite a bit of research to try and find a resource she could use to appropriately facilitate this discussion with her class, but neither of us found anything. I was shocked that although children are considered a vulnerable population and one of the most at risk groups for not being able to call for help when required, market research for a book that would aid this important discussion with children and their parents/teachers came up empty.

We joked over dinner that we could write such resource ourselves as it would be the perfect collaboration of a soon to be primary school teacher and paramedic – I guess we did have the appropriate knowledge base, but had no idea where to even start on the publishing front, so we left it. 

Coincidentally, the next few shifts I did with Ambulance Victoria saw the crew and I being dispatched to jobs that involved children, with one 6-year-old girl calling 000 for her mother. I kept thinking that as our research for a children’s book on 000 produced nothing, there might be a lot of children unable to do what this 6-year-old did – which did in fact help to save her mothers life.

I talked to my parents and several of their friends, who happened to have a background in publishing and some in medicine, about our book idea and the responses I received were nothing but encouraging. I began to think that we could give it a shot.

Well, long story short, Catherine and I created a detailed book proposal that included (among a great deal of other content) market research, letters of endorsement, the completed manuscript and four commissioned illustrations from Emma Stuart, even our plan for a series of 6 books! We submitted this proposal to countless publishing houses of all sizes and in all locations, but to no avail. This process was incredibly disheartening and went on for about a year, but we said that if we didn’t hear anything by Jan 1st 2016, we would start seriously looking into self-publishing.

Well, Jan 1st 2016 rolled around and after 7 months of seriously hard work, here we are! We have just launched our website and have just received a shipment of books! 

I am so passionate about this project and honestly believe it will save lives. The capacity of children is often underestimated – but Toby the Teddy, the star of Is This An Emergency? Ambulance, will make sure that 000, arguably the most important series of numbers your child could ever commit to memory, is understood and becomes second nature if an emergency service is ever required.


To purchase your copy of Is This An Emergency? Ambulance CLICK HERE.

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