Author Tour for 150th Anniversary

Lost! A True Tale from the Bush Author Tour

To help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Duff children surviving for nine days after getting lost in the bush in August 1864, I will be travelling to Horsham in the Wimmera District of Victoriascan0002 and speaking at the following venues on Thursday, 7 August 2014:

Goroke Library at 10.15 am

Nhill Library at 1.30 pm

Horsham Library at 7.30 pm

I am looking forward to talking about my book and finding out more about both the people and the places that feature in it. The amazing survival story of the three young Duff children is an inspirational part of Australia’s history.

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CBCA National Conference: Discovering National Treasures

What an honour and a delight it was to be a part of the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s National Conference in Canberra, on 16, 17 and 18 May 2014. So many inspiring people from the children’s book world were all gathered under one roof: authors, illustrators, publishers, teachers, librarians and, most important of all, readers! It was fabulous to share the stage with three ‘Local Treasures': Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins and Irma Gold. I hope our plenary session on Motherhood and Mayhem and the writing life both informed and  inspired the 300-odd  delegates at the conference. And then there were the amazing ‘National Treasures’, including Bob Graham, Nadia Wheatley, Morris Gleitzman, Andy Griffith and Jackie French, just to name a few. A big thank you to the CBCA ACT Branch for organising such an inspirational and enjoyable event.

Irma, Tania, Stephanie and Tracey

Irma, Tania, Stephanie and Tracey

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New Titles

Two books have recently been released to which I have made significant contributions.

Australian Book Collectors: Second Series (Green Olive Press, 2013), edited by Charles Stitz, features my article on pioneering children’s book collector and bibliographer, the late and great Marcie Muir.

I was also consultant editor and  contributor to the National Library’s impressive9780642278326 The Big Book of Australian History (NLA Publishing, 2013), compiled by multi-award winning author Peter  Macinnis. This book has just been listed as a Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards 2014.

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Meet and Greet at the National Library

A wonderful time was had by all at the National Library when local Canberra authors and illustrators Stephanie Owen Reeder, Tania McCartney, Susan Hall,  Cheryl Westenberg and Nina Poulos read from their latest children’s books published by NLA Publishing.  A big thank you to all the children and adults who attended the get-together and participated so enthusiastically in my reading of Dance Like a Pirate. The event was part of both Showcase: The Second Festival of  Australian Children’s Literature and the Centenary of Canberra celebrations.


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Maia and What Matters – Review

maia_cover_web_0Maia and What Matters

by Tina Mortier & Kaatje Vermeire

Reviewed by Stephanie Owen Reeder

Maia is a feisty little girl in a hurry. From the moment she was born in a wicker chair under a cherry tree, while her mother was reading an exciting book, Maia was keen to take on the world. An early walker and an early talker, Maia wanted everything to happen right now! Her equally enthusiastic and active Grandma becomes her very best friend. Together, they eat cakes, climb trees and enjoy life to the full. Then one day something terrible happens––Maia’s Grandma has a stroke. And, when she finally awakes from a coma, much to Maia’s distress and frustration her special, crazy, adorable Grandma has forgotten so much––including how to talk and how to walk.

Rather than withdrawing into herself, brave Maia tries, in her own inimitable way, to draw Grandma out of herself. She makes her wobbly pottery plates and hundreds of drawings of her favourite things to adorn the walls of her hospital room. And, slowly, painfully and often indistinctly, Granma re-learns how to talk. But then fate steps in yet again, and Maia’s beloved Grandpa dies––suddenly and painlessly, with a smile on his face. While disability and death may seem like very dark themes for a children’s picture book, they are handled with such understanding and positivity that this distinctive and stunning book should resonate with a wide audience. Maia and her Grandma’s infectious love of life shines through despite the heavy themes, and this positive approach in Maia and What Matters helps both the characters and the reader cope with the difficult subject matter.

Mortier’s text is unusual, interesting and rather rambunctious––just like her characters–and it has been sympathetically and seamlessly translated by David Colmer. It carries the story in a no-nonsense way through the intricacies of Maia’s relationships, and the ways in which she deals with the disasters which befall the people that she cares most about. The use of reverse-indented, bold text to represent Maia’s thoughts and comments is particularly effective––it provides a window into the child’s mind. And Mortier pulls no punches. When Grandpa dies, her text is sympathetic, symbolic and straight to the point––‘Grandpa had broken a teacup and stopped living.’

There are echoes of John Birmingham’s textured, intricate and decorative illustrations in Vermeire’s work. Her images are often a stunning combination of sombre greys and life-affirming reds, representing both the solemn themes and Maia’s indomitable will and determination. Other life-affirming symbols abound in the illustrations––from the succulent red of cherries, to the flittering enthusiasms of a sparrow and the scampering curiosity of a squirrel, to the recurring image of the cherry tree, as it passes through the changing seasons. Vermiere uses a multimedia approach, including stamps, stencils, collage, printing, painting and drawing. Her images are full of movement and life, and are very visually engaging. However, like the text, the illustrations are often confronting and thought-provoking, with strong fairy-tale and surrealistic elements.

This is a powerful, evocative and moving book. It is one that should initially be shared and discussed with a child, rather than allowing them to make its acquaintance by themselves. However, there is much within its pages to help both children and adults learn how to cope with those inevitable but important elements of life––love, loss and grief. Highly recommended.


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Dance Like a Pirate animated book

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Upcoming Events 2014

Discovering National Treasures: 11th National Conference of the Children’s Book Council of Australia

Canberra, 16-18 May 2014

stephanie-twins-booksLocal Treasures: Motherhood and Mayhem: A Writing Life

Saturday, 17 May 2014, 9.30 am – 10.15 am at the Rex Hotel featuring Local Treasures Stephanie Owen Reeder, Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins and and Irma Gold. For more information and to check out all the amazing Australian authors and illustrators who will be at the conference, see

150th Anniversary of the Duff Children Getting Lost in the Bush: Library Tour

Horsham, Victoria,  7 August 2014

duff31Stephanie Owen Reeder will be talking at local libraries about the incredible survival story of the three Duff children who, in 1864, survived for nine days in the bush in winter near Horsham in Victoria. She will be reading from her book Lost! A True Tale from the Bush and signing copies.

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Dance Like a Pirate


Book ahoy! My latest lift-the-flap book, Dance Like a Pirate, is now available in all good bookshops and online. An animated ebook version is also available.

This is a companion book to the internationally acclaimed I’ve Got a Feeling!

Dance Like a Pirate encourages children to get active, engage in role play and have fun, whilst also learning  the names of parts of the body.

It includes not only pirates but also fairies, witches, sailors, superheroes, mermaids and much more!

A big thankyou to the wonderful editorial and design staff at NLA Publishing, especially for the eye-catching cover, complete with gold lettering and embossed figures. It certainly has the WOW factor!

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Reviews, competitions and readings


9780987109958Reviews by Stephanie Owen Reeder of The Little Eskimo by Davide Cali and The Curious Explorer’s Illustrated Guide to Exotic Animals A to Z by Marc Martin can  be found in the ‘Review’ section, along with previously featured reviews. Some of Stephanie’s recent picture book review articles can be accessed online, including:, and


Stephanie recently attended the launch of the University of Canberra’s Get Real Canberra 2013 picture book competition, where she  read her short story MaxThe Parliamentary Cat (reproduced below) to a group of very attentive preschoolers and an appreciative adult audience. Information about the competition, which is being run to celebrate Canberra’s 100th birthday, can be found at


feelings-coverStephanie is happy to announce that her picture book I’ve Got a Feeling! is included on the wonderful Read to My Child website, on which Jasmine Berry reads books for young children aged 0 to 5, including books by award-winning author Jackie French.  You can listen to Jasmine reading I’ve Got a Feeling! at

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Happy 100th Birthday, Canberra



Celebrate the Centenary of Australia’s Capital City, Canberra, by sharing this story. It introduces children in an entertaining way to some of Australia’s more colourful Prime Ministers and the buildings that they worked in. Adults will also enjoy the references to some of the more interesting political incidents in Australia’s history.

I worked at Parliament for nearly 25 years. This is my way of paying homage to the wonderful city that has been my home for over 35 years.



Stephanie Owen Reeder

Max lived in a Big White House in Canberra. The House had many masters over the years, and all of them fed Max. ’Here, Kitty, have a kipper,’ said Prime Minister Menzies, who was built like a large Ming vase. He raised his caterpillar-like eyebrows as Max gobbled up the yummy fish and meowed for more. But Mr Menzies didn’t think Max looked very regal, and so he often passed him by.

‘Want a tasty morsel, Puss?’ asked the sporty Mr Holt, the next Master of the Big White House. ‘This prawn is fresh from the sea, I caught it myself!’ Max thought he would go all the way with Prime Minister Holt because he smelt so deliciously of fish! But one day Mr Holt went away to sea and never came back.

‘Would you like some sugar, Cat?’ asked Mr McEwen, who became Prime Minister when the sea took Mr Holt away. Mr McEwen looked down his nose at Max in a very imperious way. But Max was not afraid, for he would take any food, from anyone, anywhere. And, anyway, Black Jack McEwen wasn’t around for long.

‘Have an oyster, you gorgeous feline,’ crooned the elegant Mr Gorton, who soon replaced Black Jack as Master of the House. Max liked Mr Gorton’s cravat and his crooked smile – and he loved how he always did things in his very own way. But not everyone shared Max’s feelings, and so Mr Gorton soon moved on.

‘What was that? Did you say you were hungry? Oh dear, oh dear, what should we do?’ asked the next Prime Minister in his high, querulous voice. He listened hard to Max with both his ears. But even big ears and an attractive wife couldn’t save Mr McMahon, and one day he also was Master of the Big White House no more. And even Max knew it was time for a change.

‘Help yourself to whatever you want, Felinus Rex Australis,’ declared the divine Mr Whitlam from his very great height. Max feasted on pavlovas and lamingtons, pumpkin scones and vegemite sandwiches. Then he lay in the sun and purred. But one day Mr Whitlam found that being Prime Minister was a dog’s life, and he too was sent away.

Max missed Mr Whitlam mightily, especially when the next Prime Minister came along. ‘Get down in the kitchen where you belong, Cat! And make sure you catch a few mice and earn your keep. You know life wasn’t meant to be easy, even for Canberra fat cats like you,’ decreed Mr Fraser in his most masterful voice. And so Max worked hard and kept out of the way. But even Prime Minister Fraser had his day. And, when he went, Max didn’t shed a tear.

‘You’re certainly no drover’s dog,’ chortled the charismatic Mr Hawke, who was the next Master of the Big White House at the bottom of the Hill. Prime Minister Hawke tickled Max affectionately under the chin and handed him a fat piece of fish. Then he hurried off to attend yet another Australian sporting triumph.

In fact, everyone who visited the Big White House fed Max – even the very royal lady on the red carpet who wore funny hats and smelt of dog! And so, as the years went by, Max got bigger and bigger, and fatter and fatter. And soon he was the fattest cat in the whole of Canberra, the whole of Australia, the whole wide world – and probably the whole universe and beyond!

Then one day, without warning, all the people moved out of the Big White House by the Lake. Poor Max didn’t know where they had gone. He wandered through long empty corridors that smelt of wood-polish and dust. He meowed forlornly in vacant rooms and chased his own shadow. He meandered into echoing chambers full of the ghosts of parliaments past. But he couldn’t find anyone there.

Max even chased a mouse under the Speaker’s chair – which, like him, had been left behind. But an old fat cat is no challenge for a young skinny mouse, and so Max was often hungry. Occasionally, he ate the bogong moths that flew through the House on their way to the Snowy Mountains. But a diet of moths and beetles and air wasn’t enough. And so Max got thinner and thinner and thinner, till he was a mere shadow of his former self.

Finally, in desperation, Max left the safe and familiar rooms of the Big White House. As he huddled under a rose bush, a group of tourists ambled past. They were eating fish and chips, and so Max followed his nose.

Past the roses blooming in the sun. Through the car park. Across the road. Up the hill. Under the flagpoles, clinking and clattering and calling to the sky. Past the protesters camped upon the lawns. Across the ochre pebbles that poked into his paws. Around the water rippling in the sunlight. And past the steely-eyed policemen keeping guard.

When Max looked up, he saw a new Big White House, built in and under the hill. It had swards of grass tumbling over its roof, and a gigantic silver flagpole perched above it. Max followed the tourists inside. At first he thought he was lost in a eucalyptus forest.

But then Max heard a familiar sound, a dull rise and fall of voices. ‘Hubble, bubble!’ ‘Honourable members!’ ‘Order! Order!’ ‘Hear, hear!’ ‘Rubbish, rubbish!’ ‘Rhubarb, rhubarb!’

It was a familiar, comforting sound. And Max knew that he was home!

© Stephanie Owen Reeder 2013

This is an edited version of a short story called ‘The Parliamentary Cat’, which appeared in Houseatwork: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Building, Parliamentary Education Office, Parliament House, Canberra, 2001: 144–148.

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