Heritage Heroes

Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2015

I am pleased to announce that two of my books, Lost! and Amazing Grace, have been selected to be a part of the Hello! from Australia exhibition of book illustration at the 2015 Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Lennie the Legend

I am also very happy to announce that my latest Heritage Heroes title, Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony, will be released in February 2015. It tells the story of the remarkable solo journey of Lennie Gwyther, who in 1932 rode his pony, Ginger Mick, almost 1,000 kilometres from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in New South Wales just to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 

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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  http://www.cbcaconference.org.au/program/

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

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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

Reviews

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:  http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/charm-and-chuckle-factor-20121116-29fdm.html, http://www.canberratimes.com.au/entertainment/imagine-that-20120824-24pkd.html and http://www.essentialkids.com.au/entertaining-kids/parenting-and-childrens-books/books-to-chase-kids-worries-away-20130211-2e7hg.html.

Competitions

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  www.canberra.edu.au/get-real-canberra.

Readings

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 www.readtomychild.com.au/stories-detail/ive-got-a-feeling.

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