Books for Adults and Other Titles

Books for adults

If It’s Not True It Should Be: Writing Creative Non-fiction History for Children and Adults 

Edited by Paul Ashton, with chapters by Stephanie Owen Reeder, Clare Hallifax, Peter Singer, Sophie Masson et al 

Halstead Press 2024, $33.95

Paul Ashton’s If it’s Not True It Should Be centers around the state of Australian historical fiction and comprises several pieces which illustrate the way in which history and literature relate to each other. Whilst history grounds creativity, creative non-fiction allows readers to connect with, and immerse themselves in, historical events. As well as being immersive, this work is also accurate, thereby informing the reader and bridging the gap between creativity and historical accuracy.

Ten of the contributors are academically trained historians, whilst the other six are eminent writers of historical fiction. This ensures that a balance is achieved between imagination and precision, providing appropriate context and methodology that informs whilst inviting the reader to visualise and personally connect with the events in question.

Apart from being passionate about history, the contributors in this book all share a desire to harness the past in their creative writing practices: to draw on historical sources, both traditional and promiscuous; to develop well grounded historical imaginations which allow them to fill cracks, gaps or chasms in what are invariably incomplete, invented or censored archives; to look through the eyes of others; to read historical landscapes on the ground and in the mind; and to look to history for inspiration.

Like all good creative non-fiction history and historical fiction, it’s engaging, evocative of time and place, deals with significant events and issues—however large or small—shows different perspectives and is well researched.

This book is significant in that it conveys the notion that historians need to think of themselves as writers, as the utilisation of literary forms allows them to widen their audience and contribute towards the increasing accessibility of history.


The book is highly recommended for its accessibility, varied essay topics and insightful content by the contributors, esteemed and successful writers in the field of historical fiction. Their enthusiasm for the lure of the story and the hunt for fascinating vestiges of our history is infectious. (Barbie Robinson, ‘The Canberra Bookshelf: Knowing Things that Matter’, Riotact, 11 May 2024:  

Story Time Stars: Favourite Characters from Australian Picture Books

NLA Publishing 2019, $24.99    Age range: 2 to adult

Story Time Stars is a celebration of around 60 much-loved characters from illustrated storybooks and picture books published in Australia from 1918 to 2018. This is the companion book to the major exhibition Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature, which will run from August 2019 to February 2020 at the National Library of Australia. The book provides entertaining information about a wide range of illustrated children’s books and the characters that star in them, from the irascible Magic Pudding and the delightful Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, to the elusive Green Sheep and the very rude Pig the Pug! Organised by decade, this is a book to dip into to catch up with your childhood favourites and to make new story-time friends. The book includes information sections on the children’s literature collections in both the National Library of Australia and the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL). For writing insights see


Who could resist picking up this book … Welcome to Stephanie Owen Reeder’s beautifully presented introduction to some of the most memorable characters from Australian children’s books … The whole is a fascinating and rewarding read, as much a history of various periods in the growth of a nation and the development of the society it engendered. A word of caution; reading this book is addictive. (Rayma Turton, Magpies 34(5), November 2019, p. 24)

From the 1910s … to the 2000s … this is a truly inter-generational volume that will delight everyone who picks it up … It is a delight to hold in one’s hands, with the quality of production that we have come to associate with NLA publications, and would make a beautiful gift … Whether you are looking for an addition to your personal shelves as a lover of our Australian classics for children or perhaps as a professional reference as you guide youngsters through the rich history of our literature for little people, this is a sublime choice. … I cannot recommend it highly enough – just divine! (Sue Warren, Just So Stories

What makes a character so memorable that often as adults we remember our childhood favorites? … in this fabulous book, Dr Reeder has collected together some of the most well-known characters from Australian children’s literature, characters that have resonated with so many of us that we instantly know who they are and are transported back to those childhood memories with love and affection and a warm feeling of well-being … this is another addition to the preservation of the creation of children’s literature in Australia … a must-buy for anyone with a love of Australia’s favorite storytime characters. (Barbara Braxton,

Highly recommended … This is a truly all age book … Teachers and parents will find it a delightful book to peruse and a useful resource … There are many things to recommend this book to you: the illustrations, information, format, size and price. I am sure it will be enjoyed and utilised for many years to come. (Jan Barwick, ReadPlus,

If you love children’s books … then you’re going to love Story Time Stars … Story Time Stars deserves a place in every home, as a reminder of the brilliant talent that Australia has produced, and a celebration of all the wonderful stories we’re fortunate to be able to revisit simply by picking up this book. (Sarah Steed, Kids’ Book Review,

The Vision Splendid

National Library of Australia 2011, $34.95      

The National Library of Australia’s Pictures Collection contains a treasure trove of sketchbooks from the nineteenth century. They range from impressive leather-bound albums, with marbled endpapers and gold engraving, to battered pocket-sized sketchbooks. Each sketchbook tells the story of both its artist and the places and people they depicted. Opening these books is like taking a trip back in time. You are seeing the Australian and New Zealand landscapes through the eyes of someone who has just stepped off the boat after a long and sometimes harrowing passage across the ocean to a new world.

Most of the images featured in The Vision Splendid have been wonderfully preserved. The colours are still bright, often luminous, and the different artists’ interpretations of both built and natural landscapes provide engaging insights into the colonial world, where horses were the main mode of travel, homesteads were often nothing more than cottages or bark-slab huts, and farming was backbreaking physical work.

The Vision Splendid showcases the sketchbooks of 22 artists who recorded their time in Australia and New Zealand in often breathtaking detail and with great enthusiasm. They range from well-known professional artists such as Eugene von Guerard and Albin Martens, to amateurs about whom very little is known, such as John Goldfinch and Edward Thomson. These engineers, military men, solicitors, public servants and pastoralists all delighted in recording what they saw, and then sharing it with family, friends and the wider public. The Vision Splendid presents both the artwork and the life stories of these sometimes remarkable, but often quite ordinary, people for an even wider audience to share.


‘Stephanie Owen Reeder is a Canberra-based writer and illustrator who deserves credit for compiling the artwork and producing a text that will be inviting to the general reader.’ (Courier Mail)

‘A handsome coffee table book depicting 19th century Australia.’ (North Shore Times)

Little Treasures

Bookplates, Australian Flowers, Australian Animals, Book of Hours, Australian Birds, Maps

National Library of Australia 2008, $4.95 each    

These beautifully illustrated little fold-out gift books feature stunning images from the National Library of Australia, accompanied by informative texts written by Stephanie Owen Reeder. Each book in the set of six showcases images from particular NLA collections, including delicate flower paintings by Ellis Rowan, paintings of animals from John Gould’s classic The Mammals of Australia,  illuminated manuscripts, and bookplates illustrated by artists such as Norman Lindsay, Pixie O’Harris and Brett Whitely.

The Inside Story: Creating Children’s Books

Edited by Stephanie Owen Reeder and Emeritus Professor Belle Alderman AM

Children’s Book Council of Australia 1987 

The Inside Story provides insights into the writing, illustrating, editing and publishing processes involved in creating some of Australia’s best-loved books for children, including Possum Magic. It features edited talks presented at the Children’s Book Council Seminars on Writing and Illustrating for Children held in Canberra from 1983 to 1986. Luminaries covered include Jeannie Baker, Terry Denton, Ann James, Jennifer Rowe (aka Emily Rodda), Julie Vivas, Jenny Wagner and Nadia Wheatley, many of whom are still creating books for children today, including the very successful Deltora Quest series and the 13-Storey Treehouse series.


‘The Inside Story will fascinate, inform and entertain anyone who is interested in Australian children’s literature. For those who teach, study or produce it, it will be essential reading.’ (Dr Peter Clayton, Lu Rees Archives Notes, Books and Authors)

Books for children

Bill Baillie: The Life and Adventures of a Pet Bilby

Written by Ellis Rowan, and abridged and edited by Stephanie Owen Reeder

NLA Publishing 2018    Age range: 6 to 14

Welcome to the fascinating, exciting and sometimes frightening world of `His Highness Bill Baillie of Goongarrie’, the most adventurous and well-travelled bilby in Australia. Bill Baillie lives with his owner and friend, Tabitha, and accompanies her when she goes to interesting places to paint wildflowers. Bill Bailey was originally published in 1908 by Ellis Rowan and is based on her own experiences. This version has been edited and abridged for a modern young audience by Dr Stephanie Owen Reeder.


Using remarkable skill that keeps the reader intrigued and wanting to know more about these almost mythical creatures, Stephanie Owen Reeder has abridged the original using more accessible vocabulary and shorter chapters while omitting none of the drama of this curious relationship.’ (Barbara Braxton, The Bottom Shelf, at

My Reading Journal

National Library of Australia 2008, $19.95    Age range: 6 to 10

Every time we open a book we go on a journey of discovery. As we take this journey, it is good to keep a diary of our adventures. My Reading Journal encourages children to keep a record of their reading journey. There are pages to fill in with details of the books they have read, plus sections for listing their favourite books, characters, authors and illustrators. Illustrated with colourful photographs of children reading, and featuring inspirational quotes from Australian authors and illustrators, My Reading Journal allows children to record the very special story of their personal journey through books.


‘Clever, educational, encouraging and great funMy Reading Journal is scattered with wonderful quotes from Australian authors and lovely photos of kids reading. A must for kids who love to get interactive about their books.’ (Kids Book Review)

Short stories 

  • ‘The Tyrannical Toad’, illustrated by Marissa Gunning, Blast Off, New South Wales School Magazine, No. 7, August 2013: 12-14 and illustrated by Tohby Riddle in Blast Off, New South Wales School Magazine, No. 8, September 2018
  • ‘The Parliamentary Cat: A Modern Folk Tale’, illustrated by Erin McGuire, in The House at Work, Parliamentary Education Unit, Parliament House, Canberra, 2001: 144–148
  • ‘The Empty Leg’, illustrated by Astra Lacis, Blast Off: New South Wales School Magazine 88(3), April 2003: 81–83
  • ‘Kala Rahu and the Moon Maiden’, illustrated by Gaye Chapman, Countdown: New South Wales School Magazine 84(2), March 1999: 56–60
  • ‘Under the Frangipani Tree’, illustrated by Noela Young, Touchdown: New South Wales School Magazine 84(7), August 1999: 220–222