Heritage Heroes

Heritage Heroes Series

‘Sharing inspiring stories from Australia’s past with the children who are our future!’

‘I adore this series! In Heritage Heroes, Reeder no only takes her readers on adventures but also provides rich fodder for hunters of history. Each volume has explored the often unknown achievements of young Australian people of the past in a fictionalised narrative which is lavishly interspersed with … primary documents and photographs, ephemera, [and] information on related topics … Each volume is so sublimely presented that it becomes a tactile delight, and the joy is not just in the reading but in the holding in one’s hands.’  Sue Warren, Just So Stories https://losangzopa.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/will-the-wonderkid-treasure-hunter-of-the-australian-outback-stephanie-owen-reeder-national/

Background information 

In her award-winning Heritage Heroes series, Dr Stephanie Owen Reeder retells true stories from Australia’s past featuring ordinary children and young people who have achieved amazing things against the odds. These are inspirational stories which delve into Australia’s history. Each stand-alone book in the series tells the story of a particular child, bringing their history to life in novel format, with information sections at the end of each chapter presenting extra historical detail.

The Heritage Heroes books are based on exhaustive research, and aim to provide children with an interesting and exciting entrée to the past, as well as a good read. Beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated, the books feature stunning images from the collections of the National Library of Australia, as well as an epilogue, a glossary and a list of background reading material.

There are five books in the Heritage Heroes series, with the fifth title, Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback, published in February 2020. Four of the books in the series are now available in the Heritage Heroes paperback format. In 2023, Stephanie abridged and edited the five stories for the bind-up Courageous Kids and Their Amazing Adventures, which also includes two new tales.

Courageous Kids and Their Amazing Adventures

NLA Publishing, November 2023, $19.99    Age range: 6 to adult

Teachers Notes: https://www.nla.gov.au/sites/default/files/2024-04/Courageous%20Kids%20Teachers%20Notes.pdf

Stephanie Owen Reeder’s Heritage Heroes series celebrates stories of incredible survival, persistence and resilience by young people form Australia’s past. Courageous Kids binds together the five original, beloved stories with two brand new ones. And Liz Duthie’s occasional illustrations give young readers a visual springboard for imagining the story, and picturing themselves as these courageous young people.

The seven tales, each presented as a six-chapter novella, are:

  • Brave Bee and the Castaway Kids, set in the Circular Head area and on Trefoil Island in Bass Strait in lutruwita/Tasmania in 1895 (Belinda Kay)
  • Will the Wonderkid and the Elusive Treasure, set in the desert near Coober Pedy in South Australia (Cokatha Country) from 1914 to 1915 (Will Hutchison)
  • Amazing Grace and the Sinking Ship, set in the Margaret River Region of Western Australia (Wooditchup and Noongar Country) in 1876 (Grace Bussell)
  • Lennie the Legend and the Remarkable Ride, starting in Leongatha in the Gippsland area of Victoria (Bunurong Country) in 1931 and ending in Sydney in New South Wales (Eora Country) in 1932 (Lennie Gwyther)
  • Marvellous Miss May and the Wondrous Circus, set in Australia, New Zealand and England from 1900 to 1913 (May Wirth)
  • Clever Quong Tart and the New Gold Mountain, set in Canton, China and Braidwood in New South Wales (Walbunja Country) from 1859 to 1870 (Mei Quong Tart)
  • Valiant Jane and the Disappearing Trail, set in the Wimmera District of Victoria (Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk Country) in 1864 (Jane Duff)


‘This is a bind-up of seven stories celebrating the tenacity, curiosity and achievements of young people from our past … Exciting stories of courage and adventure. Illustrations by Liz Duthie enhance the text. Five stars.’ (Lindy, Abbey’s Bookshop)

What a wonderful way for children to learn history this book is! The author has clearly researched extensively for these stories and where she has had to use creative licence it is done for the sake (and benefit) of a good story … Children will find these stories enthralling … Perfect for both home and school bookshelves. (Barbie Robinson, Living Arts Canberra, https://www.livingartscanberra.com.au/stephanie-owen-reeder-and-liz-duthie-courageous-kids-and-their-amazing-adventures/#more-17374.)

I devoured the insights into these otherwise forgotten children and their heroic stories. This beautiful bind-up, which fits so snuggly in one’s hands, contains not only the essence of each history but is further enhanced with pertinent facts and details in small ‘pop’ shapes as well as a ‘what happened to …’ follow-up for each child …  And I cannot ignore the absolutely perfect cover art, with it’s delightful vintage vibe. Your readers of historical fiction or narrative non-fiction will eat this up … I give it a huge recommendation for middle primary to lower secondary readers …’ (Sue Warren, Just So Stories, https://losangzopa.blog/2023/11/29/picture-book-month-bonus-8-courageous-kids-and-their-amazing-adventures-stephanie-owen-reeder-illustrations-by-liz-duthie/)

This anthology brings together historical tales of peril, tragedy, hope and triumph from over one hundred years ago in a beautifully bound book for readers to treasure … Each story is enhanced by fascinating facts, line drawings by Liz Duthie and a glossary in the appendix … Courageous kids and their amazing adventures will make the perfect read-aloud in Grade 3+ classrooms and for historical adventure-loving boys and girls. (Stef Gemmill, Reading Time, https://readingtime.com.au/courageous-kids-and-their-amazing-adventures/)

‘A book like this is a great way to get kids interested in history in a way that they can relate to with children around their age and stories that will interest them.’ (Ashleigh Meikle, The Book Muse, https://ashleighmeikle.com.au/2023/11/15/courageous-kids-and-their-amazing-adventures-by-stephanie-owen-reeder-and-liz-duthie-illustrator/)

Will the Wonderkid: Treasure Hunter of the Australian Outback

NLA Publishing 2020, $24.99    Age range: 6 to adult

In December 1914, young Will Hutchison set off into the South Australian desert in search of gold with his father, Jim, two other explorers and six cranky camels. Their expedition didn’t quite go to plan, and finding water became their main concern. In a desperate bid to find water, the men set off into the desert, leaving young Will all alone with three camels to babysit. Resourceful and resilient, Will not only survived against the odds but also found a very special treasure indeed.


Highly Commended, Children’s 2020 Big Press Award, ACT Notable Awards 2022 

Notable Book,  Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2021

Recommended book, NSW, Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges 


Highly recommended … The true tale of Will’s arduous journey has been skillfully told by Stephanie Owen Reeder, bringing the reader along on the expedition, experiencing the heat, flies and the desperate search for water … This beautifully crafted book describes Will’s adventures through story, excerpts of information, old photographs, drawings and painting.’ (Jane Moore, ReadPlus, https://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=10689)

‘as well as an entertaining read for independent readers about a real person they can relate to, there is also a glimpse into a past that few know about … This is a series well worth highlighting in your collection so our young students not only learn the intriguing stories of this country’s past but can also be inspired by ordinary kids doing extraordinary things so perhaps they too can become a hero of the future.’ (Barbara Braxton, The Bottom Shelf, https://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/?s=reeder)

‘the addition of ‘what happened next’ information, biographical notes, glossary and references for exploring further some of the many related topics this is treasure worth the delving … What a marvellous new addition to this award-winning series this is. Highly recommended for readers from Upper Primary to Secondary not to mention any adults interested in Australian history.’ (Sue Warren, Just So Stories,  https://losangzopa.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/will-the-wonderkid-treasure-hunter-of-the-australian-outback-stephanie-owen-reeder-national/.)

‘Reeder breaks the book into chapters, using research to piece the men’s journey together whilst creating an absorbing story … Suitable for a 7+ readership, Stephanie Owen Reeder has created a great history resource, rich with information.’ (M.H. Alessandrino, Magpies 35(2), May/June 2020)

‘Thank you so much for Will the Wonderkid. It’s a brilliant production and we both loved it … I have been up camping in that arid country many times by 4WD vehicle, but while reading the story I felt that I was with Will and Grandfather and enduring the hardships with them … [Granny] passed away at 97 but never got over Will’s drowning. She often spoke of him with tears in her eyes. Granny would have loved to have known that Will is remembered in the history of Australia, as would Dad and uncles Esmond and Tom.’ (Tony Hutchison, nephew of Will Hutchison)

Marvellous Miss May, Queen of the Circus

NLA Publishing 2018, $24.99    Age range: 6 to adult

This is the inspiring true story of a tiny circus performer who in 1901, at just seven years of age, was given away by her desperate mother to Wirth Brothers Circus. May missed her mother, brothers and sister terribly, and she found it hard to settle into a circus where she knew nobody. But this young girl from Bundaberg in Queensland had big dreams. She wanted to be the best bareback rider in the world, performing tricks on the back of a galloping horse that only a few men could do. It was many years before she was deemed ready to perform on horseback – one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the circus. Would Miss May’s agility, poise, flexibility, talent and determination enable her to fulfil her dreams?


Shortlisted,  Young People’s History Prize, New South Wales Premier’s History Awards 2018. Judges’ comments: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/about-library-awards-nsw-premiers-history-awards-young-peoples-history-prize/marvellous-miss-may

Notable Book, CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards 2019

Recommended book, NSW, Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges 


What is not to like about this wonderful Heritage Heroes series?  … This book … introduces the present generation to one of our first Mighty Girls – one who refused to give up, and who stood up for equal rights her whole life. Well done to the author for this superb account of the indomitable Miss May. Highly recommended.’ (Sue Warren, Just So Stories, at https://losangzopa.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/marvellous-miss-may-queen-of-the-circus-stephanie-owen-reeder/)

‘Marvellous Miss May … invites you into history and let’s you experience the life of a young circus performer through a spellbinding and fascinating taleMarvellous Miss May is a captivating and addictive read, and it’s delivered in the most brilliant and kid-friendly way.’  (Shaye Wardrop, Kids Book Review, at http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2018/02/review-marvellous-miss-may-queen-of.html)

‘This is an inspirational read that celebrates an Australian of the past, a heroine unknown to many in this age of screens, that adds another layer to this country’s history.’ (Barbara Braxton, The Bottom Shelf, at https://thebottomshelf.edublogs.org/2018/01/26/marvellous-miss-may-queen-of-the-circus/)

‘This fourth title in Stephanie Owen Reeder’s award-winning Heritage Heroes series retells the remarkable true story of equestrienne May Wirth, while providing fascinating historical insights into life in an Australian Circus at the beginning of the twentieth century.’  (http://www.pittwateronlinenews.com/books.php)

Highly recommended … The life and times of of the circuses that toured Australia is beguilingly presented … An amazing life is portrayed for us in this highly readable account, liberally accompanied by coloured illustrations and circus momentos …’ (ReadPlus at http://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=8437)

Stunning full-colour illustrations and vintage circus ads make for a marvellous book.‘ (Australian Women’s Weekly, February 2018 at https://www.pressreader.com/australia/the-australian-womens-weekly/20180222/284301070398051)

‘The fourth of the Heritage Heroes series, this account of the life and times if May Wirth will amaze and inspire young readers … Highly recommended, this book bears frequent re-reading …’ (Lyn Linning, Magpies Magazine, Vol.33, page 38)

‘A fascinating look at the true life story of one of Australia’s forgotten circus stars … Beautifully designed with a simple primary colour scheme and vintage images on almost every page, this book is packed with facts, images and information about the circus … Marvellous Miss May is a wonderful story about an Australian heroine who deserves to be remembered.’ (Rachel Le Rossignol, Reading Time, 29 April 2018 at http://readingtime.com.au/marvellous-miss-may-queen-of-the-circus/)

‘In addition to its engaging story of Wirth’s life and death-defying feats in the arena, Marvellous Miss May presents rich insights into the circus at a time when it was a major popular entertainment in many parts of the globe. Stunningly illustrated with historical images, Reeder’s book also sheds light on the conditions faced by child performers and circus animals in ways that will fascinate young independent readers and their parents or teachers alike.’ (Judges’ Comments, NSW Premier’s History Awards 2018: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/about-library-awards-nsw-premiers-history-awards-young-peoples-history-prize/marvellous-miss-may)

Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony

NLA Publishing 2015, $24.99    Age range: 6 to adult

In 1932, a nine-year-old boy embarked on an amazing journey on horseback, travelling nearly 1,000 kilometres by himself from Leongatha in the Gippsland area of Victoria to Sydney just to be present at the opening of the now iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time Lennie and his indefatigable pony, Ginger Mick, reached Sydney, they had become celebrities. They were welcomed into Sydney by cheering crowds. This is the remarkable and inspiring story of one small boy with a passion for engineering and a fascination with the Harbour Bridge who had the determination to make his dreams come true.


Highly Commended, ACT Writing and Publishing Awards 2016

Shortlisted,  Young People’s History Prize, New South Wales Premier’s History Awards 2015

Winner, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards 2016

Recommended books, NSW, Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges 


‘This is a masterly narrative based on the real-life adventure of nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther … The exquisite presentation entertains and informs through the combination of a powerful and engaging narrative and a lavishly and richly illustrated multimodal visual presentation …’ (Judges’ Comments, CBCA Children’s Book of the Year Awards 2016)

‘The highly innovative presentation of this book vividly draws on multiple archival sources, which makes it a real pleasure to read. The book offers a new perspective on the well-trawled history of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge … Lennie the Legend combines a rich narrative with historical detail and impressive pictorial archives to bring the story to life for young readers … Like all good books for young readers, it also has considerable appeal for adults.  This beautifully conceived historical narrative will appeal to young readers, as well as providing a good reference book.’ (Judges Report, NSW Premier’s History Awards 2015)

‘Lennie’s unusual story of perseverance and courage is told with great charm in this beautifully presented glossy picture book … a wonderful supporting resource for the History curriculum … Highly recommended.’ (Jane Smith, Magpies: Talking about Books for Children, vol. 30, March 2015: 38)

‘I really enjoyed looking at this period of history through the eyes of the likable, determined and humble Lennie, a kid who had a dream that landed him in the middle of one of Australia’s defining moments.’ (Deborah Abela, Reading Time: Children’s book news and reviews from the Children’s Book Council of Australiahttp://readingtime.com.au/lennie-the-legend-solo-to-sydney-by-pony/)

‘This is one of the best NLA books I have read, although each one has been of the highest standard in every area. Stephanie Owen Reeder’s excellent narrative skills and insightful prose breathed life into this amazing story.’ (Anastasia Gonis, Buzz Words Magazinehttp://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/2015/03/lennie-legend-solo-to-sydney-by-pony.html)

‘This is such an inspiring tale – it is a delight to know Australian stories like this are reaching the ears and eyes of our youngsters. This important and enchanting story will stay long in the heart of any reader, no matter their age.’ (Tania McCartney, Kids Book Reviewhttp://www.kids-bookreview.com/2015/02/review-lennie-legend.html)

‘Stephanie Owen Reeder has developed an effective strategy for focusing on a personal journey while immersing readers in the daily life of a bygone era … Part history and part historical fiction, Lennie the Legend brings to life an inspirational episode from Australia’s past and provides insight into the values and resilience of a generation that survived against the odds.’ (Elizabeth Bor, ReadPlushttp://www.readplus.com.au/blog_detail.php?id=5449)

Amazing Grace: An Adventure at Sea

NLA Publishing 2011, $29.95    Age range: 6 to adult

Teenager Grace Bussell helped to save the passengers and crew of the SS Georgette, which was wrecked off the Western Australian coast near Margaret River in 1876. Grace rode her horse into the surf and helped save nearly 50 people from drowning. But she was not the only brave soul in this amazing tale of perseverance, selflessness and bravery. Amazing Grace is lavishly illustrated with paintings, drawings and photographs from the nineteenth century. It includes information sections at the end of each chapter that provide more information about shipwrecks and Grace and her family, as well as a glossary, a map and an epilogue.


Winner, Young People’s History Prize, New South Wales Premier’s History Awards 2012 

Recommended book, NSW, Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges 2023


‘This book is absolutely outstanding … The author is a master storyteller … I highly recommend Amazing Grace and it should find a place on all bookshelves.’ (Vicki Stanton, Buzz Words Bookshttp://buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com)

‘Like its predecessor [Lost!], there is an endearing quality to this book. Apart from the fascinating information the reader can glean from its pages, and the pleasure one gets in simply reading the well-told tale, it is a book that we can all treasure and add to our personal trove of special titles. Highly recommended.’ (Russ Merrin, Magpies)

‘Another sumptuous publication from NLA in Canberra … crafted into 100 glorious pages of Australian history by Dr Reeder … Imaginatively recreating history to bring it to a young readership in such an engaging fashion that adults will enjoy it thoroughly too.’ (Krista Bell, ABC Radio)

‘Australian history is brought to life here in a manner easily understood by primary students.’ (NSW Board of Studies)

Lost! A True Tale from the Bush

National Library of Australia 2009    Age range: 6 to adult

Tales of children lost in the bush have frightened and fascinated the Australian public since colonial times. In August 1864, three children—Isaac aged nine, Jane seven, and Frankie who was just three—survived for nine long days and eight cold, winter nights in the desolate mallee scrub of the Wimmera District of western Victoria. They walked for nearly 100 kilometres with no food or shelter and very little water. Against all the odds, the children were finally found, very ill but alive. Lost! A True Tale from the Bush is their inspiring story.


Shortlisted, Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010

Recommended book, NSW, Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Premier’s Reading Challenges 


‘This is a wonderfully satisfying book to handle and … a handsome addition to the art of the book in Australia.’ (Maurice Saxby, Magpies)

‘… an absolutely charming book for kids’ (Michael Cathcart, Bush Telegraph, ABC Radio National)

‘This will make a valuable addition to primary school libraries, and a beautiful gift book, especially for families where it is shared and discussed as a read-aloud.’ (Robin Morrow, Australian Bookseller & Publisher)

‘A book to share with children, and a wonderful gateway for classroom use to a more personal introduction to Australian history. Beautifully bound and presented, highly recommended.’ (Dr Kerry White, The Source)

‘The harsh way of life of our pioneering families imposed by the Australian outback is exquisitely described in this updated edition of a true event 150 years ago … Provides a model for retelling factual events in an interesting and more personal manner.’ (NSW Board of Studies)