Canberra author wins Children’s Book Council award for story about nine-year-old bridge enthusiast

Stephanie Owen Reeder. Photo: Marina Neil Ginger Mick and Lennie Gwyther in 1932, courtesy Leongatha Historical Society.

The story of a nine-year-old boy who rode hundreds of kilometres on horseback to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge has won a major prize at the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards.

Canberra author Stephanie Owen Reeder wrote Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony, as part of her Heritage Heroes series, published by the National Library of Australia.

She told Fairfax Media she had been irresistibly drawn to Lennie’s story, not least because it has a Canberra connection.

“It’s based on a true story about a nine-year-old boy [Lennie Gwyther] who in 1932, fascinated with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, decided to ride his pony, who was called Ginger Mick, all the way from Leongatha, in country Victoria, to Sydney by himself for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” she said.

“He actually stopped off in Canberra, stayed at Boys Grammar and went to Old Parliament House. There’s a picture from 1932 of him on the steps of Old parliament House on his pony.”

Speaking from Sydney, where she was “toasting Lennie” under the bridge itself, she said she was gratified to receive the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books at the ceremony.

“I’ve been a part of the children’s book world for about the last 40 years, and I’ve been involved in the Children’s Book Council as a president and the editor of their journal, so to now be winning their award is really very special,” she said.

Fiona Wood won in this year’s Older Readers category with Cloudwish, while industry stalwart Morris Gleitzman took out the Younger Readers category with Soon, Anna Walker for Mr Huff in the Early Childhood category, and Armin Greder and Nadia Wheatley won Picture Book of the Year for Flight.

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