Twitter_profile_imageWelcome to Penguin Australia’s blog for teachers, librarians and educators – bringing you professional development opportunities, book reviews, resources, guest bloggers, book trailers and much more. Have a question about books? Ask us and we will answer on the blog.

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Celebrate with us!


Please join us for an evening with Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey to celebrate the launch of their new book Our Island.

When: Thursday 15 May 2014
Time: 5:30 for 6pm start
Where: Penguin Books Australia Office, 707 Collins St, Melbourne

Refreshments will be provided.

Please RSVP by 12 May by clicking on the image above.

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March 2014 Off The Shelf – Out Now!


Our brand new edition of Off The Shelf has hit our Newsstand! Not using an Apple device? Never fear, you can download our PDF version HERE.

In this issue we celebrate Jeff Kinney’s ability to engage such a diversity of young readers, and look at a fascinating new literary pop culture phenomenon. Adele Walsh, Program Director of the Centre for Youth Literature, talks us through this modernised, online take on Jane Austen, and looks at how you might use it as a resource with your students.

We also introduce you to some of the great new books from the first quarter of the year, and share our brand new book trailer for Tigerfish – the latest novel from David Metzenthen.

The Sydney Writers Festival has announced a fantastic schools program, which you can check out by following the link inside Off The Shelf.

Oh, and – it’s giveaway time! Tim Winton’s epic collection of short stories, The Turning, was last year made into a feature film starring some of Australia’s most celebrated screen stars. To celebrate the film’s release on DVD, we’re giving you the chance to win your own DVD copy. To enter, simply subscribe to Off The Shelf in iTunes by 6 April 2014.

For now – happy reading, everybody!

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Teaching notes for This Star Won’t Go Out – Esther Earl

9780141354033Diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of twelve, Esther (Persian for ‘Star’) Earl was an exceptionally bright and talented – but very normal – teenager.  She lived a hope-filled and generous, outwardly focused life as she navigated her physical decline with grace.  A cheerful, positive and encouraging daughter, sister and friend, Esther died in 2010, shortly after turning sixteen, but not before inspiring thousands through her growing online presence.

This unique memoir collects Esther’s journals, fiction, letters and sketches.  Photographs and essays by family and friends help to tell Esther’s story, along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green, who dedicated his international best-seller The Fault in Our Stars to her.

Bec Kavanagh has written a fantastic set of teaching notes for this beautiful and moving story. Download them for free HERE.

‘Just be happy, and if you can’t be happy, do things that make you happy.  Or do nothing with the people that make you happy.’  Esther Earl

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Do You Dare Series – Student Response

9780143307563We are big fans of student artwork in response to reading here at Penguin Teachers’ Academy, so we had to share with all of you this gorgeous photo of a diorama for The Bushranger’s Boys by Alison Lloyd, from a year 3 boy at Scotch College in Melbourne. Students were asked to make a diorama of the best book they had ever read and this is the end result…
DYD Diorama

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10 Minute Film Festival – The Very Hungry Caterpillar

March 20th, 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of Eric Carle’s much loved and globally celebrated book – The Very Hungry Caterpillar. There is no doubt this gorgeous book has become a timeless and well known classic. To help you celebrate, we have selected some of our favourite videos relating to Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and put them all in one place for you to share with your students.

Happy 45th Birthday to the Very Hungry Caterpillar!

Eric Carle, Picture Writer: The Art of the Picture Book (Trailer for 32 minute short film) from Kate Geis on Vimeo.

Happy 40th Birthday to the Hungry Caterpillar.. A Book about Hope from page duncan on Vimeo.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar from Bianca Bono on Vimeo.

World Read Aloud 14 – The Very Hungry Caterpillar from Chadwick International on Vimeo.

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Tigerfish – David Metzenthen Book Trailer

9780143568421From best-selling and award-winning author David Metzenthen comes a powerful new novel.

Better in here, they think. Safe and sound. No shocks and no surprises. Twenty-one degrees Celsius all year round.

But outside Sky Point Mall, no one is safe.

Ryan Lanyon lives in a tough suburb.  His brother’s a bouncer.  His best  mate owns weapons.  Ariel works in a surf shop and has never seen the sea.  And the year that lies ahead is a minefield for them all.

A novel of confrontation, loyalty and love from David Metzenthen, the award-winning and best-selling author of Jarvis 24Boys of Blood and Bone and Black Water.


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Resources for Cultural Diversity Week 2014

Cultural Diversity Week  this year will run from 15 to 23 March 2014. You can find fantastic resources for school activities HERE

Below is a list of just some of our books for both primary and secondary students that might assist you in your teaching and learning activities and discussions, or serve as related reading displays for this very special week.

9780803730588Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by GREG MORTENSON

Greg Mortenson stumbled, lost and delirious, into a remote Himalayan village after a failed climb up K2. The villagers saved his life, and he vowed to return and build them a school. The remarkable story of his promise kept is now perfect for reading aloud. Told in the voice of Korphe’s children, this story illuminates the humanity and culture of a relevant and distant part of the world in gorgeous collage, while sharing a riveting example of how one person can change thousands of lives.


‘This is your one chance. You have your secret dreams. Follow them! Make them come true . . . ‘

In a poor village in northern China, a small boy is about to be taken away from everything he’s ever known. He is so afraid, but his mother urges him to follow his dreams. For soon he will become a dancer, one of the finest dancers in the world . . .

So begins The Peasant Prince,, The true story of Li Cunxin’s extraordinary life. Based upon his internationally best-selling memoir, Mao’s Last Dancer, this remarkable picture book captures the essence of one of the most inspiring stories to come from China in many years.

With hauntingly beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Anne Spudvilas, Li’s journey of courage and determination is simply told, and as powerful as any fairytale.


‘We walk this same brown earth – you and me, Murrawee . . . ‘ In this lyrical, beautifully observed picture book, we see through the eyes of a young girl camping on the river with her family, life as it would have been two hundred years ago.

9780143500452Big Rain Coming by KATRINA GERMEIN

A lyrical story about waiting for the rain to come to an isolated Aboriginal community. Tension in the community builds as the rain clouds thicken and grow dark. Everybody waits. When will the rain come?



John Jagamarra grew up at the Pearl Bay Mission for Aboriginal children in the far north-west. It was beautiful there, but it wasn’t home. This is a tale for everyone about the pain of separation, and the strength of the human spirit.

9780141307480Two Hands Together by DIANA KIDD

When the Rileys move in next door, Lily and Ella become the best of friends. But Lily can’t understand why her Dad doesn’t like the Rileys. Why doesn’t he want them to go over there? Why is he being so horrible and mean? Does something big have to happen to change his mind?


9780143505518Ziba Came on a Boat by LIZ LOFTHOUSE

Ziba came on a boat. A soggy old fishing boat that creaked and moaned as it rose and fell, rose and fell across an endless sea . . .
Based on real events, Ziba Came on a Boat is the moving story of a little girl whose family has lost almost everything. This beautiful picture book takes us on her brave journey to make a new life, far from home.

9780143300571Benny & Omar by EOIN COLFER

For Benny, an average Irish schoolboy and sporting fanatic, his family’s move to Africa is a catastrophe. How will he survive in a place like this?

Determined to find fault with everything, Benny finally meets his match in Omar, a wild orphan boy. Omar’s English has been learnt from TV, and through his ‘telly-speak’ a madcap friendship develops between the two boys. Their crazy escapades quickly become the bane of village life and lead to a ton of trouble, as well as some heart-breaking challenges.

9780140369533The Girl With No Name by PAT LOWE

Set in the dramatic beauty of the Kimberley region, this is the poignant story of Matthew and his unusual friendship with an Aboriginal girl.



9780143002314Walk In my Shoes by ALWYN EVANS

We walked off the ferry along the wide, sloping gangplank, and when my feet hit the firm wooden planks of the jetty I staggered, legs suddenly feeling like jelly . . . Taking Mum’s hand, I whispered, ‘Are we really safe, here?’

After a perilous and terrifying escape from war-torn Afghanistan, Gulnessa and her family find themselves in Australia, a place they know nothing about. They are exhausted and traumatised, but so full of hope. At last, somewhere safe to call home.

But their struggle isn’t over yet. They are confined in a detention centre for asylum seekers, and forced to prove their refugee status. As days drag into weeks and months, Gulnessa is determined to stay strong. She must keep her family together, and fight for her friend Abdul – with whom she has secretly fallen in love. She cannot give up hope for a second chance at life, and the opportunity to build a future in a new land.

9780141308388Boy Overboard by MORRIS GLEITZMAN

A story of adventure, ball control and hope.

Jamal and Bibi have a dream. To lead Australia to soccer glory in the next World Cup.

But first they must face landmines, pirates, storms and assassins.

Can Jamal and his family survive their incredible journey and get to Australia?

Sometimes, to save the people you love, you have to go overboard.

9780143303794A Ghost In My Suitcase by GABRIELLE WANG

The flute music stops, and my breath catches in my throat.  Silence falls like a veil.  Then I hear something – no, I feel it in my chest.  ‘Steady yourself,’ Por Por whispers.  ‘It’s here . . . ‘

When Celeste travels to China to visit her grandmother, she uncovers an incredible family secret.  And with this secret comes danger and adventure.

If Celeste is to save her family and friends, she must learn to harness her rare and powerful gift  as a ghost-hunter. . .

9780143307525The Wishbird by GABRIELLE WANG

Two extraordinary children. A quest to save a city. A magical adventure for children 10 years and older.

Oriole’s beloved Wishbird is dying and she must leave the Forest of Birds to save him. But in the City of Soulless there are traitors everywhere, and when Oriole is captured, only a street orphan can help her. Can Oriole and Boy save Soulless and its bewitched king, or will the city’s darkness prove too great even for magic?

9780670077045A Long Way Home by SAROO BRIERLEY

A true story of survival and triumph against incredible odds, as seen on 60 Minutes

When Saroo Brierley used Google Earth to find his long-lost home town half a world away, he made global headlines.

Saroo had become lost on a train in India at the age of five. Not knowing the name of his family or where he was from, he survived for weeks on the streets of Kolkata, before being taken into an orphanage and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite being happy in his new family, Saroo always wondered about his origins. He spent hours staring at the map of India on his bedroom wall. When he was a young man the advent of Google Earth led him to pore over satellite images of the country for landmarks he recognised. And one day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for.

Then he set off on a journey to find his mother.

A Long Way Home is a moving and inspirational true story that celebrates the importance of never letting go of what drives the human spirit – hope.

9780143009610The Boat by NAM LE

The Boat will take you everywhere.

In 1979, Nam Le’s family left Vietnam for Australia, an experience that inspires the first and last stories in The Boat. In between, however, Le’s imagination lays claim to the world.

The Boat takes us from a tourist in Tehran to a teenage hit man in Columbia; from an aging New York artist to a boy coming of age in a small Victorian fishing town; from the city of Hiroshima just before the bomb is dropped to the haunting waste of the South China Sea in the wake of another war.

Each story uncovers a raw human truth. Each story is absorbing and fully realised as a novel. Together, the make up a collection of astonishing diversity and achievement.

9780670076550The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi by ROBIN DE CRESPIGNY

At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this is one man’s epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.

When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring.

Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune – even romance and heartbreak – Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.

With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protections of civilisation, attempting to retain his dignity and humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position.

9780141029542The Reluctant Fundamentalist by MOHSIN HAMID

‘Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened of my beard. I am a lover of America…’

So speaks the mysterious stranger at a Lahore café as dusk settles. Invited to join him for tea, you learn his name and what led this immaculate speaker of English to seek you out. For he is more worldly than you expect; better travelled and better educated. He knows the West better than you do. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream – and a Western woman – and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens. Then the true reason for you meeting becomes abundantly clear…


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