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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Books and Resources for Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is an important event for students and teachers and there are some fabulous resources available for use in the classroom and the library. We have collected our favourites to share with you.


Emily knows her big brother, Tom, wants to leave Hillside Farm and go overseas to the war, but Emily doesn’t want him to go.

‘Everyone else is going,’ said Tom  to Emily when their uncle was gone.  ‘That’s not a good reason,’ said Emily.

The Soldier’s Gift is a moving story of one family’s courage and endurance during the First World War, the terrible losses at Gallipoli and a time that changed Australia forever.

9780670077427Loyal Creatures by MORRIS GLEITZMAN

Like many of his mates from the bush, Frank Ballantyne is keen to join the grand adventure and do his bit. Specially as a chest full of medals might impress the currently unimpressed parents of his childhood sweetheart. So Frank ups his age and volunteers with his horse Daisy … and his dad.

In the deserts of Egypt and Palestine he experiences all the adventure he ever wanted, and a few things he wasn’t expecting. Heartbreak, love and the chance to make the most important choice of his life.

From Gallipoli to the famous charge at Beersheba, through to the end of the war and its unforgettable aftermath, Frank’s story grows out of some key moments in Australia’s history.

They were loyal creatures, the men and horses of the Australian Light Horse, but war doesn’t always pay heed to loyalty. This is the powerful story of a young man’s journey towards his own kind of bravery.

This simple and easy to use website allows your students to plant a virtual poppy online and share a message about thoughts, feelings or stories they might wish to tell for Remembrance Day. There is no sign up or email required and students may make a donation if they wish, however, this is optional. What’s really special about this site is that each poppy is a click-able image with a story shared. This could make a wonderful shared or independent activity for your class, with students reading the shared stories and discussing them or reflecting in writers notebooks or on class blog pages.

BBC Stories and History Sites

The BBC has developed some incredibly comprehensive sites for teaching WW1 and WW2 stories and history. There are sites suitable for Primary and Secondary students, these have video content, photographs, news clippings, audio recordings, activities and plenty of links to further research and reading.

The Story of Billy Young

Billy Young was a boy of 15 when he joined the AIF in 1941. He was an orphan – hungry, broke, with nowhere to sleep – and the army offered him a feed, a blanket and five shillings a day in his pocket.

The trouble was, the army sent him off to Malaya where he became a POW when Singapore fell to the Japanese. From Changi, ‘Billy the Kid’ went on to spend the rest of his teenage years in some of the most barbaric Japanese prisons: the notorious labour camp at Sandakan (from which he escaped), and solitary confinement in the horrific Outram Road prison.

Billy survived by a combination of luck, larrikin humour and native cunning, learned as a market boy growing up in Sydney during the Depression. He has lasted into old age by virtue of his extraordinary spirit.

In this powerful account of one of the youngest-ever prisoners of war, award-winning author Anthony Hill takes us into the hearts and minds of the POWs, who refused to ever wholly submit to their captors.

The Battle for Lone Pine  

Most Australian have heard of Lone Pine. Too few know why.

Over four days in August 1915, Australians and Turks were thrown into some of the fiercest fighting of the war, on a small plateau in Gallipoli known as Lone Pine. Thousands of lives were lost. Seven of Australia’s nine Gallipoli VCs were earned during brutal hand-to-hand combat in dark tunnels and in trenches just metres apart, bombarded by terrifying volleys of grenades.

The Battle for Lone Pine is the first book devoted to this cornerstone of the Anzac legend, drawing on unforgettable first-hand accounts scratched into diaries and letters home. The stories of the diggers, as well as the engineers, nurses, sappers, commanders and more, provide an invaluable record of the battle and serve as moving testimony to their courage in appalling conditions.

Today, pine trees are planted in remembrance around Australia. In Gallipoli, the Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial attracts large crowds to commemorate Anzac Day. David W. Cameron’s absorbing history reveals the fate of those who fought on the ground where they gather.

In Flanders’ Field

Early on Christmas morning the guns stop firing. A deathly silence creeps over the pitted and ruined landscape. A young soldier peers through a periscope over the top of the trench. Way out in no-man’s-land, he sees a small red shape moving on the barbed wire. A brightly coloured robin is trapped. One wing is flapping helplessly.

An eloquent counterpoint to the senselessness and inhumanity of war, In Flanders Fields tells the story of a young homesick World War I soldier, who risks his life to cross the no-man’s land and rescue a robin caught in the barbed wire that separates the opposing forces, dug into their trenches. This moving picture book is a plea for compassion.

Animal Heroes 

Here are twenty-one fascinating stories about the forgotten heroes of war: animals who have served beside Australian forces.

These are all animals that dazzle with their courage and loyalty – or sometimes just by being lovable. Whether it’s a rooster guarding his battalion during the First World War or a mine-detecting dolphin in Iraq, they make the difficult lives of soldiers so much more bearable.

Of course these are just a few of the many resources and books available, and THIS SITE is one not to be missed. Please feel free to share your favourite resources with us in the comments.


Posted in Australian Curriculum, Events, Historical, Primary, Resources, Secondary, Themes | 2 Comments

Diary of a Wimpy Kid #9 – The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney

9780670078349It’s that time of year again, the month we all look forward to because it means we have a brand new story in the phenomenally bestselling  series, responsible for engaging reluctant readers world wide. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney now has 150 million books in print across the globe, testament to Jeff’s winning formula to get kids reading and keep them reading.

There are a plethora of resources for you to use in the classroom and library with your students and we are delighted to share them with you below.

The Wimpy Kid Read-a-thon – 

Win $5000 worth of transport vouchers for your school and get your students reading. More information and registration HERE 

Teacher Resources HERE 

The YouTube Channel – 

Chock full of teaser trailers, videos and animations, there is plenty here to engage your students.

The Wimpy Kid Websites -

Activities, downloads, fun stuff, author Q&A’s, everything Wimpy can be found at the click of a mouse.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – The Long Haul Instagram Competition 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey

9781926428581Winner of the Readings New Australian Writing Award 2014

Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human.

The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. In a trench on the Western Front a cat recalls her owner Colette’s theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany a dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath . . .

Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by one of our brightest young writers. An animal’s-eye view of humans at out brutal, violent worst and our creative, imaginative best, it asks us to find out way back to empathy not only for animals, but for other people, and to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.

The insight that “perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human” turns the notion of anthropomorphism on its head. These tales are not intended to reveal an understanding of the animals who speak to us, these tales reflect an image of humanity
back at ourselves that is both daunting and confronting.


This text can be accessed by students at a range of levels. On the simplest level, these
are rich, engaging tales of love and loss in times of conflict. They are stand-alone stories
of animals and their interaction with the species that is supposedly, superior to all others.

An excellent choice for secondary students in Year 10 onward, a free, downloadable teaching unit for Only the Animals can be found HERE 


Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Inspiring True Stories

When visiting a secondary school recently, we overheard a group of students discussing the fact that one of the students chose only to read inspiring true stories to help keep their ‘first world problems’ in perspective. It was a heartening conversation to overhear.

Inspiring true stories are excellent for giving perspective, but they can be so much more than that. These stories teach empathy, offer alternate views of the world, expand horizons, motivate people to push themselves to be the best they can be and strive for goals and dreams they might not have dared to reach for before.

With that in mind, here are some inspiring true stories that are perfect for sharing with your students.

9781921901898Pushing the Limits: Life, Marathons & Kokoda  KURT FEARNLEY

When Kurt Fearnley was a kid, he would leave his wheelechair at the front gate and go exploring with his brothers and sisters. ‘You’re going to have to be stronger than we are,’ they told him, ‘and we know you will be.’

The boy from Carcoar was raised to believe he could do anything. At fifteen, he won his first medal. Then he conquered the world, winning three Paralympic gold medals, seven world championships and more than 35 marathons. A world-beater in and out of his wheelchair, Kurt is a true Australian champion.

Inspiring, exhilarating and highly entertaining, Pushing the Limits takes us inside the mind of a kid with a disability growing up in a tiny town, a teenager finding his place in the world, and an elite sportsman who refuses to give up, no matter how extreme the challenge.

Walk Tall JIM STYNES/WARWICK GREEN 9780143308362

Walk Tall is a special younger readers’ edition of the Jim Stynes autobiography My Journey, adapted by Warwick Green.

Part football autobiography and part coming-of-age story, Walk Tall is an inspirational and unforgettable account of a man who continues to inspire through his life and his legacy.

There were men in strange jerseys on the TV, running around with some kind of rugby ball.

I turned to my father. ‘What’s this, then, Dad?’

He looked up from his paper. ‘Australian football.’

What’s the big deal about that? I thought.

At first, Jim Stynes didn’t understand Australian football at all. But once he accepted the challenge to play, there was no stopping him. Jim never took the easy road, on or off the football field. He pushed himself, and he worked hard to help others realise their potential. In this special younger readers’ edition of his bestselling autobiography, Jim Stynes shares his early life as a knockabout kid growing up in Ireland, his move to Australia as a teenager and his rise to football stardom, with all the trials and tribulations along the way.


This is a remarkable story. It will change the way you look at life.

For a couple of weeks, Matthew Ames didn’t feel well. The busy father of four young children knew things were not quite right but suddenly he was in Emergency, with a severe case of toxic shock syndrome – the common bacteria Strep A had entered his bloodstream and his body had gone into shutdown. He was put into an induced coma and the only way he could be kept alive was to have all his limbs amputated.

Diane Ames knew exactly what her husband would want and that he would cope – he had always been optimistic and practical. Despite a one per cent chance of survival, she asked the doctors to go ahead with the radical operation. And so began the inspiring story of an ordinary family’s courage and determination to make the most of a terrible situation.

What happened to Matthew could happen to anyone. But not everyone would accept what life offers and pursue possibilities in the way that he does. Matthew has astounded doctors with his adaptation to a new way of living, so much so that he is about to become a bionic man. And he has never once questioned Diane’s decision – it gave him the chance to truly understand how much family matters and to appreciate humanity.

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

New books for Secondary School – November 2014

9780141352930Atlantia AUTHOR: ALLY CONDIE


Rio dreams of leaving the underwater city of Atlantia and living in the world Above. But all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected choice, leaving Rio stranded Below.

Atlantia is crumbling. Guided by an unlikely mentor, Rio begins to ask treacherous questions about her destiny, her home and the corrupted system that governs the Divide between land and sea. Her life – and the fate of her city – depends on Rio listening to the voices of the past, and her willingness to speak the forgotten truth.

The Rookie Yearbook (Volume 3) AUTHOR: TAVI GEVINSON 9780143572251


The modern girl is starved for positive messaging in media. She is told that her appearance is what defines her but held to a manufactured (and sometimes dishonestly false) standard of beauty. It is a perpetual no-win state of limbo that leaves her feeling worthless and insecure. So how, in this artificial and toxic atmosphere, can girls become leaders and innovators, proud of who they are and comfortable with how they appear?

Rookie gives voice to girls, encouraging them to speak up, to meet up, to make stuff. It empowers them to submit their stories, ideas and artwork to the site and participate in media ratther than let it control them. There is no ‘Photoshop’ version of beauty. There are advertisers but Rookie is beholden to no one. There is, however, positivity, support and inspiration – tools that energize girls to express who they are and to dream of who they want to be.

Yearbook Three is the ultimate compendium featuring the best of Rookie from the 2013­ and 2014 years. There will be lots of beautiful art and writing: life lessons, diary entries, discoveries from Literally the Best Thing Ever, DIY projects, playlists, stickers and cutouts, PLUS brand-new, exclusive-to-print contributions from a dizzying array of influential writers, actors, musicians, and artists all curated by Rookie’s extraordinary eighteen-year-old editor, Tavi Gevinson.




Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

New books for Primary School – November 2014


By the much-loved storyteller Ursula Dubosarsky comes this bouncing story about two cheeky koalas brought to life by Andrew Joyner’s classic artwork.

Here is Tim. And here is Ed. Same ears, same eyes, Same feet, same head.

Tim and Ed love to be together all the time. So what will happen when Ed goes away for the night?

From the award-winning team that brought you The Terrible Plop and Too Many Elephants in this House comes this energetic and delightful story about the beginnings of independence, and about being the same – but different!

Tim and Ed is a tale to be read with laughter and enjoyed by all.

9780143308003Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of the Universe AUTHOR: TERRY DENTON

From the bestselling Terry Denton Bumper Books comes the next fantastic addition. Full of fun drawing activities, whacky cartoons, codes and quizzes, Terry Denton’s Bumper Book of the Universe is sure to nurture every child’s creativity and entertain them for hours.

With all the activities and fun of the previous Bumper Books plus added facts, codes and a touch of philosophy, it’s a must-have for all young, inquisitive minds.

9780670078462The Alice Stories: Our Australian Girl AUTHOR: DAVINA BELL

For the first time, read all four Alice stories in one beautiful hardback edition.

It’s 1918 and Alice’s deepest wish is to be a professional ballerina. But as World War One tears her family apart, a battle is being fought in her heart. Can Alice keep everyone together and still make her dreams of dancing come true?

Journey with Alice across all four exciting stories about a gifted girl in a time of war.

Loyal, creative and passionate, Alice is an enchanting Australian Girl.

The Long Haul: Diary of a Wimpy Kid AUTHOR: JEFF KINNEY

The Diary of Wimpy Kid series of books, by best-selling author Jeff Kinney, charts the highs and lows of our middle school hero, Greg, as he stumbles and fumbles from childhood to teenhood via school-hood. Sometimes helped by his friends and family, often not helped by himself!

Can’t wait for more details about Book 9? Here’s what we can tell you: Greg Heffley and his family hit the road in author-illustrator Jeff Kinney’s latest instalment of the phenomenal bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Not much to go on? You KNOW it’s going to involve Greg being the daft idiot we all love, and his family driving him nuts, and his friend-issues… so buckle-up, it’s going to be a side-splitting ride!9780670078349

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Stuff Happens – Student Reviews


StuffOur brand new series Stuff Happens has been a huge hit with parents and teachers who are looking for contemporary reads that have the added bonus of subtly teaching emotional literacy and empathy. With four titles in the series so far and four more to come in the year ahead, we wanted to start sharing some reader feedback with all of you. Below are two reviews from readers for you to enjoy.

Teachers, we have special limited editions of Stuff Happens – Jack, in a Penguin Teachers’ Academy edition, with handy teaching notes in the back. If you would like us to send you one of these editions free of charge, leave a comment on the blog.


9780143308225I liked Jack because I loved the big game Jack played ‘You Pay You Play’. I would play that game.  Oh and then he got in big trouble by the principal. In the end Jack told the truth about the game and Jack and his friend still got to play  with the Vipers..  I learned it is best to tell the truth and things might work out. (Can the next book be Henry please)  HENRY aged 8 




9780143308119I liked Sean it was interesting to me how he made friends at a new school but then that friend used him and how that made him feel.  He was then able to make new friends quickly as well as keeping in contact with his old friends from the other side of Australia.  It made me think that you just shouldn’t always just try and hang out with the cool kids.  RUPERT aged 10

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Extract, Family, New Books, Primary, Relationships, Resources | Tagged , | 2 Comments