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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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!
Our 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.
I 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
I 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
We love hearing what our readers think here at Penguin Teachers’ Academy and we are delighted to share with you the latest student reviews below.
In Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods, the character Percy Jackson, the hero of Rick Riordan’s popular adventure series, recounts the history of the ancient Greek gods and various ancient myths concerning them. It includes details on each of the twelve Olympian gods and Hades and Persephone as well as many interesting stories and legends from the perspective of someone who was immersed in the action.
I personally found Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods a riveting and fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Ancient Greek mythology. I have always been intrigued by Greek and Roman mythology, especially after reading the two Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus. It was great having a back story of all the gods and other deities mentioned in the books, and my knowledge of Greek myths has increased considerably. Not only was this book educational, but also full of hilarious remarks by Percy Jackson and told in an easily understandable way. I laughed out loud more than once and was completely absorbed with the book from start to finish. I would press this book upon everyone I know, for it would fascinate anyone with its gripping tales and historical legends, passed down from the time of Ancient Greece itself.
Rosa, age 13
The W.A.R.P. series – which stands for Witness Anonymous Relocation Program – by Eoin Colfer is about a time-traveling FBI agent named Chevron Savano who works across time with a boy named Riley, from the Victorian era. In The Hangman’s Revolution, the second book in the series, Chevie returns to London after the events of the first book, which took her back in time to Victorian England. When she arrives, she finds that the actions she took when she was in the past have made the present very different. Europe is now in the hands of a fascist movement called the Boxites and there is no such thing as the FBI. Chevie realises that she must work again across time with Riley and other characters, like Ram King Otto Malarkey, to try to save Europe from the evil Colonel Box. Unfortunately, there are people out to get them both in the present and in the past.
I haven’t read the first book in this series but I enjoyed reading The Hangman’s Revolution all the same. There was a sort of prologue at the beginning of the book, which helped me understand the story better. I enjoyed the fact that the book is based around time travel and that it gives a clear message of how dangerous it can be if events in the past are changed. I like the idea of time travel and the theories on time travel in the book were very interesting.
I think that this book would appeal to kids between the ages of 12 and 15. Although there are some reasonably detailed scenes with blood, which some young children may not want to read about, it does not have an overly complicated plot. This book is an exciting adventure story and thriller, which is full of witty remarks. I would definitely recommend it to others who like to read about time traveling adventures.
Malika, age 15
Kylie Fornasier’s Masquerade is a charming novel set in the world of Venice in 1750. It follows the stories of seven teens, throughout the months of Carnevale, as they struggle with their romances, lies and betrayals. Orelia, a newcomer to the city, struggles to hide her secrets and discover a hidden truth. Her friends and family all have their own secrets and they slowly unravel as the book progresses.
I liked that the characters were all quite developed, especially considering there were seven main roles, and how well-researched it was. I found Masquerade to be very dramatic for what I had thought to be a light read, and it was hard to put it down. Some of the words used are quite unfamiliar, making it a little harder to read, but there is a glossary included which helped things a lot.
I would certainly recommend this book to someone looking for a slightly more refreshing young adult novel, but advise that it is best suited for more mature audiences, 14+ at least, due to some of the adult themes.
Miriam, age 15
Just in time for a weekend read, we are delighted to bring you our very latest edition of Off the Shelf! Its a bumper edition for you this quarter and we hope you enjoy reading Issue 13.
You can download Off the Shelf in the iTunes store HERE. OR, those of you without Apple devices, simply click on the cover icon below to download Off the Shelf in PDF format. off_the_shelf_sep_14_print
Your feedback is always welcome, so please do feel free to leave us a comment below.