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Children's Fiction Special Needs

Penguin Days

by (author) Sara Leach

illustrated by Rebecca Bender

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Nov 2018
Special Needs, Marriage & Divorce, Emotions & Feelings, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2020
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 7 to 10
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Reading age: 7 to 10


From the award-winning creators of Slug Days

Lauren and her family drive to a farm in North Dakota to visit relatives and celebrate her Aunt Jossie’s wedding. But Lauren finds to her dismay that she is expected to do more than meet adults who hug her and invade her personal space. Lauren is going to be—horror of all horrors—a flower girl.

Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and she sees the world a little differently from other kids. What makes her comfortable are her routines and her coping mechanisms for her anxiety, which can get out of control in no time. So it is a challenge to deal with her rambunctious cousins, try on scratchy dresses, and follow impossible directions about going down aisles slowly-but-not-like-a-sloth and tossing pretend flowers around. So is it any surprise that Lauren flips her lid more than once? But while having an extended family seems like a lot of trouble at first, she’s about to learn just how much they can care for one another.

In Penguin Days, two award winners revisit second-grader Lauren from the acclaimed Slug Days with equal humor and empathy. Drawing on her experience teaching children with ASD, Sara Leach creates an energetic character who stomps eloquently off the page. And Rebecca Bender’s delightful black-and-white illustrations show in Lauren’s fraught situations and facial expressions all the love and assertiveness that could possibly dwell together in one unique little person.


About the authors

Sara Leach hails from Whistler, BC, where she loves to ski, hike and bike. Her middle grade novel Count Me In won the Red Cedar Book Award for 2012/13. In addition to being a children's author, she is also an elementary school teacher-librarian. She has had the privilege of teaching several amazing students with Asperger Syndrome (now classified under Autism Spectrum Disorder), and her experience working with them inspired Slug Days.


Sara Leach's profile page

Rebecca Bender is a well-loved author-illustrator of children’s books as well as an art director and designer. Her picture books include Not Friends, Don’t Laugh at Giraffe, Giraffe Meets Bird, Peach Girl (illustration), and How Do You Feel?. She has also illustrated the chapter books Slug Days, Penguin Days, and Duck Days. Rebecca’s awards and honors include the OLA Blue Spruce Award, a Cooperative Children’s Book Center best-of-the-year choice, and a Toronto Public Library best-of-the-year selection. Rebecca graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design at the top of her class, earning the Medal for Illustration. She lives in Burlington, Ontario, with her husband and two children.


Rebecca Bender's profile page


  • Short-listed, Chocolate Lily Award
  • Commended, Bank Street Best Book selection
  • Commended, Resource Links "Recent Canadian Titles too Good to Miss" selection
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Penguin Days

2022 Chocolate Lily Awards shortlist

2020 Bank Street Best Book selection

2019 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

2019 Resource Links "Recent Canadian Titles too Good to Miss" selection

"While she faces particular challenges, Lauren's misadventures (dealing with loud relatives, letting calves out of their stall, throwing up on her flower girl dress) could have happened to any girl. Other kids will enjoy reading about them from her point of view. Bender's winsome pencil drawings with gray shading illustrate the story with sensitivity and humor."—Booklist

"As in the first book, Leach gets into Lauren's head, showing how she feels when others laugh at her for reasons she doesn't understand...Linguistic mix-ups play a repeat role, given Lauren's tendency to take things literally; the fact that a 'penguin suit' turns out to be a tuxedo is a major disappointment. But many of the laughs come from Lauren's precise narration: 'It took us two days, eight movies, four chapter books, and three throw-ups to reach Auntie Joss's house.' Black-and-white pencil and digital illustrations should help early-elementary-age readers understand Lauren's emotions and those of the people around her."—The Horn Book Magazine

"Lauren relates her prickly feelings in a believably forthright voice that offers readers welcome insight into her perspective....Another fine and enlightening peek into Lauren's unique, often challenging world that displays her differences but highlights the needs she shares with all children: love, acceptance and friendship."—Kirkus Reviews

"Honest and descriptive...In Penguin Days, Lauren's family learns to accept one another, no matter how challenging a situation might seem."—Foreword Reviews

"Rating E...Penguin Days is a beautifully illustrated, very well written novel for beginning chapter book readers, and is a follow-up to the equally wonderful Slug Days....Lauren's voice is so authentically honest, the storyline is engaging and relevant, and the pace and reading level are perfect for beginning readers to be introduced to the subject of Autism, or to simply embracing differences."—Resource Links

"We rated this book: [5/5 stars]...[A]n excellent story told from the point of view of a young girl who has Autism Spectrum Disorder...The infusion of humor makes this very accessible to all children. Charming illustrations by Rebecca Bender complete this sweet story."—Manhattan Book Review

"Sara Leach's writing is finely crafted as well as highly readable for the intended age group—no small feat— and Lauren's first-person voice is just as compelling as it was in Leach's previous work....Adding to the hilarious escapades in the text are Rebecca Bender's kid-friendly black-and-white illustrations. Penguin Days would make great independent-reading fare for classroom and school libraries as well as additions to units on identity and difference. Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine

"Rating: 5...This is a 'must have' for any library!...I think this is an important book for just about any child; however, if a child is around another child with Autism Spectrum Disorder they would definitely benefit from reading this book. It really explains how these children are feeling and how they process all the events around them. This book is geared for the early elementary level."—Youth Services Book Review

"Penguin Days provides learning of the most important kind, and has an added bonus of sweet humor, age appropriate text, and engaging illustrations. It belongs on the shelf of every library for young readers."—New York Journal of Books

"Overall, this book would make a great springboard for a discussion about feelings and emotions. It presents a wonderful opportunity for children to empathize with the perspectives of others."—Canadian Children's Book News

"With the addition of Rebecca Bender's charming black-and-white illustrations that depict Lauren in all her moods, Penguin Days becomes a story of resiliency and overcoming anxiety and stressful situations for all children, with ASD and not."—CanLit for LittleCanadians

"It's neat to watch Lauren develop here, and conquer new situations, and make new friends. The illustrations are charming, and really bring the story to life....I hope to see more Lauren books."—Canadian Bookworm

"[T]his is a must read for anyone who is looking for a little something different from all the other books out this short tale that will give you a glimpse of what Autism is like for the person who has it and for the people around them."—Lone Tree Reviews

“Readers will cheer for Lauren as she conquers her fears and makes new friends. Short chapters and frequent illustrations make this an accessible book for elementary schoolers in grade 2 and up; an author’s note provides a little further insight into Autism Spectrum Disorder and celebrates the existence of caring adults and kind friends.”—Youth Services Book Review

“I feel annoyed reading books like this because I can really feel the pain that Lauren goes through. I have had teachers who didn’t understand me, and behaved very passive aggressively in response to my autism.…These books show how many autistic children experience life.”—Disability Rights UK, Aurelia (aged 11)

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