Penguin Days cover

By Sara Leach & Rebecca Bender

Penguin Days

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.

Available In


Ages 7-10
ISBN: 978-1-77278-053-6
List Price: $17.95 CAD / $15.95 USD
Trim Size: 5.50 x 7.50 inches / 13.97 x 19.05cm
Pages: 104

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 80

Paperback / softback

Ages 7-10
ISBN: 978-1-77278-275-2
List Price: $14.95 CAD / $12.95 USD
Paperback / softback with reinforced binding & with dust jacket & with flaps
Trim Size: 5.50 x 7.50 inches / 13.97 x 19.05cm
Pages: 104

Publication date: April 25, 2023

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 84

About this book

Awards and Honours

  • 2020 Bank Street Best Book selection (Commended) (United States)
  • 2019 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens selection (Commended) (Canada)
  • 2019 Resource Links "Recent Canadian Titles too Good to Miss" selection (Commended) (Canada)
  • 2022 Chocolate Lily Award (Short-listed) (Canada)


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 there….read 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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Additional Resources

Teaching Guide

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