Penguin Days Reviews

Kirkus ReviewsCover: Penguin Days Author: Sara Leach Illustrator: Rebecca Bender Publisher: Pajama Press

“Lauren, who has autism spectrum disorder, is back for a second outing following Slug Days (2017)….A scratchy dress, a little vomit, and an accidental fall into the calves’ stall will all get in the way, although Lauren’s dislike of new situations and a bad case of stage fright are the biggest challenges. Lauren relates her prickly feelings in a believably forthright voice that offers readers welcome insight into her perspective….

Bender’s soft, gentle illustrations expand and illuminate Lauren’s narrative. Plenty of white space and short chapters make this empathetic effort extra accessible to a broad audience….

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. (Fiction. 5-9)”

Click here to read the full review


“In this sequel to Slug Days (2017), Lauren again narrates the story, offering insights into how she sees the world and what helps her cope with stressful situations. 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.”
— Carolyn Phelan

Click here to read the full review

The Horn Book Magazine

“In Slug Days (rev. 3/18) readers met Lauren, a second grader with autism spectrum disorder; they learned about the effects her ASD had on her everyday routine and also learned some of her coping strategies. Penguin Days throws a new set of challenges at Lauren: a visit to North Dakota for her aunt’s wedding means coping with an unfamiliar rural environment, wearing a scratchy flower girl dress, and interacting with a set of relatives she isn’t used to—and who aren’t used to her, or to making adjustments when she needs them….Black-and-white pencil and digital illustrations should help early-elementary-age readers understand Lauren’s emotions and those of the people around her.”
—Shoshana Flax

Read the full review in the January 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

Foreword Reviews

“A lighthearted story, Penguin Days follows Lauren, who is on the autism spectrum. She sometimes misreads social cues, like not understanding why others laugh; she is not always included in groups….Pencil illustrations by Rebecca Bender appear on nearly every spread. They feature Lauren and her family and are insightful in showing the way she navigates the world, including feelings that Lauren herself might not pick up on or understand. The book’s chapter breaks sometimes interrupt the flow of the story, which might imitate how Lauren sees her own world.

In Penguin Days, Lauren’s family learns to accept one another, no matter how challenging a situation might seem.”
—Rebecca Monterusso

Read the full review in the January/February 2019 Children’s Spotlight issue of Foreword Reviews

Manhattan Book Review

“We rated this book: [5/5 stars]…

Author Sara Leach has written an excellent story told from the point of view of a young girl who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and has trouble dealing with so many things. The voice of Lauren is pitch-perfect and really expresses her specialness well. The infusion of humor makes this very accessible to all children. Charming illustrations by Rebecca Bender complete this sweet story. This book will give parents and teachers an excellent portal to difficult discussions about the Autism Spectrum and the many children affected by it.”

Click here to read the full review

CM Magazine

“Lauren is an eight-year-old girl with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and she sees the world in her own unique way. Penguin Days is a stand-alone book that also continues a story begun in Slug Days, with Lauren encountering challenges this time beyond school that help her stretch and grow. Not only must she attend her first-ever family wedding, but she is going to be a flower girl!…

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. Ongoing mix-ups and dilemmas present themselves within a strong, plot-driven storyline, and, while the resolution is authentic and satisfying, readers will no doubt anticipate further books about this delightful character.

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.
Bev Brenna

Click here to read the full review

Youth Services Book Review

Rating 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? This is a ‘must have’ for any library!…Lauren exhibits some behaviors typically found in children on the autism spectrum such as disliking loud sounds, feeling hot and cold at the same time, rocking back and forth, not liking changes or sharing, and not understanding expressions such as a child being ‘priceless’. We see Lauren handle these challenges through breathing exercises and special tricks she has learned to calm down….

To whom would you recommend this book? 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….

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” pile? Yes”
Kristin Guay, Centerville Library, Centerville, MA

Click here to read the full review

New York Journal of Books

“The insights readers get about ASD feel authentic and, for those who aren’t familiar with someone who has ASD, unthreatening. This isn’t simple for an author to do, but Leach has taken a topic that kids are exposed to more and more and given them ways to understand why people with ASD behave the way they do. Adults learn, as well. Readers come away with more tools in their toolkit to be empathetic, patient, and nonjudgmental.

Bender’s whimsical pencil drawings on most pages contribute to comfortable reading for those just stepping into chapter books. The illustrations capture emotions and reflect a lovely childhood innocence. Along with the many illustrations, young readers will appreciate the simple sentence structure and vocabulary. Early chapter book readers will find the chapters are bite-size in the amount of text. Yet the same reader can feel a sense of accomplishment in the number of pages covered. The pages have plenty of white space, which also contributes to more comfortable reading.

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.”
—Janelle Diller

Click here to read the full review

Resource Links

“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.

The extraordinary pencil illustrations are beautiful, and enhance the gentle emotions and narrative of the story wonderfully.”
—Nicole Rowlinson

Read the full review on page 12 of the April 2019 issue of Resource Links Magazine

Canadian Children’s Book News

“As readers get to know Lauren, they will empathize with her disappointments and smile at her honesty — a trait that seems to go hand-in-hand with her literal nature. Rebecca Bender’s black-and-white illustrations complement the storyline by conveying the emotional ups and downs of Lauren’s experience.

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.”
—Ildiko Sumegi is a reviewer from Ottawa and the mother of two young readers.

Read the full review on page 29 of the Summer 2019 issue of Canadian Children’s Book News

CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Eight-year-old Lauren of Sara Leach’s Slug Days (Pajama Press, 2017) has returned and now the young child on the autism spectrum must find new coping strategies beyond the school and home situations with which she contended in her first book….

Thankfully Sara Leach shows us that Lauren can have slug days when everything goes wrong, and penguin days when she has to dress up and get along with people she rarely sees, and still have wonderful butterfly days when all is right with the world. 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.”

Click here to read the full review

Canadian Bookworm

“I thoroughly enjoyed the previous book about the young autistic girl Lauren, Slug Days, and was excited to have her story continue….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. From penguins to cows, scratchy dresses to pug onesies, they added to the story. I particularly liked the photo style pictures at the end. I hope to see more Lauren books.”

Click here to read the full review

Lone Tree Reviews

Rating : 4 Star…

This was a short story but it shows what goes through a mind of a young girl with Autism….From acting like a sloth during the wedding rehearsal to annoying her cousins with penguin facts, this is a must read for anyone who is looking for a little something different from all the other books out there.

I can’t say much more than that because y’all need to 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.

Thank You to Sara Leach for this eye-opening book that much needed in this day and age.”

Click here to read the full review

Disability Rights UK, Aurelia (aged 11)

“All three books show us that the things around Lauren are really bad and need to change to accommodate Lauren. Things don’t change around Lauren in Slug Days, but she does finally manage to make one friend who arrives new in class from Sweden.

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. When you are an autistic child, if the people around you who have the power make bad decisions and don’t act as though they understand you or care, it makes you really angry, anxious and depressed. Lauren feels anxious and angry when she is misunderstood too.”

Click here to read the full review