Our Shelfie: Penguin Random House Children’s

To celebrate International Children's Day, some of the Penguin Random House Children's team share the books that have shaped them and their careers. 

Lottie, Marketing Officer

Lottie with stack of children's books
Shelf of children's books

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I’ve loved our recent reissues of Matilda, which celebrated her 30th birthday by imagining what she would be up to as a ‘grown-up’. Rereading it as an adult, I’m struck by how timeless the themes are in it, that no matter how small you are, you can be big in so many ways!

Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This year I worked on the 40th anniversary edition of Each, Peach, Pear Plum. It instantly transported me back to reading it with my mum and the illustrations are so timeless and comforting! For anyone unfamiliar with the book, it takes the reader through a fairy-tale world, with a fun and simple rhyme. I vividly remember trying to spot all of the different characters in the book when I was little. I loved and still love the clever detail on each page – you can spend hours with this book! 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I remember one of the first things I was asked to help out with was the very iconic Very Hungry Caterpillar! This book is so deceptively simple, but at the same time so clever – the artwork in it is so recognisable and still looks so fresh.

Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson

This is one of my favourite Jacqueline Wilson books, although it’s pretty impossible to pick just one. Reading Jacqueline Wilson always felt I like I was spending time with one of my friends, her characters are so sassy and chatty. The story is crammed full of Nick Sharratt’s amazing illustrations, which I also vividly remember spending hours trying to recreate. I read it and then went on to devour all of Jacqueline Wilson’s stories growing up, she is such a master of capturing exactly what it’s like to be a kid, in such a un-patronising and honest way. 

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

The Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend is one of my favourite book series – reading it when I was younger, it was a book I reread every year. It’s so clever and funny, although being younger I definitely missed a few of the in-jokes, so it’s great to read now as I discover and notice something new each time. I also love the diary format – for any poetry fan I urge you to check out one of Adrian’s, they are pure art!

Lottie's shelf

Ellen, Press Officer

Ellen with stack of books
Stack of children's books

Wonder by RJ Palacio

This beautiful book made me laugh, cry, and gave me endless amounts of hope. August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten year old, but he is far from ordinary. Born with facial abnormalities, Auggie is sent to a real school having been home schooled his entire life. He’s dreading it – all he wants is to be accepted. What follows is a powerful life lesson in tolerance, acceptance, and human connection, and having read it, I will always try to be kinder than necessary.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

As a huge fan of His Dark Materials growing up, I couldn’t believe that I was given the opportunity to assist on this once in a lifetime campaign! On the eve of the launch, and for one night only, we transformed the Bodleian Library in Oxford into Jordan College – scholars, chocolatl and all! Being able to step into Lyra’s Oxford was a truly magical experience, and something I won’t ever forget.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

As a child this book absolutely TERRIFIED me – I couldn’t stomach the idea that witches hid in plain sight, their sole joy in life being to make children disappear in the most nasty and gruesome ways possible. Was my teacher a witch? Surely my own mother couldn’t be! I read The Witches over and over again, captivated by Dahl’s deliciously dark storytelling and wit, which allowed me to spend hours coming up with elaborate plots to evade the witches capture.

Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I adore this great big hug of a book – it’s warm, comforting, gripping, and so full of love. I first read Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda long before I started at Penguin Children’s, and was captivated by the pacey plot and relatable characters. I’m so proud that we publish such an important book; a book that depicts love fully and without judgement, and was thrilled to work on the publicity for the sequel Leah on the Offbeat earlier this year.

The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson’s books meant the world to me as a child, and I doubt I’d be where I am today without them. I remember dragging my mother to the library each week to check out another one of her books, and Jacqueline’s latest release could always be found right at the top of my Christmas list. But my lifelong love of reading began with The Story of Tracy Beaker – I fell in love with the touching, laugh out loud story, and feisty Tracy taught me bravery, confidence, and the importance of placing myself in other people’s shoes. It was therefore a dream come true to assist on the campaign for My Mum Tracy Beaker this year!

Ellen's shelf

Tig, Commissioning Editor

Tig in Penguin offices
Shelf of children's books

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

This is one of the books that made me want to become an editor. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on it. It sits as the foundation for so many of the great modern fantasy novels. When we brought A Wizard of Earthsea into our ‘A Puffin Book’ range, my colleague Helen asked if I’d write some cover copy and endmatter for it. It was a surreal moment of getting to work on a book that meant so much to me.

The Mona Lisa Mystery by Pat Hutchins

As a child, I listened to this audiobook endlessly. A bonkers adventure about a school trip to Paris that embroils a group of children in the theft of the Mona Lisa, it is joyful. Pat very sadly passed away in 2017; we were at least pleased that she got to see us bring her classic back into our ‘A Puffin Book’ range.

Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad is the first book I worked on at Penguin Random House, supporting our publisher. It was an exciting, whirlwind acquisition; the book went on to earn a Guinness World Record for the most translated book, pre-publication, of all time. Great fun to be a part of, and over the years since, I’ve loved getting to co-edit Sally’s books.

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

I knew from the first five pages that I wanted to publish Emily’s debut novel. Compelling drama, riveting characters, and this incredibly real world-building made me fall in love with it. Both our proof copies and final version are beautiful, arresting packages, and really every step of publishing this book, and its sequel, has been a pleasure. Emily is based in the US – one of my favourite moments in my time at Penguin Random House was getting to call her to say that she’d been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and that we were bringing her over to the UK.

Wizards and Robots by and Brian David Johnson

We approached about writing a book for young adults, and in a great twist of serendipity, he already had a story. I worked with will and his amazing co-author Brian for four years to bring the book to life. Not only a useful learning experience – not every book follows a traditional schedule – I had so much fun in the process. Watching will talk about the book on The Graham Norton show was definitely a career highlight!

Tig's shelf

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more