This September, iconic children’s book publisher Puffin commemorates its milestone 80th anniversary. To celebrate, we’re offering a blockbuster giveaway including 17 books, from old favourites to new classics, as well as an exclusive Puffin water bottle. To be in the running, like our Instagram page and send your name, email, Instagram username and postal address to [email protected] Good luck!
Laura Harris is responsible for the books millions of Australian children read … a job she takes very seriously.
From big friendly giants, magical wardrobes and spiders named Charlotte to green sheep, dogs called Spot and very hungry caterpillars, she plays a huge part in what young people read daily.
As Publishing Director of Penguin Random House Young Readers, Laura oversees some of the most popular children’s books in the country.
Representing best-selling authors including Jeff Kinney, John Flanagan, Jacqueline Harvey, Morris Gleitzman, Melina Marchetta and Mem Fox, she has helped shape everything from picture books for the very young to the most sophisticated novels young adults are reading.
And while entertainment is one of the main reasons for picking up a book, Laura points out it is also vital in teaching young people empathy, understanding and acceptance, traits they will carry with them throughout their lifetime.
The latest research has found that reading for pleasure is the greatest indicator of whether a child will be successful, with a broader, more empathetic view of the world and a mind open to different thinking and knowledge which, according to Laura, is one of the greatest gifts you can give a child.
“I cannot stress enough how many benefits there are for young people to read”
“I cannot stress enough how many benefits there are for young people to read,” she said.
“Obviously enjoyment is one of the main reasons but there is so much more, young people learn so much about things outside of their world simply by picking up a book.
“They literally grow up better people by reading about others.
“It is also such a meaningful and joyful way of bonding with young people. Ten minutes a day is enough to establish lifetime habits of reading and creating unbreakable bonds.”
Laura is responsible for publishing all titles under the Puffin banner – the children’s publishing arm of Penguin Books.
Originally established in the UK in 1940 to give young people something else other than the War to think about, eight decades later Puffin is responsible for some of the world’s most-loved books including Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where’s Spot, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Alice Miranda and Bluey just to name a few.
Puffin Australia was established in 1963 to build the publisher’s Australian identity while providing quality literature Aussie children could relate to.
According to Laura, while adults typically give a book 60 pages to ascertain if they will keep reading, children only allow 6 pages so writing a book for young people isn’t as easy as you’d think.
Laura said after more than 20 years at the helm of Puffin she knows a successful book needs to stretch a reader’s imagination, to entertain and take them to another place.
For children in particular reading can help with feelings of loneliness, anxiety, uncertainty and isolation.
“Books just give so much joy, so much empathy, they aren’t driven by academia, they entertain,” she said.
“Books just give so much joy, so much empathy, they aren’t driven by academia, they entertain”
“They give such a tremendous experience of escapism, which is so important with everything that is going on particularly with COVID.
“At times we haven’t been able to socialise, and for children, this can be particularly tough so books are always a great way to be somewhere else.
“One of the things I have observed after being in this role for over 20 years is the passion and dedication our authors have for children, and the joy they strive to bring to readers, it is so inspiring.”
And while often asked, she has checked with her doctor, who assures her she doesn’t have a novel in her.
Laura’s 12 Puffin books to read before you turn 12
- Seven Little Australians — Ethel Turner
- The Magic Pudding – Norman Lindsay
- Animalia – Graeme Base
- Who Sank the Boat – Pamela Allen
- Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
- Are We There Yet? – Alison Lester
- Playing Beattie Bow – Ruth Park
- Hating Alison Ashley – Robin Klein
- Around the Twist – Paul Jennings
- Blueback – Tim Winton
- The Silver Donkey – Sonya Hartnett
- Boy Overboard – Morris Gleitzman