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Sue Penney (1957-) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1957, in Redruth, Cornwall, England; Education: University of Hull, B.A. (with honors), 1979; College of Ripon and York St. John, postgraduate certificate in education, 1980. Politics: "Probably 'Center Left.'" Religion: Methodist.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Heinemann Library, 100 North La Salle, Suite 1200, Chicago, IL 60602.


Teacher and department head at secondary schools in England, including Liverpool, 1980-91; writer, 1991—. National Childbirth Trust, local committee chairperson; parent governor at son's school.


Professional Council for Religious Education.

Honors Awards

Middle East Outreach Council Book Award, 2001, for Islam.


Understanding Christianity, Heinemann (London, England), 1999.

Sue Penney


(With husband, Ian Happs) Examining Health, Heinemann (London, England), 1993.

Examining Environmental Issues, Heinemann (London, England), 1993.

Examining Relationships, Heinemann (London, England), 1993.


Christianity, Heinemann (London, England), 1987, 3rd edition, 1999, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Islam, Heinemann (London, England), 1987, 4th edition, 2001, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Judaism, Heinemann (London, England), 1987, 3rd edition, 1999, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Sikhism, Heinemann (London, England), 1988, 2nd edition, 1995, 3rd edition, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Buddhism, Heinemann (London, England), 1988, 2nd edition, 1995, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Hinduism, Heinemann (London, England), 1988, 3rd edition, 1999, Heinemann Library (Chicago, IL), 2000.

Series published by Heinemann Library as "World Beliefs and Cultures."

Penney's books have also been translated into Scandinavian.


British teacher and author Sue Penney became an author of nonfiction when a representative of the Heinemann publishing company saw a copy of the thorough notes Penney used in preparation for her religious studies class. "I could not find anything available that was suitable for the youngsters I was teaching," Penney once explained to SATA, "so I produced my own material." Since beginning her writing career in the late 1980s, Penney has gone on to produce several volumes in the "Discovering Religions" series, and has also worked as a book editor for Heinemann Educational publishing. The "Discovering Religions" series has been released in the United States as "World Beliefs and Cultures." Praising several volumes in the series, School Library Journal contributor Patricia Lathrop-Green noted that Penney's texts "successfully distill the essential elements" of the faiths under study, and "provide informative, balanced introductions" for young readers.

Penney's books, which include Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism, present basic information about the religious faiths that have been most influential in world events. "In the United Kingdom," the author explained, "religious education has to be included in the normal school curriculum, but there is a shortage of specialist teachers, and it is often taught by people who have little beyond a basic knowledge of the subject. Yet, from the point of view of believers, their religion is often the most important part of their lives. I believe passionately that relaying accurate, accessible information about what people believe is vital. This is especially true when many of the youngsters will not share the beliefs or understand why they are important. Ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds prejudice. Understanding breeds tolerance. If youngsters can study my books and understand a little more about what a religion involves and why its observances are so important to its adherents, I will have achieved something worthwhile."

Since the birth of her first child in 1991, Penney has retired from teaching and writes and edits part time. "I know from experience that a teacher's life can be hard," she told SATA. "If I can make it easier by producing materials which are useful and accessible and which interest pupils, that is all to the good. I feel I am very lucky. I love my job, and I can do it on a freelance basis at home. This gives me more time with my kids than most working mums I know."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Horn Book Guide, spring, 1997, p. 88.

School Library Journal, April, 2001, Patricia Lathrop-Green, review of Christianity and Judaism, p. 167.

Times Educational Supplement, April 1, 1988, David Griffith, review of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, p. 24; September 17, 1993, p. 14.


Schoolsnet.com, http://www.schoolsnet.com/ (April 4, 2004), "Sue Penney."*

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - Personal