AustLit logo
Penny Matthews Penny Matthews i(A29996 works by) (birth name: Penelope Vigar) (a.k.a. Penelope E. Matthews; P. E. Matthews)
Born: Established: 1945 Mount Pleasant, Mount Pleasant (SA) area, Adelaide Hills, Adelaide, South Australia, ;
Gender: Female
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Penny Matthews grew up on a farm at Eden Valley. She attended a small local primary school then went to Presbyterian Girls' College (now Seymour College) in Adelaide where she won the Tennyson Medal for English in 1961. After a year's break from study Matthews enrolled in an Arts course at the University of Adelaide, graduating with a first class Honours Degree in English Language and Literature in 1967. She obtained an Master of Arts degree in 1970 and her thesis on the novels of Thomas Hardy was published as Novels of Thomas Hardy: Illusion and Reality (1974) by Athlone Press of the University of London.

She lived and worked in London for three years before returning to Adelaide and taking up a position as book editor with Rigby Limited. She worked with Rigby for eight years and then freelanced for several years, before being invited in 1987 to work part-time for Omnibus Books. She was appointed Senior Editor of Omnibus in 1989.

Reading has always been central to Matthews' life, and she always wanted to be a writer. She submitted her first manuscript for publication when she was fourteen, but did not break into the world of children's publishing for another thirty years, when her first picture book, Annie and Me, was published in the Macmillan reading series, 'Connections', in 1992. Although she has lived in Adelaide for nearly all of her adult life her rural childhood has remained vivid for her, and farm life has featured in many of her books. Matthews is also the author of Australian Colonial Cookery (1977 and rev. ed. 1982) published under her maiden name, Penelope Vigar. In addition she compiled numerous collections of short stories for Omnibus/Puffin in the 1980s and 1990s.

Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Finch Newtown : Walker Books Australia , 2018 15036172 2018 single work children's fiction children's

'This coming-of-age novel for middle-grade readers is about accepting and celebrating differences.

'Audrey is used to not fitting in. She knows she’s different – even her little sister calls her “Nerd Girl”. When her family moves to the country to live on a vineyard property, Audrey makes a secret friend: a boy, Finch, who seems to understand her as nobody else can. But there’s something mysterious about Finch. Who is he, really?' (Publication summary)

2020 shortlisted West Australian Young Readers' Book Award Younger Readers
y separately published work icon Nellie's Quest Camberwell : Penguin Books , 2012 6551560 2012 single work children's fiction children's

'It's 1850 and Nellie's best friend, Mary, is gravely ill. To provide Mary with the care she needs, Nellie must break a promise and go on a quest to find the Thompson family. But will they be able to help? And who will Nellie turn to when her own life is in danger?

'Follow Nellie on her adventure in the third of four exciting stories about an Irish girl with a big heart, in search of the freedom to be herself.' (Publisher's blurb)

2017 shortlisted YABBA Fiction for Older Readers
y separately published work icon A Girl Like Me Camberwell : Penguin , 2010 Z1689090 2010 single work novel young adult historical fiction

'Their lives couldn't be more different, but Emmie can't help liking Bertha Schippan. She's funny and knowing and wild, and she distracts Emmie from the monotony of farm life in their tiny, isolated community. But, as Emmie soon discovers, Bertha has secrets. Terrible secrets.

'This heartbreaking story is based on a real crime that took place more than a century ago, capturing headlines all around Australia.'

Source: Publisher's blurb.

2011 winner Davitt Award Best Young Adult Book
Last amended 12 Sep 2006 09:27:24
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: