With Christmas right around the corner, now is a great time to start checking out books you can buy your children, nieces and nephews, grandkids and other youngsters in your life.
Here is a rundown on some great options you might like to consider – there’s something for all ages!
Picture books and colouring-in
There’s something so wonderful about lyrical rhyming text that really engages young children from start to finish. A lovely example of this is Emma Middleton’s sweet The Bear in our Backyard, which was released this year as a companion title to The Lion in our Living Room. Both books are brilliantly illustrated by Briony Stewart, and contain visual clues throughout for children to spot. This ensures there is something new to notice on every read. The Bear in our Backyard, published by Affirm Press, highlights the fun children have with their mother (who, in this case, happens to be expecting a special delivery soon). The book comes with a special card for Mums inside, too, which is a nice touch.
Another wonderful picture book revolving around a bear is Ruth Waters’ humorous Not So Scary Bear. Written and illustrated by Waters, and published by Windy Hollow Books, this story challenges stereotypes and shows children the importance and benefits of staying true to oneself (whether you’re a bear who wants to be scary, or not!). Waters has a distinctive illustration style which really helps add more meaning and impact to her text. The book also highlights the power of friendship, and would make for perfect bedtime reading night after night.
Picture books that explore the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren are perennially popular, and particularly a lovely choice at Christmas time, when many families who don’t get to see each other as often as they’d like come together. To celebrate these special relationships, you can give your child, or grandchild, a copy of My Super Special Granny, published by Empowering Resources. The story is written by Jedidah Morley and illustrated by Karen Erasmus, and examines what happens when a child has to move away to a location far from Granny, who is normally seen every day.
Another lovely picture book that showcases a grandparent relationship, but this time with a Grandpa (and in a more humorous, light-hearted way), is Grandpa’s Space Adventure. Published by Penguin, written by Paul Newman, and illustrated by Tom Jellett, this title is perfect for kids who are interested in space and who enjoy exercising their imaginative muscles with the older carers in their lives.
Beauty and the Beast: A Colouring Book, published by Pan Macmillan, is a gorgeous colouring-in book perfect for young children who adored the movie. It’s also suitable for older children and adults. The book features quotations from the original story and stunning pictures which were inspired by the artwork of Walter Crane, who released a popular edition of the famous story back in 1874. This book has plenty of intricate illustrations to colour, which makes it a good option for mindfulness time, too.
Junior fiction/non-fiction to middle grade
If you have any Lego lovers in your life check out the new edition, published just last month, of The Lego Book. This DK publication, released by Penguin and written by Daniel Lipkowitz, will keep Lego fans enthralled for hours at a time. The book is a beautiful hardcover keepsake that covers everything you could want to know about the brand. For example, there are details on the history of Lego, how it is made, a showcase of hundreds of different Lego kits, information on Lego Brick Art, Lego worlds to visit around the world, and more. This edition also comes with an exclusive Lego brick, too.
For animal lovers who enjoy poring over books about creatures found around the world, there is DK’s gorgeous An Anthology of Intriguing Animals book, written by Ben Hoare and beautifully illustrated by Daniel Long, Angela Rizza, and Daniela Terrazzini. Another hardcover book that kids are likely to keep for years, this one could be given to younger kids who have someone to read a spread to them each night (each double page spread looks at a different animal), but I think it’s especially suited to children who can read it for themselves. It will certainly keep them busy over the school holidays, with over 200 pages all told.
As for fiction for new readers, a gorgeous gift idea from Penguin Books is The Tales of Mr Walker: a hotel dog with a nose for adventure. This collection of four stories about a dog who lives in a hotel is sweet and funny, and has quite a classic style to it. The stories are written by author Jess Black, and the main character is inspired by the real-life Mr Walker (a fact kids will no doubt love!), a Guide Dog Ambassador in Melbourne. Feel good knowing that royalties from sales of the book actually go to Guide Dogs Victoria, too. Delightful illustrations in the book were created by Sara Action, and help to break up the text for younger readers.
If it’s silly, laugh-out-loud humour you’re looking for, for kids who enjoy short stories and are fans of books such as the Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths, The Stinky Street Stories: 2 Stinky is a good bet. This is the second book in the Pan Macmillan series, written by Frances Watts under the pen name Alex Ratt. The book is illustrated throughout, in hilarious cartoon-style drawings, by Jules Faber. 2 Stinky contains four stories in total, all of which are based around reeking, abominably odorous, revoltingly rank and sickeningly smelly adventures!
Aleesah Darlison’s novel Running from the Tiger, published by Empowering Resources, is a middle-grade novel that’s only quite short but packs a real punch. It revolves around the friendship between two tween girls (always a popular topic for this age group), but also looks at the realistic impacts of domestic violence on young lives. This is one for older middle-grade readers (11+ years) as a result. With content that is both confronting and thought provoking, this is an excellent book to use as a prompt for discussions with children about important topics.
With so many international young adult novels getting press these days, it’s always good to encourage Aussie kids to read local authors, too. After all, in doing this they get to read about familiar landscapes and see cultural elements and language particularly familiar to them.
A great example of this is The Dream Walker, the debut novel by author Victoria Carless. Published by Lothian, this novel received a Notable commendation in this year’s CBCA awards, in the Book of the Year: Older Readers category. The story centres on a teenage girl who can’t wait to escape the isolated fishing village she lives in. The story explores themes such as isolation, mysteries, relationships, hope, grief, and more, through the interesting lens of dreams.
Another great debut by an Australian author is The Harper Effect, by Taryn Bashford. This coming-of-age story, published by Pan Macmillan earlier this year, explores teenage love set amidst the world of competitive, professional sport. The main character is a tennis ace who faces sporting challenges and love dilemmas, whilst also trying to understand herself and decide on her priorities in life. While sports lovers will enjoy the on-court action, fans of romance will certainly be kept happy, too.
If your teens prefer thrillers, you could pick them up a copy of the first book in Australian author Skye Melki-Wegner’s Agent Nomad series, The Eleventh Hour. This fun, action-packed story published by Random House is all about secret agents, and the intertwining of magic and science. The protagonist is thrust into the world of spying and must quickly learn the ropes as a teenage agent with powers. The fast-paced book takes readers around the world from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria to the bustling city of London, and beyond.
Another contemporary YA novel to consider for teens in your life is Sara Barnard’s Goodbye Perfect, published by Pan Macmillan. This book is written by a UK author, but has plenty for Australian readers to sink their teeth into. A story with a powerful, yet tested, friendship at the core, the novel explores ideas such as how well we know people; trust; how to make the right choices; and how to learn about the world at large. In the story, the main character is shocked when her best friend runs away with a boyfriend she’s never heard of before. As time goes on and police get involved, more and more questions begin to arise.