Christmas Gift Guide: What To Buy For Kids and Teens


If you’re looking for a collection of nursery rhymes, Over the Hills and Faraway ($29.95) is the most stunning we’ve seen in years. The rhymes have been drawn from all over the world so you’ll find all the familiar ones, as well as some you didn’t know. The list of illustrators truly is a Hall of Fame. Representing Australia are Ann James, Gus Gordon (pictured left) and Shaun Tan, and their page is a fantastic example of our homegrown talented pool of children’s book illustrators.

And then, with the film adaptation of Paddington on its way, you might like to consider The Paddington Treasury for the Very Young ($34.99) or, for more of a keepsake, The Classic Adventures of Paddington ($79.99).


At a time when a flat image on an electronic screen dominates everything we do, there’s something really special about a pop-up book.

At home I have a Robert Crowther pop-up from the 70s that was adored by my three siblings and later, my own children, so I have to recommend for your dinosaur-afficionados: Robert Crowther’s Pop-Up Dinosaur Alphabet ($19.95). I know I’m not alone in saying that my son had an in-built dinosaur dictionary way before he knew his b’s from his d’s, so this is a clever combination of dinosaur facts and the alphabet.

If they’re well beyond that they’ll find much to love in Encyclopedia Prehistorica ($39.95) by the brilliant pop-up artist Robert Sabuda.

Or maybe you’ve got a wannabe jet-setter who would love the fantastic Pop-Up New York ($24.95), in which they’ll take a grand tour that includes the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium, the new World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, Times Square and Grand Central Station.


One of Roald Dahl’s stories for younger children that isn’t as well-known as The Twits or Fantastic Mr Fox is Esio Trot, and it’s a really delightful one about a tortoise who brings two lonely people together. Here’s the Esio Trot Book and Toy ($27.99).

The Tiger Who Came To Tea is one of our bestselling picture books, and there may be some big kids in your life who covet the special mug in this gift set ($29.99), as well as the new generation. The Singing Mermaid book and toy set ($24.99) is also a great gift for fans of Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo), and the Where is the Green Sheep? book and puzzle set ($24.99) is a lovely 10th-anniversary edition for 1-3 year olds.

Meanwhile, Andy Griffiths fans will explode with happiness when they see the 13-Story Treehouse book and t-shirt set ($19.99), and the trivia cards ($9.99).


I’ve enjoyed so many of this year’s picture books that it’s difficult to keep my recommendations to a reasonable size.

If you want something on the sweet and sentimental side, I recommend Where Bear? ($24.99) about a boy trying his best to re-home his enormous bear friend, or You Can Do It, Bert! ($24.99) about a bird who is grappling with his fear of flying. My favourite feel-good effort is 100 Things That Make Me Happy ($19.99) which gathers together everyday things in rhyming couplets and is a lively romp for pre-schoolers.

And then in the ‘great fun’ basket I urge you to seek out Sam and Dave Dig A Hole ($24.95) which is a clever visual adventure and one that can be enjoyed by little ones right up to Grade 1 and 2 (and I bet the older grades will be looking at it over their younger siblings’ shoulders). Those who loved Herve Tullet’s Press Here ($19.99) will be absolutely thrilled with his new offering, Mix It Up ($19.99).

Books about books always do really well, and here are three great ones: A Library Book For Bear ($24.95) (bear is a fussy reader), A Perfectly Messed-Up Story ($24.99) (a storyteller vents his despair when someone smears peanut butter in his precious pages) , and the much talked-about The Book With No Pictures ($19.99).

Lest I talk about picture books till the sun goes down, here’s a link to a recent blog post containing 10 more.


For an Aussie version of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (the new one, The Long Haul, is now available for $14.99) try Anh Do’s Weirdo series ($39.99 for the complete collection). It’s easier to read than the Wimpy Kid series, and pitched more at the 6-9 year olds

Around the Grade 1-3 reading level, still with that Wimpy Kid feel but with wacky science thrown in as well, give them Jon Scieska’s Frank Einstein and the Anti-Matter Motor ($11.99). On a completely different note for 5-8 year olds, The Cleo Stories ($16.99), by the dream-team of Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, are gentle and comforting.

Those who love to watch a mystery unravel will enjoy Withering-By-Sea ($19.99) by Judith Rossell, described by one of our staff as as ‘Agatha Christie for kids’, and Jen Storer’s Truly Tan series ($16.99 each), now up to its fourth installment. The latter is a bit like a modern-day, Australian version of The Secret Seven. For something a bit more old-school have a look at this attractive and very affordable new collection of Nancy Drew hardbacks ($9.99 each).

For slightly older, tween readers who prefer a contemporary story with a sweet dash of romance, I also recommend Jen Storer’s Crystal Bay Girls ($16.99 each) – think Sweet Valley High but smarter, contemporary and set in Australia. Or with more issues and less romance, there’s Dandelion Clocks ($14.99) and Violet Ink ($14.99) by Rebecca Westcott.

For confident readers around 9+ who love fantasy, there’s a good crop to choose from. Have a look at Gabriel’s Clock ($17.99) for Harry Potter fans, The Book of Storms ($14.95) for more of a sci-fi feel or Dragons at Crumbling Castle ($35), which is a collection of short stories by fantasy guru Terry Pratchett. And we’re all really keen on the first in a new adventure by Australian debut author A.L. Tait: The Mapmaker’s Chronicles ($14.99).


Here are some gems from the second half of the year. For a contemporary, Australian high school setting, you can’t go past Laurinda ($19.99) by Alice Pung (around 12+), about the struggles of a scholarship girl, or Nona and Me ($19.99) by Clare Atkins, set in a mining town in the Northern Territory, about a teenage girl who can’t reconcile the demands of a mostly-white high school and her deep bond with the Aboriginal community she’s part of.

The boys get to have their say too in The Summer of Kicks ($19.95). A geeky teenager is desperate to win the heart of the coolest girl in school – a well-worn but ever-popular scenario. This is fast and breezy and full of great one-liners. Alternatively, go for a high school book that really raises the stakes such as The Perfectionists ($16.95) by Sara Shepherd, who is known and loved by many as the author of Pretty Little Liars.

And my final pick in the realm of dark-humoured teenage angst is Holly Bourne’s The Manifesto on How To Be Interesting ($16.99) about a girl who tries to fix her ‘nobody’ status.

Leaving realism behind, one of the surprises for me this year was The Jewel ($17.95) by Amy Ewing. I’ve always dismissed book covers with elaborate dresses on the front (I know, cardinal rule) but this was so much fun – like a slightly frivolous The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the punchier side, for fans of The Hunger Games et al, try the Throne of Glass series ($15.99 each), which is action-packed, romantic and has a great female character. Land ($16.95) by Alex Campbell could also be overlooked with so many high-profile dystopias out there, but it’s got all the right ingredients. Finally, we know that Michael Grant continues to appeal to so many of our teenage customers, so his latest, Messenger of Fear ($22.95), will be a very well-received gift.


This eye-catching new edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ($34.99) would make a stunning gift. The illustrations by Sophia Martinek are detailed, moody and stylish.

Introduce younger readers to Enid Blyton with a 75th Anniversary hardback edition of The Magic Faraway Tree: ($29.95), which despite appearances is not illustrated by Quentin Blake but by Mark Beech.

Horse-lovers will enjoy this reissue of an old favourite: A Pony For Jean ($14.95). And the new Puffin classics collection ($14.99 each) is really hard to ignore with such evocative new covers, including Carrie’s War by the brilliant Nina Bawden, The Neverending Story, and Stig of the Dump, which I’m sure many of us born in the ‘60s and '70s remember fondly from our childhoods.


Minecraft continues to dominate my life, how about yours? The Blockopedia ($59.95) is therefore a bit of a no-brainer.

But if they are into old-fashioned pursuits, Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom ($24.99) is a stunning colouring book – indeed many adults would enjoy this too. Or, let the children entertain you over the Christmas holidays with some magic tricks: Big Magic For Little Hands ($34.95) is nicely produced and contains step-by-step instructions.

For budding chefs try the imaginatively titled Chop Sizzle Wow ($22.95), a great combination of Silver Spoon recipes and comic-book graphics.

Animal lovers will be mesmerised by Ocean ($39.95), which uses very clever engineering to produce what looks a bit like an old-fashioned TV in a book. (Last year’s Safari ($39.95) was really popular and this is a great companion to it.)

Build Darth Vader ($29.99), I am assured, will not take all of Christmas day to construct, but enough time for you to peel the spuds, open the bubbly and have some peace.

Finally, we’re often asked for inspiring books to suit older readers who are keen on dance, so this is perfect: Hope In A Ballet Shoe ($19.99) is the story of a girl who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone and struggled to find her place in the elitist world of ballet.

If you’re looking for more gift ideas then browse our Summer Reading Guide or come visit one of our five shops and chat with a bookseller.

Cover image for Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

In stock at 3 shops, ships in 3-4 daysIn stock at 3 shops