Kids authors share their picks for Christmas gifts
Children’s and YA authors have impeccable taste and tottering reading stacks, so who better to recommend books for kids and teens!
We asked some of our favourite Australian authors to share their hot picks for gifts this festive season.
Sally Rippin recommends…
Funny Bones (edited by Kate and Jol Temple and Oliver Phommavanh) is a brick of a book packed with over 100 stories, cartoons, quizzes, puzzles and jokes from a whole range of fabulous contributors from across the country. I gave my advance copy to my partner’s nine-year-old daughter the other night, but seriously had trouble handing it over once I’d started flicking through the pages, as there is so much good stuff in there!
Some of my favourites include Davina Bell’s ‘How To Be A YouTube Unboxing Sensation in Two Easy Steps’, complete with instructions on where to find your own vampire; Gus Gordon’s ‘Adventures of Roger the Flying Ass’; Hannah Gadsby’s wise reflection on donkeys and Kathy Lette’s ‘Life Lessons’ for kids. Every page is hilarious and wonderful, and there is literally something for everyone in there. My partner’s daughter couldn’t keep her nose out of the book all evening! But the best part of all, is that the royalties from the sale of this book go to War Child, which supports children in conflict regions around the world.
Our family is aiming for a pared-back Christmas this year as we already have more of anything anyone could ever need, and there is way too much stuff already on this planet, but the only exception I will be making is for books, and I reckon a whole lot of little people in my life will be finding this one under their Christmas tree.
Oliver Phommavanh recommends…
The Squidge Dibley series is a real hoot with plenty of trouble from a lovable character like Squidge. Mick Elliott’s fantastic visuals only add to the fun factor!
The Australia Survival Guide by George Ivanoff would be the perfect companion for anyone going on holidays around Australia. There is plenty of info about all these dangerous places and scenarios, and plenty of helpful advice too.
Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire by debut author Nat Ammore is sensational, with two buddies who find themselves in a dream-like situation. What would you do if you had a million bucks? There’s chaos, funny one-liners and some wonderful Eighties song references that will make kids Google up all kinds of quirky things.
Pie in the Sky by Remi Lai is a delightful modern Asian-Australian migrant story with a twist or two. The comic strips throughout the novel add an extra layer of tender-hearted moments, and genuine laughs of how two boys adapt to the Australian way of life with varied results. There are some touching scenes and laughs to be had when you’re reading this gem. Ideally you’d want a piece of cake near by because this will make you hungry for something sweet!
Jaclyn Moriarty recommends…
For anybody aged between ten and 1,010, Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee is my book of the decade. It immerses you in a world of warmth and humour, family and neighbourhood, the magic of knowledge, the exquisite sadness of loss, and the wonder of recovery from loss. It will also, categorically, make you sob.
Laura Bloom’s Mika and Max is the story of a girl deciding who she is, while on a family trip to a music festival. Witty and wise, moving at a gentle pace that gradually quickens until you’re holding your breath, this is a perceptive exploration of anxiety, autism, friendship, music, family, and growing up.
If you like your magic and fantasy mixed with humour and intelligence, I always recommend Diana Wynne and Garth Nix. Try Nix’s Frogkisser, his latest, Angel Mage or, co-authored with the brilliant Sean Williams, Let Sleeping Dragons Lie.
For teenagers, I’ve just read and adored two books set on islands: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper and Neverland by Margot McGovern. And I was riveted and moved by Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, and lulled and delighted by the musical Songs that Sound like Blood by Jared Thomas.
Jaclyn Moriarty is the author of The Slightly Alarming Tale of the Whispering Wars and The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone.
Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler recommend…
‘As someone who thought they were relatively aware of the asylum seeker situation in Australia, Clare Atkins’ book Between Us opened my eyes to a depth of understanding that I didn’t have. Seeing detention through the eyes of her characters makes the reader understand and feel. A really powerful read that humanises, moves and opens hearts.’ – Hakea
‘The simple way Bruce Pascoe weaves historical documents into his thought-provoking and engaging book, Dark Emu, is powerful. He breaks down misconceptions and gives the reader hope. Even if you don’t like reading historical non-fiction you will like this book.’ – Hakea & Carl
‘I cried myself through the last few chapters of Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. This book is not my usual genre to read but I was hooked after the first page. Very cleverly written, with plot and subplots this story will keep you guessing until the end. A must read.’ – Hakea
‘The Yinti stories by Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike take simple snippets from Jimmy Pike’s real life living on Country when white man came, and turn them into a story of his adventures. A true reflection of life in the outback – warts and all.’ – Carl
Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler are the authors of Black Cockatoo.
Gavin Aung Than recommends…
At their best, graphic novels combine beautiful artwork, a fun story and memorable characters to create a world that children can lose themselves in. Luke Pearson’s Hilda series does just that. The latest installment, Hilda and the Mountain King, sees the brave heroine trying to become human again after being turned into a troll. After reading this, kids can watch the awesome new Hilda cartoon on Netflix!
Jules Faber, the illustrator of the mega-successful WeirDo books gets his own series, The Quest Diaries of Max Crack, to unleash all of his creativity into. Go on a quest with Max Crack and his mate Frankie, filled with dinosaurs, pirates and blobs. Needless to say, if your child is a WeirDo fan, they will love this!
Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders and Carol Rossetti is an empowering picture book for girls teaching them to love their bodies no matter their shape, size or colour. As a father of a young daughter, I can’t wait to read this to her when she’s a bit older, and as a cartoonist, I love the amazing watercolour illustrations by Brazilian artist, Rossetti.
Gavin Aung Than is the author of Super Sidekicks.
Idan Ben-Barak recommends…
Young Dark Emu is a must-read for every young Australian.
And finally, as I write this, incoming reports from the living room couch, interspersed with snorts and giggles, inform me that The Extremely Weird Thing That Happened In Huggabie Falls by Adam Cece is absolutely hilarious.
Nova Weetman recommends…
The books we have loved in our house this year that would make beautiful gifts are:
Weng Wai Chim’s Lizard’s Tale for the middle grade reader who loves historical adventures. A spy story set in 1940s Singapore that is gripping and unusual.
Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks’ fabulous graphic novel Pumpkinheads for the teen reader who wants something a little different.
Vikki Wakefield’s extraordinary young adult book, This is How We Change the Ending that should be read by everyone over fourteen.
And one for the younger reader aged seven plus is Renee Treml’s Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery. An action-packed, fun and local graphic novel.
And a book I’m planning on buying for my kids this Christmas is Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime by Lisa Harvey-Smith and Mel Matthews. A non-fiction journey through the night sky for school-aged readers.
Emily Gale recommends…
After volunteering in a school library all year I can tell you definitively that graphic novels are in high demand. My pick for ages 10 and up is Deadendia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele, a quirky adventure with a diverse cast of characters, set in a haunted house. My 12-year-old would like you to know that this one ends on a cliffhanger, so if you’re feeling generous get them Book 2 as well (The Broken Halo).
Using my school library knowledge again, detective stories ranked highest for readers of 9-12 so to that end I recommend High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson. It’s a fast-paced, funny murder mystery set in London. If you’ve got a voracious reader on your hands and need a whole series to keep them busy over summer, try Robin Stevens' A Murder Most Unladylike.
We know reading can drop off during high school for many students, so I’m recommending the only book my teenager read this year that wasn’t a set text: It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood is a rom-com set just after high school, told with an intimate and hilarious voice. (You’ll want to read this one straight after your teenager does.) But if you’re buying for a really keen teen reader who would prefer a grittier story, get This is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield. It blew me away.