Our Gift Guide for Kids and Teens

In part four of our totally-and-completely-fail-proof-Christmas-shopping-guides-for-2013, our children’s & YA book specialist Emily Gale compiles some excellent gift ideas for kids and teens.


Creative Gifts

Stop-motion movies are an ideal way of putting those iPods/Pads/cameras etc to good use and this kit provides everything they need to get started. They’ll be making the next Wallace and Gromit before you know it.

I’ll be honest, this isn’t a casual afternoon’s work for a young child. Your help will be required! But you can’t have your own cheeky droid without a little bit of sweat.

Even I know how to make a pom-pom, and I can’t think of any better use for one than these ridiculously adorable puppies. It’s not just me, is it? There is something about these little guys…


Gifts for Curious Minds

Which is faster, a Velociraptor or a cheetah? Why don’t we digest sweetcorn? Does my goldfish know who I am? If these are the kinds of questions the children in your life regularly ask, this book should keep them quiet for a while.

Full of gross, weird things like the man on the front cover who threads snakes into his nasal passages. Go on, admit it, you want to have a look inside too.

Another ‘what? are you serious? is that real?’ book, but not as weird/gross. The cover image gives you an idea of the book’s intention - an image of the Earth with all the water illustrated as a giant sphere to show the relative size. Everyone will be 100% more knowledgeable by Christmas afternoon.


Horror or dark mystery fans

My colleague Holly Harper, who is my go-to bookseller for the kind of fast-paced, thrilling books that many teenagers love says this is her favourite of 2013. For fans of Michael Grant’s Gone series. Also try The Enemy by Charlie Higson.

  • Tinder ($22.99) by Sally Gardner

A dark and sophisticated fairy-tale by this year’s Carnegie Medal winner.

The acclaimed author of Stolen is back with a creepy mystery set in the woods, and a girl who is trying to clear her father’s name.

The dangers of befriending people on the internet is chillingly explored by these Australian authors. A real page-turner.



This book is getting the attention it deserves, winning the Gold Inky and now shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Really good readers of 10+ will love it, and YA fans too.

A wordless narrative that should be pored over but is also mesmerizing at a glance. Yet more proof that picture books are not just for young children.

  • Smile ($17.95) by Raina Telegemeier

This graphic novel is set in the early years of high school and shows the pain and humiliation of getting braces. Also see Drama about a backstage theatre crew.



I only understand about 1 in 5 cricket terms but I gobbled up this story, and was pleased to see a healthy respect for girls who are into sports as well. An easy, amusing read for 9+.

Facts! On sport! I have nothing further to add.

This is another sporty novel that took me by surprise - AFL this time, and for teens. The main character was a great player as a young girl but the culture of the game and a tragedy in her life has changed everything for her.

A great choice for newly confident readers who love cricket.



Billie in colour! A lovely intro to this hugely popular character or a gift for the ultimate Billie fan who wants something to treasure. These books are a wonderful boost to new readers who find Peter and Jane a bit … you know.

The spin-off series from Clarice Bean is a great choice for readers of about 8+ who love code-cracking, crime-busting adventures. There are three gorgeous hardbacks in the series now: Look Into My Eyes, Take Your Last Breath and Catch Your Death.

A choose your own adventure! This kind of book must be one of the most requested things in the shop and at last I can say: here’s one!

Two brothers stranded on the Blue Mountains during a nuclear winter. Fantastic characterisation and an exciting plot with lots of heart too.


Gifts for those who appreciate fine writing

A girl who describes herself as a cynic befriends a squirrel who has acquired some unusual superpowers after being sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Beautifully illustrated, the story is a simple adventure that celebrates difference and friendship and highlights the power of words. For ages 8+.

The ‘Jane’ in the title refers to Jane Eyre, which is the book that the main character of this graphic novel is reading during a sad and lonely time in her life. The fox signifies a positive change. Adults will love this as well as. For ages 9+.

  • Vango ($24.95) by Timothee de Fombelle

This is part one of an adventure and murder-mystery that sees a young fugitive pursued across the world, befriending real historic characters who are woven into the story. A sophisticated, fast-paced read for ages 12+.

A time-travel adventure with lots of complex ideas that late-primary/early-secondary readers will enjoy. Described by my colleague Kathy Kozlowski as ‘a future classic’!

An absolutely beautiful book about love - the restorative kind and the destructive kind - with Arthurian myth woven in to great effect. A literary treat for readers aged 12 through to adults.


History buffs

The ‘Our Australian Girl’ series is a great introduction to history for readers aged 8+. Each girl has a four-book story, with new girls due next year and also a series featuring boy characters. For Christmas, all four Grace stories are available in this lovely hardback edition.

Is it just me who watches Horrible Histories on ABC3 even when the children aren’t home? I doubt it. This is really funny TV series and the books by Terry Deary are fabulous, too. History is the opposite of dull and dry here. Also look out for the rest of the Horrible Histories range.

  • The illustrated War Horse ($26.95) by Michael Morpurgo

A lovely gift edition of this very popular story about a farm horse sold to the army in WW1.

Think The Diary of Anne Frank but without the devastating ending. This is the story of the youngest boy on Schindler’s List.

A unique picture book that celebrates women who have changed the world, such as Miles Franklin, 20th-century Australian writer and feminist, and Malala Yousafzai, passionate advocate of access to education.

With striking illustrations making this a highly accessible book for 8+, this is the story of a woman who trained as a nurse in the Outback and later joined the French Resistance, demonstrating her bravery many times over.

A solid tome with plenty of illustrations and a comprehensive history of Australia.


Gifts with a daft sense of humour

I have to admit I was highly sceptical about the appeal of photos of dogs underwater … until I gave a copy to my children and observed their glee as they turned the pages. This book now lives in our car and the children know all the names and breeds by heart. Go figure.

David Wallliams (he’s one half of Little Britain, once swam the English Channel and is currently the fastest selling children’s author in the UK … a reasonably busy man then) has a winning formula with his Dahl-esque hard-done-by kids battling gruesomely evil adults. His books are funny and easy to read and the latest is the perfect reminder that candy-cane season has its drawbacks.

A great Aussie version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by the very likable comedian who has already had literary success with The Happiest Refugee and The Littlest Refugee.

Am I becoming annoyingly evangelical about Elephant and Piggie? It’s just that they’re so funny and make excellent early readers, enjoyed by children and adults alike.

A father’s story about popping out to buy some milk reaches fantastical proportions and features a cameo by the author. An enjoyable read for the whole family.

Funny books for teenagers don’t get lauded enough. If their literary diet is a bit heavy on the death-in-dystopia stories, maybe a good belly laugh is what they need for balance. Here’s the son of Frankenstein’s monster on a road-trip with the grand-daughters of Jekyll and Hyde.

  • And don’t forget the Treehouse books (from $9.99 to $12.99) by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton

These are a rites of passage series for every Australian child. Parents who dip into them always remark that there is a lot more to these books than you might first think. Surface silliness with intelligent undertones.

If you’re looking for more gift ideas than browse our Summer Reading Guide or our picks for best books, music and films in 2013, or come visit one of our stores to chat with us in person.

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Jane, the Fox and Me

Jane, the Fox and Me

Fanny Britt, Isabelle Arsenault

$24.95Buy now

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