Great Gift Ideas # 5 – Non-Fiction That Takes You Places

So you want to give something meaningful and useful and entertaining this Christmas. Well, have a look at these incredible Non-Fiction kids’ books that not only take you places but also inform, comfort, enlighten and above all keep the kids occupied while you sort out the eggnog! Enjoy.

Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide For New Arrivals by Mo Willems

This is the penultimate new-baby book for new parents. Presented as a robust board book with luxuriantly thick pages, this will endure baby’s first year and beyond. It even comes with an embedded mirror so baby can actually see what all the fuss is about. Willems’ inimitable comic touch graces each page in this direct narrative to baby outlining all the highlights, expectations and regrettable conditions that they and their new family might encounter. It reads a bit like an instruction manual and partially like a charter for a new employee. Every word is gold. This is truly one to share as a parent, a gift giving family member and then again as a parent with your growing child. Supremely clever, witty and super super cute (in a non-cutesy way),  I cannot recommend this highly enough for new parents and new humans.

Walker Books 2018

All The Ways To Be Smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

Positively illuminating, this spectacular picture book glows with spirit and gentle reminders that each of us is special and smart in our own unique way. Whether you are inquisitive, daring, caring and kind or the type of smart person who can spell really long dinosaur names, Bell’s touching rhyming text quietly reinforces the value and diversity of intelligence in all its many guises and its partnership with ability, like ‘finding treasures’ and ‘flower picking’.

Facets of ‘being smart’ covered in this exploration of brilliance include: creativity, spatial awareness, ingenuity, empathy, and numeracy … all delightfully coupled with Colpoy’s whimsical, retro-esque illustrations. Each page bursts with fun and movement using a limited palette of blues, browns and greens all tied exquisitely together with cheeky luminescent orange. All The Ways To Be Smart is a feast for the mind and soul and a book that begs to be treasured.

Scribble Kids Books October 2018 Romi recommends it too. Read her review, here.

How did I get here? by Philip Bunting

If you’ve ever been in doubt about the start…of it ALL, look no further, for Bunting’s telling of the beginning of time nails it on every level. His evolutionary explanation begins at the beginning, before the bang and guides us through the collision of particles that was the creation of the universe with the use of explosive colour, tongue in cheek text and characteristic Bunting comic cosmic charm. 🙂 Familiar fairy tale phraseology cleverly juxtaposes chatty narrative to ensure maximum entertainment and understanding for example: …the Earth was not too hot, and not too cold. That warm water was just right for the magic to happen…taken from Goldilocks and The Three Bears of course. Young readers are drawn magnificently into the scheme of things towards the end of the book, answering the question: How did I get here?, when it’s revealed that like every other living thing on this planet, in this universe, they too are made of star dust and energy and ‘only a few years ago’ became ‘them’.  Share this next level brilliance in every classroom, home library and bedroom bookshelf for it provides a sensational solid starting point for more discussion and questions about life on Earth.

Omnibus Books August 2018

The Short and Curly Guide to Life by Dr Matt Beard and Kyla Slaven Illustrated by Simon Greiner

Now that you know how you got here, it’s time to work out how to navigate through life. This self-help book is designed with evolving youth in mind, presented in a conversational way by a cast of kids aged 9 – 12-years-old. They are agents for the Brains Trust, each possessing different personalities and traits to ensure maximum appeal for a diverse audience. Their facts, findings and opinions are presented in this book that assumes the appearance of a journal; there are plenty of images, bullet points, email reports and quick note windows making the assimilation of information quick and fun; this is important as there is a hefty amount of information to absorb around each discussion. Topics addressed include: happiness, lying, learning, bravery, fighting, and integrity – all designed to get kids thinking and reacting about the ethical side of their lives. This guide is a handy go-to manual that kids can visit in chunks when they need to that equips them with skills and philosophies to enrich their moral wellbeing. Interesting and useful to share with your child when moral dilemmas arise.

Penguin Random House Australia October 2018

The Gum Family Finds a Home by Tania McCartney and Christina Booth

Speaking of moral dilemmas…the Gums need a new home. They are a little over their current abode amidst the stale leaves of their old gum tree and aspire for something safer and more ‘rock solid’.  So, with caravan hitched to Kombi and the gum leaf sandwiches packed, they set off on a road trip around Australia. Their search for some ‘rock solid home options’ evolves into an introduction to geology and a subsequent celebration of some of Australia’s most notable geological formations.

Some, children would have heard of, Uluru, The Glass House Mountains, for example. Others such as Hastings Caves, or the Pinnacles might not have featured on their geological compass before. Child-friendly language that evokes a strong sense of place describes each natural spectacle whilst highlighting its unique features and composition. The fact sharing is neither laborious nor overloaded (there is an additional fantastic visual facts gallery at the end), rather, the gentle, engaging narrative is ably supported by Booth’s divine illustrations of Australia and the koala family, Gum. The story line also alludes to the wants, needs and nomadic nature of many of Australia’s inhabitants. Moreover, there’s a Kombi! No further discussion needed. A near perfect picture book by the talented teaming of McCartney and Booth that will enhance the fun facts corner of your bookshelf. (You’ll have to read it yourself to see if the Gums find the home of their dreams!)

National Library of Australia August 2018

The Day We Built The Bridge by Samantha Tidy and Fiona Burrows

Another picture book that champions Australian icons is, The Day We Built The Bridge. Adult readers will almost instantly know ‘what bridge’ the title refers to but for younger readers, this is a visually stunning encounter with a period of history that continues to define Australia to this day; the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Like many notable achievements, it began with a dream that started with ‘a need’, which was then followed by ‘an idea’.  From that tentative start in the late 1800s, the idea was preserved, all through the war, the depression and the arguments until at last the first pillars were raised and ‘the two sides finally joined together’.

This book is not a dry factual historical account. It is a tender testimony to the birth of a dream and an eloquent reminder that tenacity and determination keep dreams alive no matter how long they take to realise. Dreams eventually connect us, making us stronger us a whole, as people and as a nation. Burrows’ use of intermittent colour against sweeping monochromatic backdrops is sensational. Challenges, war, and hardship (blacks and greys) temper joy and expectations (pops of red and fuchsia). With each new infusion of colour comes hope and the eventual moment of celebration where colour floods the pages. For an absolute glorious commemoration of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an evocative journey of the senses, you must experience this picture book.

MidnightSun Publishing February 2019

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan and Neil Packer

If you have a little history lover in the house, this is the quintessential Christmas must-have for them. This is a phenomenal illustrated retelling of the bestselling, The Silk Roads, which escorts readers through the worlds of yesterday in order to give them a better appreciation of their worlds of today and beyond.  It is a large, beautifully bound hardcover edition preceded by a detailed world map and broken down into chapters all prefixed with ‘the Road…’ beginning with ‘The Roads of the Ancient World’. Each road is a magnificent exploration of the people of the time, their trading habits, the diseases and wars that shaped their society and all the scientific and technological advances that married the east with the west. The writing style is easy enough for primary aged students to comprehend despite the liberal peppering of historical dates, names and facts. At first glance, there seems an ocean of information to wade through and not all of it as you’d expect about the much traveled Silk Roads, however once you dive it, you are mysteriously compelled to read on.  Whether you consume this in one sitting or delight in adventuring along one section at a time, The Silk Roads is a fascinating, well-written expedition that ‘helps us to understand why change is taking place today’.

Bloomsbury for Children November 2018

Explore more great reads for children this Christmas, here.














Published by

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books - you'll find them all here at Boomerang Books. Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker and semi-professional chook wrangler. She believes picture books are food for the soul and should be consumed at least 10 times a week.