Kids’ Holiday Reads that Make Great Gifts

Books are the gift that just keep on giving, aren’t they?! They’re worth so much more than the latest toy that lasts a whole five minutes. Here’s a small roundup of some great books for kids that make for beautiful gifts and can be shared over the festive season and well into the holidays.

Picture Books

All the Ways to be Smart, Davina Bell (author), Allison Colpoys (illus.), Scribble, October 2018.

This is the fourth time this superlative duo have come together, following the successes of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade , Captain Starfish and Under the Love Umbrella. Bell and Colpoys will be winning awards once again with this stunning picture book that is so intelligent in its own way. For all children wondering what their kind of smart is, this energetic rhyming guide reinforces a confidence that there is certainly more than one. From artistic endeavours to scientific explorations, using your imagination to skills in building, retaining important facts to showing compassion and empathy are all but a few. Coordination and music abilities, polite manners, ‘feeling scared but taking chances.’ The list is endless and these book creators have absolutely nailed it with their verve, humour, versatility and diversity. The language rolls off the tongue to perfection, whilst the neon colours draw your eye just the way an artist should. All the Ways to be Smart – adding much brightness to any child’s mind – in more ways than one.

What Do You Wish For?, Jane Godwin (author), Anna Walker (illus.), Penguin Random House, October 2018 (Paperback).

What Do You Wish For? puts a smile on every face and a glow in every heart. It’s that all kinds of fuzzy warmth, peace and togetherness that Christmas time really represents. Godwin’s intention for this book is for readers to understand that this time of year is, and should be, one of gratitude. The combination of her inspiring, tender words, and Anna Walker’s beautifully dreamy, intricate illustrations, is simply divine. There is an excited buzz in the air every Christmas. Ruby and her friends always put on a special show in the park, and write a wish to hang on the tree. But Ruby’s wish is too big to write on a little piece of paper. Her wish is of spirit; it’s made of smells of baking, candlelight amongst the dark, wonderful surprises and quality family time. But most of all, her Christmas wish is one of complete serenity, and a warm sparkle in the sky. What Do You Wish For? is the most magical treasure for any young reader and their family to cherish this Christmas.

It’s Not a Scribble to Me, Kate Ritchie (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2018.

I always love books that encourage exploration of the imagination. In this one, it’s the walls, floors and windows that get to discover what the bear child is conjuring up in his mind – much to his family’s dismay. The little bear speaks a lyrical tongue as to what his crayon and pen scribbles represent. A red Santa makes an appearance above the fireplace, a green frog on the toilet, a black witch inspired by broomsticks, a blue frothy sea and yellow splotchy bumbley bees. It’s amazing what each colour of the rainbow can be turned into, and where they happen to turn up! But somehow, this cheeky bear is able to win over the family with his colourful, magical, whimsical, wonderful charm. A beautifully alluring, absolutely sweet, vivacious and child-centred book in its words and pictures. It’s Not a Scribble to Me is ideal for children from age three as a facilitator of self-expression, creativity and boundless possibilities.

Australia Illustrated (2nd Ed.), Tania McCartney (Author, illus.), EK Books, October 2018.

I absolutely adored this book when it was first released back in 2016. Now I (we all) get to relive the magic once again with this much anticipated 2nd edition recently re-published. Australia Illustrated is a visual festive celebration, the ultimate pictorial encyclopaedia of our beautiful land. Tania McCartney’s expansive array of detail and design, even if only a snippet, takes us on a wonderful journey around the country exploring major attractions to pockets of hidden gems we may have otherwise missed. My kids loved traveling around Australia; spotting familiarities, discovering new mysteries of the unknown, and giggling along at the cute and quirky nuances. Vivacious watercolours and a mix of media showcase the well-known to the unique. From the BIG and beautiful Queensland Mango and Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, the diverse native animals, bush tucker, sports, slang and weather, and a taste of idiosyncrasies from State to State. A gloriously scrumptious edition to pore over with the kids at home or away.

And another exquisite book from Tania McCartney that is a piece of art in itself is Mamie. Published by HarperCollins, November 2018. With her large, round gumnut eyes and angelic face, Mamie shares her story of adapting to change, fairies, pixies, elves and friendship. Celebrating the life of renowned and much-loved Australian icon – author and illustrator, May Gibbs of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie fame, McCartney takes readers on a historical yet imaginative journey. She gently and expertly showcases the exceptional creativity, inspiration and achievements of Gibbs absolutely beautifully and with bunches of natural charm. Mamie is sure to win hearts abound, just as she has done over the past 100 years.

Chapter Books

The First Adventures of Princess Peony, Nette Hilton (author), Lucinda Gifford (illus.), Walker Books, 2018.

The attitude and tenacity of The Little Princess mixed with a quintessentially unique dialect like Lola (Charlie and Lola) together brings about this charming new face to the bookish world, Princess Peony. Partner that with the perfectly scruffy tomboy/girl-looking character in grey tones with pops of hot pink and you’ve got yourself a popular new series for girls (and boys) in the junior reader market. Princess Peony, the name which must be reminded to the audience every now and then, begins her fairy tale in front of her house, erm, Castle with her dog, no, Dragon; Totts. Her mission: to be Obeyed. But things take a wrong turn and her story is interrupted by Prince Morgan the Troll (aka, her big brother). Attempts to outsmart each other lead to some pretty hilarious events and a new mission to avoid child-eating bears. The text and pictures work brilliantly together providing plenty of visual literacy opportunities for readers to laugh about. And there is a remarkably True Princess Information and Quiz Sheet for all Princesses in Waiting to absolutely study and swear by. Just gorgeous! I will be buying The First Adventures of Princess Peony for my nearly six year old and all her friends!

The Tales of Mr Walker; a hotel dog with a nose for adventure, Jess Black (author), Sara Acton (illus.), Penguin Random House, 2018.

The Tales of Mr Walker is inspired by a real-life Labrador named Mr Walker who is a Guide Dog Ambassador and helper at the Park Hyatt Melbourne. This is an adorable book containing four enchanting stories about life working at the grandest hotel in town. Targeted at independent readers from age eight, we are delighted with the adventures this canine companion takes us on, viewed from the dog’s perspective. ‘Tracy must like parks as much as I do’. With his Guide Dog training behind him, Mr Walker is very well disciplined and loyal. But naturally, he has certain things on his mind, such as chasing balls, and food. Romp along on the fun adventures with Mr Walker. He doesn’t disappoint. Fluid and bright illustrations bounce in and around the text. The cover is appropriately high-end with its linen bound spine and gold trimmings. Royalties going to Guide Dogs Victoria is just another excuse to pick up this book as a gift for someone you love, and someone who loves dogs.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Even more great gift ideas for kids can be found at Boomerang Books here.

Christmas Crackers – Picture Book Reviews

As we mark the first day of December, the Christmas countdown has officially begun. A time for snuggles, a time for giggles, a time for togetherness, a time for giving, a time for remembering and making new memories. Here are a few glorious picture books that have all the joy, laughter and magic of Christmas covered.

imageThere is Something Weird in Santa’s Beard, Chrissie Krebs (author, illus.), Random House Australia, October 2016.

Argh! It’s like The Dreadful Fluff in disguise! Yes, there is a dreadful, terrorising mutant refusing to depart the comfort of Santa’s beard. Created by tired and grotty Santa’s leftover crumbs of bubble gum, candy canes, French fries and mince pies, the hideous, squatting blob threatens to ruin Christmas. It devours toys from the workshop and snaps up the elves’ trap. Santa attempts to remove it but to no avail. At last, it is the skilled, king fu-fighting reindeer that save the day. All is well with Santa until he treats himself after a training session with a sticky ice cream.

Chrissie Krebs has written this story with the great gusto and rollicking rhyme that it deserves. I love the depiction of Mrs Claus, too – homely and caring, but let’s face it, everyone’s patience has its limits! With its slapstick comedy, unfaltering rhyming couplets and vibrantly bright and energetic illustrations, this book makes for a highly engaging and fun read-aloud experience.

There is Something Weird in Santa’s Beard will take your preschoolers on a belly-rolling, chin-tickling journey as Santa overcomes the most terrible experience imaginable. But you can count on poor, messy Santa reliving it over and over again, as he did in our household!

imageI Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, John Rox (author), Simon Williams (illus.), Scholastic Australia, October 2016.

Here lies the renewal of the classic 1950 song originally written by John Rox, and performed by a young Gayla Peevey in 1953, which resulted in the Oklahoma City zoo acquiring a baby hippo named Matilda.

The story subtly portrays a sweet innocence, yet the narrator is firm with complete conviction on why s/he should have a hippopotamus for Christmas. Written in first person with its irregular upper and lower case handwriting as the main text, this is a fun, lyrical narrative (with bonus CD by Indigenous singer Miranda Tapsell) perfectly capturing the magic of childhood and Christmas for its preschool listeners.

Simon Williams gorgeously ties in this magical essence with his own interpretation of the humour and playfulness through his whimsical illustrations. Pairing a ginger kitten as narrator with its ‘Hippo Hero’ is an inspiring move portraying a wonderful unlikely friendship. The kitten makes promises to feed and care for it, and is excited by the hope of being surprised by its presence on Christmas morning. No crocodile or rhino would do, “I only like hippopotamuses. And hippopotamuses like me too!”

Adorably energetic, bouncy and joyful, children from age three will be adamant that they want I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas for Christmas.

imageThe Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore (text), Helene Magisson (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, November 2016.

With illustrations that are soft with warmth, deep with texture and rich with love, this newest edition of The Night Before Christmas is truly one to treasure.

With the timeless poem by Clement Clarke Moore, talented illustrator Helene Magisson works her magic to create a stunning gift for any family celebrating Christmas. As Santa and his eight reindeer journey through the snow-speckled sky to below the snow-crested rooftop, we are soothed by the pale watercolour tones that beautifully contrast the outdoor shades of blues with the indoor hues of reds. I also love the little whimsical subtleties like Santa’s cheeky expressions, the playful cat and the koala toy for our Australian readers.

With a special story and exquisite illustrations that represent togetherness, comfort and the undeniable joy that is Christmas, The Night Before Christmas is a beautiful keepsake for children between four and six years old.

You can find more fantastic gifts in the Kids Reading Guide 2016.


Get Free Shipping on the Boomerang Books Christmas Catalogue

Looking for great Christmas gifts to buy for your loved ones? Books make fantastic gifts at Christmas time! And to make your job easier, we’ve released our annual Christmas Catalogue.

If you order from our Christmas Catalogue before midnight on Sunday 15 November, you’ll get FREE shipping on your order when you use the promotional code xmascat at the checkout.

PLUS, by using the promo code, you’ll also go into the draw to win a huge book pack in our Santa’s Sack competition (which will be announced later this week!).

Follow the links below to order your books from Boomerang Books today:









Christmas (Back Catalogue Of) Book Ideas

Vampire AcademyIt’s that time of year when we turn our thoughts to what the heck we are going to source for our loved ones without having to set foot in a physical, upselling store amid millions of similarly harried customers who may or may not have experienced or dished out some carpark rage on their way in.

The problem is that I’ve read few books of my choice this year, and I’m acutely feeling the results of that as I now wrack my brain for book gift ideas. (I only ever give books as presents and my friends and family have come to expect this. As a writer, I’m the one who’s most supposed to be across new releases and quirky finds. Rightly or wrongly, they’re happy to leave the reading recommendations and book buying to me.)

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to read. I have mini mountains of books waiting to be read not so ferreted away in my tiny, one-bedroom apartment. And it’s not that I haven’t been reading. But I’m midway through my PhD (something I rarely talk about because the mere mention of it makes me sound like a pretentious prat) and the workload and the wading through unnecessarily dense journal articles has left me little brain space and even less time for reading for pleasure.

So instead, this year’s gift collection is increasingly looking like a Christmas back catalogue of books I’ve liked and would heartily endorse. Even this is not an exhaustive list (see aforementioned note re: lack of requisite brainspace). What’s clear is that with the exception of a left-of-field reading bomb to give my brain a break (think Twilight and Vampire Academy), my reading and gift-giving preferences skew strongly to the end-of-the-world-meets-saving-the-world creative non-fiction.

Race of a LifetimeI’ve blogged about most (if not all) of the books here before, so if you’re super keen you’re welcome to seek those blogs out and get a more detailed perspective. But the books are also listed because they’re one that haunt me, even through a study-induced brain fog. That’s surely a sign of a good book, right?

Suffice to say, if you’re looking for some Christmas present ideas I’d urge you towards any and/or all of the below. And if you have any suggestions for books I should be both gifting now and adding to my pile of books to be read once uni’s over (a pile that I can’t feasibly ever imagine myself getting through, but that’s an altogether different issue), feel free to mention them in the comments field below.

So, in no particular order and knowing I’ve forgotten more than a few, I suggest*:

Yes PleaseBooks I would most likely recommend had I had the time to read them would include:

  • Yes Please (which it seems like everyone is reading right now. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your verdict)
  • Grave Mercy (it’s about young-adult book a girl who runs away from an arranged marriage to a convent where she becomes an assassin. Or something. It had me at the tagline: Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?).

*As a side note, I also think most of those books would be appropriate reading for the politicians and media and more descending on Australia for the G20.

Gifts for Bibliophiles

Star Wars CookbookPresents for bibliophiles are always difficult to find. The eternal, unanswerable question is: Which book to buy them when they’re likely to have already read it and everything around it?

List masters Buzzfeed have compiled a handy list of complementary gifts, for those who have read everything. Their recommendations include the:

  • iPhone book doc, from which’s pages bass clearly blasts
  • a text-imprinted scarf [ostensibly insert passages from your favourite book here]
  • invisible bookshelves (because as any bibliophile will attest, there’s no such thing as too many bookshelves)
  • a tongue-in-cheek what I call a sloppy-joe jumper (although I have no idea who this sloppy Joe was and why he warranted such an unflattering but oh-so-comfy warming device named after him). It might not be a jumper fit for public consumption, but it’s perfect attire for comfortably quarantining yourself until you uncomfortably bash out a bestselling tome (the ‘I like big books and I cannot lie’ is likely to be the only thing that will make you smile when your brain is numb and bleeding from trying to get coherent words on a page). It’s best worn with tea- or chocolate-stained boxer shorts or leggings
  • a text-laden brooch that makes me want to press pages of my favourite books to shapes of props relevant to key plot points or to leading characters’ mannerisms
  • a text-imprinted tea towel akin to city/surburb stop artworks that I’ve long, long coveted
  • luggage tags that reference such travelogues as Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, which, frankly, lends itself to an infinite number of cultural references.

Zombie Survival Guide

The reason I came across this list is because I’m a) procrastinating and b) brainstorming some present ideas for a friend’s impending birthday (I like to think it’s weighted towards the latter). Either way, I’m getting distracted and one-for-you-one-for-me carried away.

I’m still rather chuffed at my genius at giving my brother a Star Wars Cookbook a few Christmases ago. Recipes include Boba Fett-Uccine, Crazy Cantina Chili, and everybody’s favourite Wookie Cookies.

I’m also eyeing off the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook and the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, although with their focus on meaty recipes, neither is unlikely to be suitable for me. (I’ve heard an Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook also exists, although the same unsuitability rules still apply.)

The Zombie Survival Guide is always a winner of a gift, for both bibliophiles and those not book-inclined. I was reminded of its existence today when I arrived at my newly assigned university desk to find one of my colleagues had drawn a mindmap about how the zombie is culturally coded.

Zombies' cultural codingWhich of course reminds me that with my return to uni, most—if not all—fun reading has had to be put away. Maybe book-themed tea towels and luggage tags are exactly what I’m going to need to see me through my degree …

’tis the season to post… already?

Ah, Boomerang Books. I like the books and love the bloggers (well, obviously) but it may be some time before I forgive them for the subject matter of their last panic-inducting newsletter.

As they so helpfully reminded me, in massive type, Christmas is only 9 weeks away!

Nine weeks. Wow. Where did the year go? I’ve been a bit busy lately, I know, but it feels like I turned my back for a few minutes to catch up on reading and now I’ve been ambushed by Santa and a whole pile of people I need to find presents for. Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is sneaky and even more so when you are used to a Northern one. My brain interprets all the spring sunshine as a permanent and balmy August (which is our best month in Ireland) and then it’s suddenly ARGH MISTLETOE AND MULLED WINE WHERE DID THAT COME FROM OH HELP I NEED TO BUY PRESENTS.

It might seem Boomerang was getting in there rather early but I appreciate lots of advance warning. My worries about presents are, as always, compounded by the Christmas post issue and the fact that many of my friends and relations live overseas – either you get organised and send them early or you can send them for several million dollars closer to the date. I’m not joking – I recently mailed a copy of Greg Page’s Now and Then to a friend in the States by cheap mail and discovered it managed to make it across the pond in a spritely 4 months.

This friend lives in a city, by the way, not in a cave in the Rockies guarded by bears. I ended up flying to New York a few months later and suspect that I passed the book in transit, possible as it was being pulled across the Pacific on a paddle-boat powered by arthritic tortoises.

Nine weeks. Argh. What if the postal tortoises need a break?

Anyway, for those of you who also tend to be less than prepared for these things, I have some good news; Boomerang have made finding gifts that bit easier by putting together some lists of suggested books. Looking for something for the gourmande in your life? Check out the selection of cooking, food & drink books. I’m holding out for James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2012 or, even better, someone to come around and cook all of Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals for me.

Looking for something for the teenager in your life? Have a look through the recommended young adult fiction. Need something for the most active person you know? Try browsing the sports books; Kokoda Wallaby is well worth a read if you’re enjoying the rugby but don’t want to dwell on last weekend too much or Cadel Evans’s biography is excellent if you’d like to avoid the rugger altogether.

Here are links to all Boomerang Books’ suggested gifts, happy browsing. Just remember to get them in the post nice and early!

Wookiee Cookies

Wookiee CookiesFinding the perfect present can be an arduous and pot-luck task, but the thrill when you do stumble upon the thing that’s just right is unrivalled.

I did an H&R Block-like fist pump when I found a present that was perfect not just for my Secret Santa, but a whole raft of current and future recipients. Including me. Because any gift this good warrants me buying one for myself.

The veritable gift gold? A brilliantly conceived, brilliantly executed Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes. Featuring such recipes as Wookiee Cookies, Yoda Soda, Hoth Chocolate, Princess Leia Danish Dos, and (my favourite) Boba Fett-ucine, it’s simultaneously both incredibly practical and useful, and outrageously entertaining.

The recipes are incisively, tongue-in-cheek clever, but they’re also recipes that would see the light of day. That is, ones you’d actually cook, instead of admire and dismiss as too hard, too time consuming, or filled with ingredients too exotic and too tricky to source.

The book is a hardy hardcover, but is spiral bound so it can be laid flat for easy reference while cooking. Better yet, the pages are made of a special glossy, wipe-clean material for those of us (kids and adults alike) who tend to spread our ingredients beyond the bowl.

There are also stickers at the back that contain such gems as Yoda saying [and I’m paraphrasing here, because I gave the book away and have yet to purchase my own copy] ‘Eat it you will. Good for you it is.’ It’s referring to spinach, with a clever little accompanying image.

I first bought this cookbook for my brother, massive Star Wars fan that he is, but it’s clear that this book has broad, age- and gender-transcending appeal. It was a hit with my Secret Santa recipient, and the people who witnessed its unwrapping. My best friend’s eyes lit up when I described it to her, and she’s ordered a copy for her boyfriend. My work colleague has ordered one for her three, school-aged boys. I’ve ordered one for me. And at least three of my (girl) friends have earmarked it for themselves.

What I’ve realised, coincidentally, is that this cookbook is almost a solution for my cooking issues, about which I moaned in a previous blog. (For those of you who didn’t suffer through it with me, the summary is that I can’t cook and I struggle to find cookbooks that cater to my quirky, no herbs-or-spices, vegetarian needs.)

Part of the reason it’s perfect is that the recipes are straightforward and engaging. My guess is that they’re designed so kids (to whose cooking abilities I’m about equal) can master them easily. And, although it does contain some recipes with meat, I can forgive it that, because this cookbook takes the pressure off cooking with a capital ‘c’ and injects the fun I’ve been missing.

I figure that between this cookbook, and the volume two that’s available and that I’m placing an order for now, I should find some recipes that suit my eating tastes and cooking proficiency. That and a handy gift that I can give to people of varying ages, genders, and cooking abilities.

What Not to Gift – Part 1, the Kris Kringle

Christmas is coming, and your co-workers want their pressies. Much like your credit limit and your waistline, office relationships can be stretched to breaking point by Christmas’s excesses. Gifting books in the anonymous Kris Kringle may seem like a great way to solve who-to-buy-a-present issues, but you can still get it wrong.

Not a great idea, even if their name is Bruce Banner.Make sure, first off, that your gift doesn’t identify you, in addition to being selfish. Don’t gift your co-workers a voucher for your side-business or an obviously pre-read book midway through a series you have been raving about. Don’t gift them books that you ask to borrow before the wrapping has come off. Try not to draw attention to their short-comings; resist to urge buy them books like “Anger Management for Dummies” or books on job-hunting.

And well-meant presents can go wrong too. Don’t gift your co-workers – no matter how much they might appreciate them – with semi-pornographic fiction, non-fiction or How To Make Love Like a Porn Star, which might bring a little joy but also a lot of attention from HR and Legal.

It might seem tempting to buy a business book, given that it’s professional. But this can not only be disappointing for the receiver, it can lead to MORE work in the New Year if they are the easily impressed type.

I still haven’t forgiven someone for introducing a former manager of mine to Jim Collins’s business development classic book, Good To Great. When we re-opened in the New Year we discovered we were stuck with endless meetings on the Hedgehog Concept (which isn’t a reference to partying like Mad Monday at the NRL, for those worried) which required discussing what our company could do better than anyone else in the world in order to clarify our business plan.

Business books are meant to be inspiring, but for those of us who are occasionally visited by the Reality Fairy thinking like this can be little difficult. I mean, best in the world? Seems a little unrealistic to set the bar that high, kind of like aiming to get eleven out of ten  – impossible unless you are a Fortune 500 CEO or on Junior Masterchef. But the book is firm on the matter. So, in order to satisfy the frothingly insane enthusiasm of the Jim Collins fan, you end up doing ever more specialised “best” parameters. “We believe are the best in the world at being a SME accounting firm who all wear purple.”


“How about who all wear purple and speak in a Monty Pythonesque Frenchman accent?”

(Good to Great also required that we talk about our BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which reminded me more as a phrase of parts of the anatomy usually covered by pants than work-related. Come on, if a stranger on a train asked if you wanted to see their Big Hairy Audacious Goal, you’d be switching carriages pretty fast, right?)

So, what should you get co-workers? Good ideas include books that suggest you know they have a life outside the office, such as a book on their hobbies, interests or destinations. Most foodies will enjoy a cookbook (and most cookbooks, such as Pho’s Kitchen, are also pretty as coffee table books) and many gardening books can be far more fun to peruse than actually getting out there and working on your yard. Or, if you’re not sure of any of their interests – or even what they look like – you could go for something interesting but unlikely to offend, such as the hilarious Is That Thing Diesel, or the Gruen Transfer‘s offering.

And if you don’t think you can get them a gift without insulting, offending, or ignoring their interests? Well, there’s always gift vouchers.