18 November 2016 | Children's Fiction

Christmas shopping – books for 5-8 year-olds

I don’t think I have ever, ever used my credit card as much as I have in the last two weeks! Christmas shopping, five December birthdays, furniture for our newly renovated house (we’re back in a few weeks) – the numbers have nearly worn off the card.

But I hope you are still in the mood for Christmas shopping because I have a list of fabulous books for the 5-8 year-old set. I usually buy my books from Readings, Booktopia, Dymocks and Tim’s Bookshop. I subscribe to their newsletters and updates and watch out for when they have sales or discounts.

Often kids in prep, grade 1 or grade 2 who are happy to read picture books suddenly become reluctant to read them. Maybe they think picture books are for babies. Maybe their older siblings are reading thick chapter books. Maybe they want to collect a series – because kids are collectors, aren’t they? So these kids need books that are divided into chapters or sections but have a large font, some illustrations and possibly have speech bubbles or captions to break up long chunks of text. All of these books can be read by a parent first – one or two chapters a night – and then read on their own later.


  • Our Australian girl series – multiple authors – there are many, many books in this series, as each set follows the adventures of one girl over four books. These books are a coveted, collectable series. The books focus on a certain aspect of Australia’s history but the story comes first. The authors, such as Sofie Laguna, Gabrielle Wang and Sally Rippin, are experienced, natural storytellers so the story is riveting and engaging, regardless of whether it is set in the 1800s or 1900s. A lovely series ¬†– ¬†more for girls.


  • Danny Best, written by Jen Storer and illustrated by Mitch Vane – Mr 7 loves this book and has read it half a dozen times. Here are some of the plot points – swamp of despair, farts, booby traps and the tortured warrior’s racetrack. The back cover blurb states that Danny makes the rules. Danny breaks the rules. Danny Best is full on. Perfect for 6-8 year old boys.


  • Weirdo, written by Anh Do, illustrated by Jules Faber – another fabulous series, with seven books at the moment. Short chapters, funny, lots of illustrations, some words printed in a different colour. Both Miss 10 and Mr 7 love these books.


  • Henrietta, there’s no one better, written and illustrated by Martine Murray – I love Martine’s work because she has a quirky way of looking at the world. I went to a weekend workshop with her a couple of years ago and she was both an inspiring and practical teacher. This book is almost like a stream of consciousness from Henrietta about her daily life. There are lots of illustrations, and there are quite a few pages which have almost been set out like picture books with the text wrapped around the illustrations. With the pink cover, this one is probably more for girls.


  • Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Scott Nash – this is an oldie but a goodie. Published in the 1990s, this series is about a boy who has different adventures. In one book, he becomes flat – flat enough that he can be sent through the post box. In another book, he becomes invisible. His parents, the Lambchops, are surprised but take it all in their stride. It’s a funny series, with simple vocabulary, black and white illustrations and large print. A perfect series for kids who want to read chapter books, but need a little help.


  • Goblin at the zoo, written by Victor Kelleher and illustrated by Stephen Michael King – there are at least half a dozen of these books about Gibblewort, an Irish goblin who doesn’t like children and is quite cranky. The stories are funny and will appeal to kids’ sense of the disgusting and ridiculous. These books are divided into chapters with black and white illustrations and plenty of white space around the text, to make it reasonably easy for kids to read on their own. Mr 7 has a lovely box set of these books – a box set always makes the books feel more special!


  • I believe in unicorns, written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Gary Blythe – this book is beautiful. It’s great for boys – the main character is Tomas – and great for girls – it’s about a unicorn, after all. This book may need to be read by parents first as there’s more text and less illustrations. It may also suit a nine or ten-year-old. It’s a quieter book about a boy who lives in a small mountain village and doesn’t like school or books. But he’s drawn in by the unicorn lady who spins stories every day at the library. The war has ramifications for his village, and Tomas is part of his village’s efforts to save their books.


  • The bad guys, written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey – there are four books in this series about some characters who are traditionally the ‘bad guys’ – Mr Wolf, Mr Shark, Mr Snake and Mr Piranha. But Mr Wolf is determined to turn them into good guys! Again, short chapters, minimal text, funny illustrations.


  • The worry tree, written by Marianne Musgrave – this chapter book is a more sophisticated one so will suit eight-ten year-olds but I’ve included it here because it is a lovely book to read aloud to younger ones. Juliet is a worrier – she worries about her family, her friends and the bully at school. In her new bedroom, she discovers a painted tree with animals hidden under a layer of wallpaper. Her Nana explains that it’s a worry tree so you can tell your specific worries to a specific animal who will look after them for you while you sleep. While this premise might sound a bit preachy, the story is well told and funny. There’s a set of blank pages at the book of the book to fill in your own set of worries and you can also download a poster of the worry tree from the Random House website. A big thank-you to Maddie who showed me her copy of this book and told me all about it!


  • The Cleo stories, written by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Freya Blackwood – a wonderful author/illustrator combination. Simple stories about Cleo, who goes to parties, plays with her friends, thinks about her Mum’s birthday present and superglues her fingers to a broken bowl. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text is nicely spaced out so it’s not too overwhelming for early readers.


  • A miscellany of magical beasts, written by Simon Holland with four illustrators – this is a great book for non-fiction readers. It’s also perfect for kids who may have seen a Harry Potter movie or two, as it covers many of the magical creatures in the Harry Potter series. There’s a gorgeously illustrated double page spread, often with a fold-out page, for each creature – basilisks, trolls, merpeople, centaurs, unicorns, griffins, dragons and so on. Each page gives a little bit of history and some interesting facts. The text is reasonably dense, so you would treat each double page as a chapter – one before bedtime. Or otherwise, it’s a wonderful book to simply look at the pictures and perhaps read a tiny bit.

Here’s my post on series for kids from last year and here’s my post on stand-alone books – you might find something useful there, too.

And of course, don’t forget the usual Hey Jack series and Billy B Brown series by Sally Rippin, the Sporty Kids series by Felice Arena (I have bought many of these books for prep and grade 1 kids), the beautiful Kingdom of Silk series by Glenda Millard, and of course, Tashi by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg.

I’d be really grateful if you would pass on this post to friends and family who might also be looking for Christmas books to buy for their children and grandchildren. I’m always ecstatic when I see I have a new subscriber! You can subscribe by entering your name and email address on the home page.

Next week, I’ll have a post on books for 9-12 year-olds. Let me know if any of these books appeal to you. Happy Christmas book shopping!

Author interview – Victoria Carless



Thank you once again. I will look around for some of these books.

November 18, 2016 at 6:51 am


Great read and book list, Gorgeous!

November 18, 2016 at 12:29 pm


Thanks Karen I love reading your book reviews especially for Christmas present ideas – I think I purchased nearly all your recommendations last year for the kids and they loved them!!! Keep them coming!!!

November 18, 2016 at 2:38 pm


Flat Stanley! An oldie but a goodie. I remember we read it in grade 5 and then had to write a story about our own flattened selves!

November 21, 2016 at 7:47 pm


Thanks Karen, what a interesting and well thought out list. Thanks for the suggestions x

November 24, 2016 at 1:39 pm

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