More spooky stories for kids

More spooky stories for kids

Spooky stories for kids are having a bit of a moment with a cluster of new titles featuring ghosts and other eerie characters hitting the shelves in recent years.

So, with Halloween on the horizon, I asked Allison Rushby – the third musketeer in the Your Kid’s Next Read community – to create a list of releases (new and favourites) for kids who love spooky stories.

Allison is the perfect curator for a list like this, being not only a big fan of stories both spooky and scary (see this earlier list she created for more options for middle-grade readers) but an author of junior fiction and middle-grade novels that hit that perfect sweet spot between spooky and safe.

For younger readers, try her latest book Miss Penny and The Midnight Kittens, while middle-grade readers will love The Ghost Locket and The Mulberry Tree.


More spooky stories for middle-grade readers

This selection of spooky stories is mostly aimed at kids 8-12. Click the link to find out more about each book or to purchase from Booktopia*


ghost stories for kids


Honour Among Ghosts by Sean Williams




ghost stories for kids



Her Perilous Mansion by Sean Williams



ghost stories for kidsGus and the Starlight by Victoria Carless





the goodbye yearThe Goodbye Year by Emily Gale





ghost stories for kidsA Girl Called Corpse by Reece Carter





ghost stories for kidsGhost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega





ghost stories for kidsA Ghost in my Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang





ghost stories for kidsTing Ting the Ghosthunter by Gabrielle Wang





ghost stories for kidsPrometheus High (series) by Stuart Wilson





ghost stories for kidsThe Haunting of Aveline Jones (series) by Phil Hickes, illustrated by Keith Robinson





ghost stories for kidsThe Ghost Locket by Allison Rushby





ghost stories for kidsMiss Penny Dreadful and the Midnight Kittens by Allison Rushby





The Mulberry TreeThe Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby





Your Kid's Next Read podcastAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!


*This post contains affiliate links. Go here for more details. 

21 children’s and YA books about gender identity

21 children’s and YA books about gender identity

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media, online and, well, everywhere of late about gender, specifically gender identity.

As with most discussions about most subjects, I’m a big believer that understanding is the key and that books can go a long way to fostering that understanding.

Books can say so much.

The list below was created by Nevo Zisin, author of Finding Nevo and The Pronoun Lowdown, and features books about gender identity for kids of all ages.

Nevo and I met at Brisbane Writers’ Festival a few years ago, not long after Finding Nevo, their memoir on gender transition, had been published.

We sat beside each other at a signing and the thing that resonated with me the most was the long queue of teen readers who just wanted to meet Nevo and say thank you.

Thank you for writing a book that held a mirror up to their experiences, gave a voice to what they were feeling, and allowed them to see what might be.

Thank you for writing a book that took them inside what other people they knew were experiencing.

the pronoun lowdownAnd it’s now my turn to say thank you to Nevo.

When I reached out to ask for a list of children’s and YA books about gender identity, they were quick to share this list, which originally appeared in The Pronoun Lowdown, a guidebook to all things pronoun.

As the blurb says: “Everyone deserves to have their identity affirmed by their friends, families, and the world through which they move. The Pronoun Lowdown celebrates trans and gender diverse identities, in all their fluid and imperfect perfection!”

The same could be said of this book list.


Children’s & YA books about gender identity

For readers 4+

who are you? kids guide to gender identityWho Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity – Brook Pessin-Whedbee & Naomi Bardoff, 2017

A brightly coloured children’s book for anyone aged 4 or above. It includes an interactive three-layered wheel that demonstrates the difference between our bodies, gender expression and gender identity. There are also discussion points and fun explanations of key concepts.



gender fairy bookThe Gender Fairy – Jo Hirst, 2015

A beautiful children’s book about two young people discovering that it’s okay to like the things they like. That they can be whoever they want to be, and that they are not alone. This is a great resource for teachers, family members and young people.



house for everyone gender identityA House for Everyone – Jo Hirst, 2018

While this children’s book shows the many ways young people may express their gender identity, it affirms that the important thing is that they come together to play and create. Each of them is unique, and each of them is valued for it.



I am Jazz gender identityI Am Jazz – Jazz Jennings & Shelagh McNicholas, 2015 

A children’s book about Jennings’ gender identity, of which she was aware from the age of two. It is simple and clearly explained and helps to bring concepts of gender to a real-life example.



introducing teddy gender identityIntroducing Teddy – Jessica Walton, 2016

A gorgeous children’s book about Errol and his teddy, Thomas. When it becomes clear that Thomas is sad, we discover that Thomas has always felt like a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. This is a gentle story that may help children understand better understand the concept of gender identity.



gender identity booksIt Feels Good To Be Yourself – Theresa Thorn & Noah Grigni, 2019

A great and straightforward guide for children and their families on vocabulary related to gender identity. Written by the mother of a transgender child and illustrated by a non-binary transgender artist.




For YA readers

the brilliant death capettaThe Brilliant Death – Amy Rose Capetta, 2018

A genre- and gender-bending mystical tale about identity, courage and love. Teodora has magical powers, which she is able to use against evil, thanks to the guidance of Cielo (who shares this magical gift).




Dreadnought – April Daniels, 2017 

After inheriting powers from the world’s greatest superhero, Danny Tozer must navigate coming out as transgender and having all of her dreams met at once. Although, maybe that’s a little too much, too soon.




euphoria kid alison evansEuphoria Kids – Alison Evans, 2020

As wholesome as it is magical, this book celebrates trans identity as an incidental part of a far more exciting story. By pivoting away from trans tragedies, this joyful fantasy novel will have you squealing with delight from the start until the end.




felix ever after Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender, 2020

Felix wants to know what it’s like to be in love, but worries that being Black, queer and transgender will get in the way of his romantic journey. After encountering anonymous transphobia, Felix comes up with a revenge plan, but gets more than he bargained for.




finding nevo gender identityFinding Nevo – Nevo Zisin, 2017

If you’re interested in knowing more about Nevo’s life and story, check out this memoir about their journey as a trans, non-binary, Jewish, queer person growing up in Melbourne. It can also be a helpful guide for family members to understand the lived experience of non-binary identity a little bit deeper.




highway bodies gender identityHighway Bodies – Alison Evans, 2019 

What’s the only thing better than a zombie apocalypse novel? A zombie apocalypse novel with trans and queer representation! This book is terrifying, exciting and revolutionary.




I wish you all the best gender identityI Wish You All the Best – Mason Deaver, 2019

Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as non-binary only to be kicked out of home. When they move in with an older, estranged sister, their traumatic situation is transformed into an opportunity for a new chapter.




Ida gender identityIDA – Alison Evans, 2016 

A brilliant speculative fiction book about Ida, who has the ability to time travel (or so she thinks). This book shows off Evans’ seamless writing of trans and queer characters without it being the central theme.




If I was your girl gender identityIf I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo, 2016

Amanda is keeping her trans identity secret, because she wants to create a whole new life for herself. But when she starts getting closer to Grant, she feels she needs to tell him about every aspect of her life. This book is a tender exploration of young love.



gender identity booksKindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories – anthology, edited by Michael Earp, 2019 

An anthology of fiction stories written by queer Australian YA authors. It’s got everything you could imagine; romance, identity, empowerment, darkness, sci-fi and fantasy.




pet gender identityPet – Akwaeke Emezi, 2019

This book discusses what it means to be a monster-hunter when no one will admit that there are still monsters to be hunted. It’s a simple and powerful allegory: keep on fighting for justice, even if the world keeps telling you there’s nothing wrong.



gender identity booksSpellhacker – M.K. England, 2020 

Magic used to be free and available to anyone, but now a greedy corporation has turned it into a tightly controlled entity, charging outrageous sums for access. Diz and her three best friends run a dangerous operation to redistribute magic to people and possibly save the world.



gender identity booksStay Gold – Tobly McSmith, 2020 

Pony is trying to keep a low profile. He doesn’t want to define himself by his trans identity and wants a fresh start at his new school, but then he locks eyes with Georgia. Can he stay stealth while getting close to her? Can Georgia keep focusing on her schooling and not dating like she promised herself?



gender identity booksWhen the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore, 2018 

Miel and Sam are strange, magical and inseparable. Miel has roses growing out of her wrist and Sam paints moons and hangs in trees. They both avoid the Bonner girls, four sisters rumoured to be witches. But when things change, they are no longer able to escape them.



nevo zisinNevo Zisin (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, Jewish writer, performer, activist and public speaker based in Naarm/ Birraranga / Melbourne.

They run workshops in schools and professional development trainings in workplaces around transgender identities. Find out more about Nevo and their books here. 



A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!

7 books about consent for kids under 10

7 books about consent for kids under 10

‘Consent’ is a word we’ve heard a lot about over the past few years and it’s a word that parents know they need to discuss with their kids from an early age. But how?

In her brand-new picture book, From My Head to My Toes, I Say What Goes, Australian author Charlotte Barkla takes children on a journey through everyday situations and shows that it’s okay to say ‘no’.

“As the Raising Children Network points out, children ‘need to understand that their body is their own and they have the right to say what happens to it’,” says Charlotte. “It’s not the easiest topic to discuss, but the good news is the foundations can be laid from an early age.”

Books that teach kids about consentThrough a gentle, playful text, Charlotte’s book discusses consent and control for a young audience.

I might say YES to pillow fights;
a kiss when I’m tucked in at night.

I might say NO to climbing high,
a tickling game or a hug goodbye.

Bright illustrations by Jacqui Lee keep the tone upbeat and lighthearted but the message is clear and the book is a great conversation-starter for parents of young children.


More books about consent for kids under 10

“It’s never too early to start teaching consent and boundaries for children,” says Charlotte, who has generously created this list of more books that open up conversations on consent, for children under 10 years. Click the title to find out more about the book.*


Books about consent for kidsHow to Say Hello by Sophie Beer

For very young children, you can’t go past Sophie Beer’s ‘How to Say Hello.’ This board book provides young readers with lots of examples of ways to say hello, whether it be a smile, wave or high-five. (And Sophie’s illustrations, as always, are gorgeous.) My favourite spread features a child peeking out from behind his parent’s legs, to say hello ‘from somewhere we feel safe.’

Simple yet brilliant, this book is inclusive and vibrant.



Books about consent for kidsDon’t Hug Doug by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

This picture book is lots of fun to read. It features a non-hug-loving boy called Doug, who much prefers high-fives. So, how do you tell who doesn’t like hugs? By asking, of course!

A great introduction to bodily autonomy.



Books about consent for kidsNo More Cuddles by Jane Chapman

Barry loves hugs, but sometimes he just wants to be left alone. Barry tries various things to stop others hugging him, and ends up falling into a solution (literally).

While this picture book doesn’t explicitly teach consent, it does provide a means for opening up a conversation on boundaries and communication.



Books about consent for kidsBoss of Your Own Body by Byll and Beth Stephen, Teeny Tiny Stevies, illustrated by Simon Howe

Originally a song by the Teeny Tiny Stevies, this picture book is all about being the boss of your own body, and not of anyone else. A fun read-aloud, with lots of vibrant illustrations.

The song is lots of fun to listen to with kids, too. (Although you may end up with an ear worm.)



Books about consent for kidsIt’s My Body: A Book About Body Privacy by Louise Spilsbury

An informational, non-fiction picture book about body privacy. I like how this book talks about listening to your body – whether your body is telling you it’s tired when it needs a rest, when it’s hungry or full, or telling you when a hug feels good or bad. As a UK-published text it includes links to British websites and helplines, as well as notes for parents, carers and teachers.




Books about consent for kidsRespect: Consent, boundaries and being in charge of YOU by Rachel Brian

This book was written by the co-creator of the “Tea Consent” video (which is worth a google if you haven’t seen it). In graphic novel format, this book is bright and fun. Readers learn about consent, setting boundaries and relationship dynamics.

This one is aimed at readers from 6+, but could even suit young teens.




Books that teach kids about consentCharlotte Barkla is the author of four books for children, including two picture books and the middle-grade Edie’s Experiments series.

Find out more about Charlotte and her books here.




Allison Tait podcastAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

 If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!


*this website contains affiliate links. See contact page for details.

5 picture books that explore cultural diversity with grandparents

5 picture books that explore cultural diversity with grandparents

When it comes to picture books, Australia’s multicultural nature hasn’t always been easy to find.

Fortunately, things are changing, with more culturally diverse picture books being published. One author who is part of that welcome renaissance is Inda Ahmad Zahri, with whom I’ve been connected for several years via social media and writing communities.

I’ve been thrilled to watch her star rise with the publication of two picture books – Salih and Night Lights – and more on the way.

When I asked Inda to create a list of culturally diverse picture books for young Australians, she came back with a very thoughtful collection (click the titles to find out more about each title or to purchase*).

“It was no surprise that when I was putting together a list of Australian picture books showcasing the culturally diverse stories of our migrant society, grandparents were often present and always lovingly depicted,” Inda says.

“These stories invite you to experience different cultures through language, nature, food or traditional dress. And I’m happy to report that you’ll meet some wonderful grandparents, including my own.”


5 picture books that explore cultural diversity with grandparents

By Inda Ahmad Zahri

Grandparents are wise, wistful and a little bit magical – they’re like a portal to a different time and place.

They know the perfect tale for every occasion. They have a hoard of old possessions laden with memories. And let’s be honest, they had the best life-hacks even before life-hacks became a thing. In our diverse society, they are often a bridge to our culture and heritage, too.


Night Lights culturally diverse picture books australiaNight Lights by Inda Ahmad Zahri & Lesley McGee (Little Pink Dog Books 2021)

Let me take you to my childhood stomping grounds, my grandparents’ village home in Malaysia. While the days were full of mischief and play, the nights were for memories, discovery, and the wonder of lights.

With stunning illustrations by Lesley, be prepared to feel the warmth of the tropics and the hum of the night as you turn the nature-filled pages.


One Tree culturally diverse picture books australiaOne Tree by Christopher Cheng & Bruce Whatley (Puffin Books 2019)

Grandfather used to tell stories of his mountain home, but now that nature has been overtaken by the city, he sits in their Hong Kong apartment, quiet and sullen. Luckily, his grandson’s love is as tenacious as the seedling he finds under the rush of busy feet in the market.

Chris tells a moving tale of family and nature, and Bruce adds intrigue to his Oriental scenes with a wood-block-printing style.


Slowly Slowly culturally diverse picture books australiaSlowly, Slowly by Tina Marie Clark & Hélène Magisson (Wombat Books 2017)

If Bongani can catch a monkey, he will surely prove that he’s taller than a hyena and big enough to go to school like his cousins. Grandfather teaches him how, but Bongani will keep stumbling until he remembers to take his time and go slow.

Inspired by a Ghanaian proverb known across the continent, Tina and Hélène bring us this catchy yet gentle story from the Africa of their childhood.


Katha Chest culturally diverse picture books australiaThe Katha Chest by Radhiah Chowdury & Lavanya Naidu (Allen & Unwin 2021)

As Asiya unfurls the katha quilts from the chest at her nanu’s house, she uncovers a lifetime of memories. The quilts, which are ubiquitous in South Asian homes, are made from old cotton saris that tell the stories of her aunts, her mother and her grandmother – stories of strength, sorrow and love.

Radhiah’s lyrical prose is perfectly matched with Lavanya’s vibrant and emotive illustrations.


Tayta Remembers culturally diverse picture books australiaTayta Remembers by Amal Abou-Eid & Cara King (Amal Abou-Eid 2021)

On Sundays, Tayta cooks a scrumptious feast with her family. Each dish is a chance for Tayta to slip through time and revisit her childhood in Lebanon. Amal peppers the pages with Arabic greetings and food names, while Cara draws loveable family scenes.

This book includes a glossary as a guide to Arabic terms and the delicious Lebanese cuisine.



Night Lights: diverse picture books australiaInda Ahmad Zahri is a writer and illustrator who loves languages, Malaysian rice dishes and the ocean. She is also a surgical doctor, swapping her writer’s hat and paintbrush for scrubs and a scalpel when duty calls.

Inda is the author of Salih and Night Lights.




Allison Tait podcastAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!


*Disclosure statement here

12 books with insight into autism and neurodiversity, from picture books to YA

12 books with insight into autism and neurodiversity, from picture books to YA

“I’m wondering if there are any books aimed at an 8 year old (autistic child) with preferably with main character that is autistic?”

“I have recently started working with children and teens who have been diagnosed with ASD / ADHD / OCD / ODD / Intellectual disabilities – many with a combination of those. Can you recommend any books which can give me an insight into their world, or from one of those viewpoints etc?”

“Can someone recommend books on neurodiversity for the 8-12 age range please?”

This recent cross-section of questions from the Your Kid’s Next Read group demonstrates an interest across the wider community for books that help kids understand autism and neurodiversity – either in themselves, or in their peers, and across a wide range of ages.

So I asked Australian author Kay Kerr to create a list of books for young readers that would fit the bill.

Kay was writing the first draft of her debut novel Please Don’t Hug Me when she received her autism diagnosis, and she is passionate about autism and wider disability representation in YA fiction. Her second novel Social Queue is out now.

Here, Kay recommends 12 books, from picture books to young adult fiction, with some thoughts on why she chose them. Click the title to find out more about the book or to purchase from Booktopia*.


12 books with insights into autism and neurodiversity

some brains by nellie thomasSome Brains by Nelly Thomas

This picture book celebrates neurodiversity and is well-loved in my house. It has been a good starting point for teaching my own child about their autism diagnosis, and about how different people can experience the world in different ways. The illustrations are bright and fun.



the curiosities by Zana FraillonThe Curiosities by Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie

I have just picked up a copy of this and I adore it. It is a more abstract look at diversity and difference, with a magical story and stunning illustrations.



all the ways to be smart by davina bellAll The Ways To Be Smart by Davina Bell

This picture book isn’t specifically about autism and neurodiversity, but it is one that I know is loved by many autistic children and their families, including my own. The emphasis on there being different ways to be smart (and to succeed) is a message that is important for everyone to hear, and in particular for children who might be starting off their schooling journey.



the boy with the big, big feelingsThe Boy With Big, Big Feelings by Britney Win Lee and Jacob Souva

This picture book is for the kids with big feelings (and us adults with big feelings too). Autistic people can feel things very deeply, and unfortunately autistic traits like meltdowns are often framed as behavioural issues to be ‘fixed’, rather than something to be supported through.

This story touches on sensory overload, anxiety, special interests, emotional regulation, and masking. What I love about it is that all of these things are understood through the lens of this little boy with a big heart.


get a grip vivy cohenGet a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

This middle-grade novel is about an 11-year-old autistic girl called Vivy who wants to be a baseball pitcher. It is written as a series of letters, and it is a funny, sweet story about a determined kid making her dreams come true.

Author Sarah Kapit is autistic too, which always makes me feel safer when I pick up a book with autistic representation. I love that it is a sporty story with an autistic protagonist, because I haven’t read many of those.



Paws by kate fosterPaws by Kate Foster

I adore this middle-grade novel. I’ve got a few copies under the tree for some amazing kids this year. Kate Foster has written such a beautiful story about an autistic boy called Alex who wants to make a friend ahead of his transition to high school. He makes a plan that includes his dog, Kevin. It is a gentle story with a lot of heart.



A kind of sparkA Kind Of Spark by Elle McNicoll

My 11-year-old witch-loving, autistic self would have loved this book, and I very much do as an adult too. This middle-grade novel follows Addie, who campaigns for a memorial for the women killed in witch trials in her Scottish hometown. This is another autistic protagonist written by an autistic author, and I think this story about making your voice heard could be enjoyed by anyone.



diary of a young naturalistDiary Of A Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

This non-fiction book by Irish teenager Dara is for the nature lovers. It spans one year and is a stunning reflection on the wonder of the natural world. It is gentle, lyrical, and profound.

Dara writes so beautifully about his own experiences as an autistic teenager, and how much being immersed in nature helps him.



peta lyrePeta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

This beloved CBCA-shortlisted YA novel features neurodivergent protagonist (ASD, ADHD, SPD) Peta who has successfully learnt all the rules for ‘normal’. But then a new girl arrives at school and Peta must figure out which ones to follow, and which ones to break. It has helped me to think critically about therapies, and to consider the difference between those that support and those that train ND kids to act like neurotypical ones.



Queens of GeekQueens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Contemporary YA Queens of Geek follows three friends who travel from Australia to the US to attend SupaCon, a Comic Con-style convention for all things geeky and amazing. One of the main characters is autistic, as is author Jen Wilde. It is sweet, funny, awkward and affirming–a forever favourite of mine and great for anyone who loves fandom.



books by Kay KerrPlease Don’t Hug Me & Social Queue

I’m going to be cheeky and end this list with my two contemporary YA novels.

Please Don’t Hug Me is a raw, funny-serious coming-of-age novel about an autistic girl about to finish high school, and navigating all of the change that comes with that.

Social Queue is about an autistic young woman who has just started university and is keen to dip her toes into the dating world.


Kay Kerr Find out more about Kay Kerr and her books at kaykerr.com





Allison Tait podcastAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

 If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!

*See contact page for affliate link information

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