Books for tweenagers: Christmas gift ideas for the over-nines

Even in our high-tech world, books remain great gifts during this holiday season. Jenny Lee highlights some titles for the over-nine age group

Some book choices for young people to curl up and enjoy this Christmas
Some book choices for young people to curl up and enjoy this Christmas

Knock Back by Pauline Burgess, published by Poolbeg Press

Co Down writer and teacher Pauline Burgess is inspired every single day by the children around her, including her 10-year-old daughter Emma and her students at St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan.

Her series for younger readers – Pony Friends Forever – has become extremely popular with primary school children and now her new book, Knock Back, the first of a three-book contemporary teen fiction deal with Poolbeg, is aimed at the 11-14 age group.

Knock Back is set in a fictional residential home and farm for teenagers by Strangford Lough. Amid cows, rescued horses and random hens, adopted teen Ben finds some unlikely friends – lovely but moody Lauren, explosive rebellious Frank and mysterious silent Heath. Together they teach him that the world doesn't owe him any favours.

"Apart from Joan Lingard, there hasn't been much meaningful young teen fiction set in Northern Ireland. I have always believed that children need to identify with characters or settings or troubles in a story in order to really engage," says Burgess.

"I think young teens will be able to relate to Knock Back. There is something for everyone: disaffected boys; teenagers trying to assert their identity; teenagers with raging hormones; teenagers rebelling against their families, and of course, young people trying to find their voices," says Burgess, who is currently writing her next novel about a Polish girl trying to settle into life in Northern Ireland.

Birthday Boy by David Baddiel, published by Harper Collins

Author and comedian David Baddiel's latest children's novel once again features the adventures of Sam Green, who features in his best-selling novels The Parent Agency and The Person Controller.

The plot is reminiscent of Wizzard's Christmas hit I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. We've had children swapping parents, turning into animals, using a games controller to manipulate others' actions – this time Sam enjoys his birthday so much, he makes a wish that it would be his birthday every day.

It's quite exciting, at first, when he gets a special breakfast, presents, parties, special treatment – nobody is able to resist wishing him well and offering their congratulations.

But when it happens again, and again, and again, Sam begins to realise that something you have to be careful what you wish for.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, published by Harper Collins

A moving story of the extraordinary friendship between a boy and his fox, and their epic journey to be reunited. Beautifully illustrated by Jon Klassen, who has also drew illustrations for hit films Kung Fu Panda and Coraline.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a cub. But when Peter is forced to return his fox to the wild his world is torn apart. Despite the encroaching war, and the three hundred miles between them, Peter sets out to find his fox. Meanwhile Pax waits hoepfully for his boy.

A profound and moving story about overcoming emotional and physical difficulties, it could be compared to Charlotte's Web or Watership Down.

Katherine of Carrick: The Way of the Warrior by Annie Holmes

At over 600 pages long, Katherine of Carrick is for the enthusiastic young reader. Particularly aimed at girls, it tells the story of the world's youngest history detective.

To outwit a bully, Katherine has to go back in time and find girl pirates. She sails the high seas on a Viking ship, meeting real female pirates of the past, in her quest for the truth.

Bringing history to life, with a sparkling of fiction, London author Annie Holmes was inspired to write the story after living for a few years in Carrickfergus, in the former home of renowned 19th century architect Samuel Patrick Close.

From their home, she could see Carrickfergus Castle and she would regularly take her young nephews there "to fight pirates".

"The fantastic history of the area was just so captivating and with all its amazing myths and legends the scene was set for creating a story filled with exploration and adventure," says Holmes, who deliberately penned a female protagonist.

"I had a huge sense I needed to write a book to counter the princess narrative. There is nothing wrong with being a princess or a fairy, but there needed to be other role models to empower young girls.

"What I try to show in the book is that knowledge is a weapon that has the power to make anything possible and that fears can be overcome," she adds.

The hardback book features over 100 illustration and 18 colourful double page illustrations by Shirin Karbor. An audio book is available featuring the voice of Morwenna Banks, whose is best known for voicing Mummy Pig, Madame Gazelle and Dr Hamster in the children's series Peppa Pig.