The book of Eli: How an 8-year-old came to work at a bookstore

In a world of iPads, mobile phones and gaming consoles, finding a child who loves books is a rarity.

So imagine how surprised the store manager of a central Auckland bookstore was when an eight-year-old boy approached her for a job with the assuredness, charisma and vocabulary of someone twice his age.

That's exactly what happened to Jenna Todd of Time Out Bookstore, who came across young Eli Keall Flynn three years ago.

"Eli and his family have always been regular customers, but in 2013, Eli asked me for a job," she said.

"We usually wouldn't hire anyone younger than university age but Eli informed me that he knew what job he could do - recommend kids' books to customers - and that he had researched the labour laws and it was legal for him to work, as long as it wasn't during school hours."

Ms Todd says it's not uncommon for parents to ask for work on behalf of children in their 20s, so she was so besotted with Eli's confidence and assertiveness that she simply couldn't turn him down.

Now 11, Eli works as the bookstore's children's room expert, which didn't exist until he created it. Ms Todd says he has also started pricing and stocking books in addition to that role this year.

His wages come in the form of books - and Eli says that's just the way he likes it.

"At the end of every week I work, I get $100-worth of books, so I choose some books and if it adds up to about $100 I get them for free," he said.

"I would rather get paid that way rather than in money because I don't even have a tax account yet, so it'd be kind of hard."

Ms Todd says Eli mesmerises people with his charm and gets huge amounts of positive feedback from those he talks to - and Eli says he loves helping make decisions with his vast knowledge of literature.

"I really love working here - it's really fun and I get to learn more about people," he said.

"I like the way I can help the bookstore by recommending books to people, and they'll usually get books that they wouldn't have thought of [before they'd spoken to me]."

Eli's tips for children's books this Christmas:

  • for four-year-olds: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
  • for three-year-olds: Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey.

"It's about a bulldog who is extremely greedy and orders a very long list of Christmas presents - and when Santa comes he only gives him about three and so he tries to get Santa to give him more."

  • For a baby: Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

"I remember when I was little I really liked it - it's kind of about what the baby can see from where he is. I know that a number of other young children have already read it - I've recommended it a few times when they've already got it."

Video produced by Calkin Rameka and Harley Peters.