Likely Stories: A Selection of YA and Children’s Novels for Holiday Giving

Nov 1, 2018

A collection of YA novels for holiday gifts or the simple pleasure of young adult reader.


I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

A close friend has suggested I put together a collection of Young Adult (YA) fiction.  Although I do not normally collect this genre, my wife is a retired librarian and has worked with children of all ages.  The two of us have collected quite a few books we remember from our own childhoods and she pointed out that quite a few titles in our collection might be appropriate for younger readers.  All merit 5 stars.

Let’s start off with the beautiful classic novel, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.  This story explores the question “what if you could live forever?” as young Winnie discovers a spring on her family’s property whose waters grant immortality. Natalie Babbitt is considered one of the best authors and illustrators in children’s literature.  Tuck Everlasting has been adapted into two feature films and a Broadway musical.

When I was young, I loved stories about animals.  Some of my favorites were The Black Stallion and others by Walter Farley.  My original copy is long lost, but I have finally found one with the identical dust jacket.  Another favorite author was Rutherford G. Montgomery, whose Carcajou I read over and over again.  Carcajou, the main character, was a wolverine.  The book was out of print for a number of years, so you’re likely to find some high prices for it on Amazon if you want the original edition.  It was reprinted in 2000, so more reasonably priced editions are available. 

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith came to my attention from a trusted book-buddy in our circle.  First published in 1948, this novel is a timeless view of growing up and falling in love. I highly recommend this excellent novel, but I’m not the only one.  J.K. Rowling says “this book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met.”

Another “coming of age” story, but one more recently published, is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  It begins with the memorable line “I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”  Susie tells the story of her death while she observes, from heaven, the actions and reactions of her friends and family.

And speaking of death, don’t miss Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which is an unforgettable story set in World War II.  Death, the narrator, sees Liesel on the train to Munich with her mother as her little brother dies, and as she steals her first book at his gravesite.  In Munich, Liesel is left with a foster family and rescues another book from a Nazi bonfire.  Death continues to watch over Liesel as she becomes witness to the atrocities of war and other heartbreaking events. The book is over 500 pages long, but I couldn’t put it down!

Next is Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons.  This was one of Oprah’s early book club selections, and it too, has a memorable first line that took my breath away: “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy.” Eleven-year-old Ellen has been abused, neglected, and orphaned.  She tells of being passed from one member of her family to another. She dreams of a better life with a loving home and mother.

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!