YA Corner: Books for Christmas

Our little home looked like Early American D.I. (to use Elder Holland’s expression) years ago when the Bishop came to visit. The children were still young enough to hug toys and bounce on the couch. I was pretty sure I was getting a new church calling and that was the reason for his visit. Little wasted words were spent. A ward organist was needed. Could I play, he wondered? Answering yes, but hesitating, he followed up with “Okay, but do you know how to play the organ?” (No, not really.) “I think I could do it,” I innocently replied. Maybe he saw hope in my eyes, or simply had to take me regardless. A plan formed in my mind. Grandma Hyde played organ every Sunday in her chapel. She could give me a speedy overview and I could practice and take it from there. With much kindness that is what she did for me. A gift was given. I intensely wanted to learn and there was a moment of opportunity.

And here I am shamelessly attempting to write something for AML. I am excited for this opportunity and adventure. All I bring is my work as a mother and Children’s Librarian—the years of books I have brought home that we have read together. Finding a gem of a book–one that when read out loud engages all the now teens and young adults (even those college goers) in our home, is one of my particular pleasures. It’s not that easy to do. More often time is at a premium for the simple basics of life. But there are a number of titles which have become part of our family and draw us together whenever we read them. That is for a different future blog.

A few days ago, December 23, to be exact, the YA Fiction was being weeded. A cart held duplicate copies headed for the book sale. These titles were all quality fiction, all received praised reviews, just being thinned to make space for newer titles coming. I was invited to browse and take some. A Christmas scheme or experiment took shape. (Is it wrong for a mother to scheme for the good of her children?) Feeling giddy, I carefully picked an armful of books, each with a specific child in mind. On Christmas morning, the first presents to be opened were the books, wrapped in gold paper. After explaining how the books came to be under the tree, the kids laughed at my idea and even more at some of the titles I matched up with certain children. The instructions were to read the first paragraph of the books on the spot. Then they were given the option to trade and/or share titles over Christmas break. I wanted to observe how this would all play out and maybe learn something about my children as a result.

To perhaps amuse you, here is the list of titles with bits about what has happened so far. The titles were not all those I would have typically chosen at Christmastime for a book to give. Only one of them I had read previously. Our YA librarian commented positively on the titles I chose, however.

  • Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy — for my 25 year old who still usually succeeds at rereading the Harry Potter series every summer. She loves fantasy, and loves it even more if there are funny bits. This is my daughter who began the “Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians” series just before leaving for college. She packed the next two Alcatraz titles off to grad school, renewed them online and them mailed them back before they were overdue. (I see eBooks in her future.) This title I had read and so had her 17 year old brother. Her brother assured her it was definitely a good story. What’s not to love about a darkly witty skeleton detective?
  • Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough — for the 20 year old who loves Sherlock Holmes (both the books and BBC,) Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen. She is also a fan of “Dr. Who.” The book proclaims to be “A fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart.” Her siblings nearly rolled on the floor when she read the title and first paragraph. She has a reputation as a bit of a tyrant at home. Our YA Librarian remembered having “loved that book.”
  • Maximum Ride by James Patterson – for the 17 year old who reads fantasy, science fiction, comic books, and graphic novels. He is hands down the most picky reader in the family. His favorite authors have been mostly Brandon Sanderson, Jonathan Stroud, and Brandon Mull. He showed an interest in the book, commenting that he’d seen it as a graphic novel, and “didn’t know it was a book first.”
  • Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde — for the 15 year old who most recently devoured Cinder and Posiedon. She protested at having to receive “another book” with vaguely hidden rolled eyes and exasperated sighs. Later that day she nabbed “Once a Witch” and finished it a couple hours later. The past couple days she has read “Cloaked in Read,” “Pete’s a Pizza” (by William Steig,) another random YA romance published by Disney Hyperion, “Endymion Spring” by Matthew Skelton, and has repeatedly tried to make off with the YA title about the supposed son of Jack the Ripper who becomes a Pinkerton detective, which I’m currently reading: “Ripper” by Stefan Petrucha. I should just hand it over. She’ll finish it in less than a day and be done with it. Thus far she has proclaimed “Once a Witch” as her favorite and the best of the books I brought them.
  • Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton — for the 12 year old reader of mostly fantasy. He has loved The Inheritance Cycle Series, the Fablehaven Series, and the Pendragon Series. I have to admit that Mr. Skelton’s book has a pretty gorgeous cover and an intriguing plot summary. Collin was happy to have me read the first couple of chapters to him, until his sister found it and took it to her room.
  • Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede — for everyone in the family. I snuck this one in because of the author’s stellar reputation and our love of her “Enchanted Forest Chronicles.” I couldn’t resist the lure of more steamy dragons, schools of magic, and a twin brother and sister who are at the same time perilously unlucky and fantastically gifted, set in a wild landscape.

There is one week left of Christmas break. I look forward to more days of reading aloud (holiday treats nearby to sustain ourselves) and seeing where these books take us.

I imagine most of us either gave a book or received a book this Christmas. Please share titles and/or book giving stories that happened to you. I can’t wait to see what is posted and I’ll make a reading wish list.

About Becca Hyde

Becca Hyde began a career as children's librarian right after graduating college. She was also a grade school teacher for a couple of years simultaneously. After many years of choosing to stay home with her children, she is back working at Marshall Public Library as the Early childhood Librarian. Which is a delight! Becca also continues to be choir accompanist at Pocatello High School. She lives on a hillside with her husband, Joe, children and several wandering herds of deer and a moose or two.
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4 Responses to YA Corner: Books for Christmas

  1. Jonathan Langford says:


    Welcome on board to the AML blog!

    Yes, books played a prominent role under our (figurative) Christmas tree this year. I got copies of the Standing on the Promises trilogy by Margaret Young and Darius Gray, reissued in a revised edition by Zarahemla Books, which I’ve been promising myself to read for a while now.

    The book I most covet that someone else in the family got is The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, by Ian Mortimer, which was bagged by my 24-year-old. He also got To Be or Not to Be: A Choosable Path Adventure, by Ryan North, who is the creator of Dinosaur Comics (a webcomic). We had a lot of fun reading excerpts to this one out loud.

    Also noteworthy were some Terry Pratchett Discworld books (fantasy) for my wife and the family as a whole, and a copy of Snow White and the Seven Samurai, by Tom Holt (for our 13-year-old), which while not officially Christmas presents were purchases we had made with the thought of making them Christmas presents if we felt like there weren’t enough packages wrapped under the tree.

  2. Kate Poulter says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, Becca! You’re a wonderful writer and a good friend.


  3. Wm says:

    I didn’t get any books for Christmas. But I did get some gift cards that fed directly into getting a Kindle. I’m hoping that that will lead to me reading more fiction by Mormon authors this year.

  4. Th. says:


    This year, our kids getting older, we emptied the present box of all the books we’ve been stashing to give them “someday”; this includes books well under their reading level and a few above. My kids have taken to reading more slowly than I did, but it’s certainly not that we don’t have sufficient material for them to choose from….

    One of the frustrating things is the impossibility of passing on the exact tastes I had at their age. As if I would choose to do that even if I had the power.

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