Falling in love with audio books was accidental for me. I grabbed one from the library on a whim to play in the car during our daily commute to school. A move six weeks before the end of the school year had us driving 20 minutes one way. The drive was tedious as I listened to my children bicker in the back seat. The moment I started the CD and Lois Sachar’s voice came into the car, weaving the silly tales of the children of Wayside School, my children were no longer bickering, but engaged in fabulous storytelling.
Since that happenstance moment, listening to audiobooks has become a deliberate part of our minivan moments. The benefits reach far beyond a few minutes of peace in the car. A good narrator can bring characters to life and pull the listener into the world of the book. In cases where the author narrates, the listener gets to hear the story with the pace and inflection that the author intended, which enriches an already enjoyable book. Listening as a family allows younger children to be a part of a story that their reading skills would not otherwise allow. Finally, they can bring a family together during an otherwise sterile (or negative!) time in the car and give a family something to talk about outside of that time in the car.
In an effort to continue my love affair with audio books, I have polled friends, family, and the Power of Moms’ community to find the most beloved renditions of their favorite stories. There were some decided favorites and also some hidden gems. I’ve listened to some and look forward to enjoying others. It almost has me looking forward to the carpool line. Happy listening!
Early Elementary and Older
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Narrator: Eden Riegel
I found myself driving around the block or more in order to continue listening to this retelling of the Cinderella story. Ella is brave, witty, resourceful, and determined; she is portrayed wonderfully by Eden Riegel.
Author and narrator: E.B. White
A 1953 Newbery Honor Book, the story of an unlikely friendship between a pig and a spider becomes even more heartwarming with the soothing lull of the author’s voice as he spins his timeless tale.
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Narrator: Cherry Jones
A good friend recommended this listen to me and said her kids especially fell in love with Farmer Boy, the third book in the series. Each of the books gives a charming glimpse into the pioneer spirit of the early years of the United States.
THE WAYSIDE SCHOOL COLLECTION: SIDEWAY STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL; WAYSIDE SCHOOL IS FALLING DOWN; WAYSIDE SCHOOL GETS A LITTLE STRANGER
Author and narrator: Lois Sachar
My children and I laughed together through the silly stories of the peculiar school with classrooms built one on top of the other. The author tells the tales in a matter of fact way that adds to the nonsensical humor the books provide. Also, the shorter chapters are perfect for children that are new to audio books and for short trips in the car.
Author and narrator: Roald Dahl
Who doesn’t love the unlikely tale of a giant peach that is home to oversized bugs and becomes the vehicle for exciting adventures with James Henry Trotter? Read by the author, it is particularly delightful.
Author: J.K. Rowling
Narrator: Jim Dale
Jim Dale’s legendary voice sweeps adults and children alike into the world of Harry Potter and his education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll be addicted quickly to his interpretation of these well-beloved books. Other books of note narrated by Jim Dale are Peter Pan and Peter and the Starcatchers.
Upper Elementary and Older
Author: Douglas Adams
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Also well-known for his narration of the Harry Potter series, Stephen Fry doesn’t disappoint in this classic about the unfortunate Arthur Dent and his adventures throughout the Universe.
Author: Cornelia Funke
Narrator: Simon Jones
Two orphan boys who are on the run from their aunt and uncle find an unlikely family in a group of street children who make their living by performing petty crimes. Listen as their story takes a fantastic spin into an incredible journey.
Author: Brandon Mull
Narrator: E.B. Stevens
I haven’t read or listened to this series yet. It is certainly on my list as it was one of the most highly recommended “reads”, second only to Harry Potter. The summary from Brandon Mull’s website reads: “Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.”
Author: L.M. Montogomery
Narrator: Barbara Caruso
Kliatt, a professional book review journal, says, “Caruso’s warmth and energy, clarity and moderate pace work together to capture the listener.” I would add that she perfectly matches the contagious story of Anne Shirley, a red-headed orphan that wins the hearts of all those who cross her path. I read these books as a teenager and have loved listening to them again with a mother’s perspective.
Question: What is your favorite audiobook to listen to as a family?
Challenge: Grab one of the listed audiobooks from the library and start listening.
Image courtesy Naypong / Freedigitalphotos.net