I am a big fan of audiobooks. I love to listen to books in the car, and will occasionally move them into the house because I can’t bear to stop listening, even though the car trip is done.
Summer trips are a perfect time to listen to books on CD in the car. In the Children’s Room, one question I get asked quite a lot is, “can you recommend books that my whole family will enjoy?” Below are a few that I think will fit the bill. The ages and grades listed are the primary intended audiences, but the whole family can enjoy any of these.
Rabbit Ears: American Tall Tales vol. 2
The Rabbit Ears series of audiobooks is a terrific example of great listening for the whole family. The stories are short, mostly less than 30 minutes each, and are narrated by familiar voices. This volume of American Tall Tales includes Davy Crockett read by Nicholas Cage, and Paul Bunyan read by Jonathan Winters. The Mill Valley Library also owns several other Rabbit Ears story collections, including Folktales of the Far East with Sigourney Weaver, Native American Heroines with Laura Dern and Geena Davis, and Storybook Classics performed by Holly Hunter and Cher. Each reader gives a lively performance that will entertain a car full of little ones without driving the grownups crazy. The addition of original music to each story really brings them to life. (Ages 4-8)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, read by Adam Grupper
The Newbery Award winning story is a terrific choice for a car ride with a wide range of ages. Ivan has lived his entire life in a cage at a failing shopping mall, alongside an aging elephant. When a baby elephant named Ruby joins the group, Ivan realizes this is no kind of life for such a magnificent animal and tries to find a way to get Ruby out and into a better life. Told in the first person, the audiobook reader has a wonderfully low and rumbly voice that perfectly captures what a gorilla must sound like. (Grades 3-6)
The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Adjoa Andoh
Adult fans of McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series will love introducing their kids to young Precious Ramotswe and her first mystery: to track down the kid who is stealing her classmate’s snacks. Reader Adjoa Andoh is a Ghanian stage actor who is obviously having fun telling this tale. Her British-laced speech feels authentic to the tale and is easy to understand, for adults and children alike. (Grades 2-4)
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin, read by Kim Mai Guest
This audiobook based on traditional Chinese folklore stars Rendi, a grumpy young runaway who finds himself working at an inn in the Village of Clear Sky. He is just passing through, but the characters at the inn begin to intrigue him, particularly the fascinating stories of Madame Chang. When Rendi realizes that the moon is missing, he sets out to make things right again. The story is read by Kim Mai Guest, who imbues each character with a distinct voice, and the additional incidental music adds great warmth to the story. (Grades 3-7)
Another option for audiobooks are the library’s downloadable e-audio resources. Your Mill Valley library card gives you free access to two services with different options: Overdrive and One Click Digital. They each have growing selections of audiobooks for adults and children that can be downloaded directly to your iPhone or Android device or to your computer. Overdrive has titles such as the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and the 39 Clues series. Our newest audiobook service, One Click Digital, has an additional selection of books including Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, and Superfudge by Judy Blume.
Our many audiobook choices have something for everyone, whether the whole family listens together or everyone has their own book on their own headphones. Enjoy your summer vacation!