5 Recommendations for Family Audiobooks

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My son, at age 2, listened again and again to an audio rendition of William Steig’s "Doctor De Soto." I popped in this audio and he was mesmerized, lulled from the most severe fit.  I relished the way he repeated the quote “Let’s risk it!,” taken from the moment the Mouse doctor and his wife decide to treat a fox with a toothache.  Again and again, in his little squeaky voice, he found opportunities to utter his favorite quote and soon, so did I.  My son was not a risk-taker by nature, so it became a useful catchphrase and soon the characters became part of our family. That may be when I began to love family audios.  It took a bit longer for me to admit that I am an audio addict — here are five reasons why listening lights up families and five suggestions of new audios for your listening pleasure.​

  1. Changing dynamics “I can’t stop my children from arguing in the car, but an audio works wonders,” said a friend of mine, a mother of two young children.  Indeed, an audio can not only shift moods, as I saw with my son, but it can also put an end to bored children’s mobile bickering.  Her kids were captured by Betty Bunny. Michael Kaplan’s newest, "Betty Bunny Wants a Goal," is newly released and read by Katherine Kellgreen. Her crisp voice captures the humor and roller coaster feelings of Betty who is fiercely competitive about soccer. Sound effects increase the fun.   (ages 4-7)
  2. Increasing Communication Conversely, audios initiate needed discussion. Many families use videos on long trips, but a shared audio experience is more likely to stimulate meaningful conversations. Kirby Heyborne reads Katherine Applegate’s first person narrative, "Crenshaw" (Listening Library). Fourth grader Jackson is horrified at the reappearance of his imaginary friend Crenshaw, an oversized imaginary cat who showed up three years before when the family was homeless. Heyborne makes Jackson’s bewilderment as clear as the way his parents downplay their predicament. A great way to open conversations about this difficult subject.  (ages 8-11)
  3. Supporting Learning Audios open doorways for children who are learning a second language, how to read or have visual processing issues. National Geographic and Live Oak Media collaborate on book-audio sets in a thoughtful non-fiction pre-reading leveled series. All books are vivid in color, simple in text and clear in design.  The audios add sound effects and enthusiasm. Joe Towne, narrator of Susan B. Newman’s "Swing, Sloth! Explore the Rainforest" has a lively tone as he accents animals’ actions in the rainforest.  (ages 3-6)
  4. Bringing books to life Two narrators intensify dynamics, define characters and make dialogue riveting. Bahni Turpin and Robbie Daymond narrate Nicola Yoon's "Everything, Everything" (Listening Library)  Maddy, a biracial 18-year-old, has severe combined immunodeficiency and doesn’t go outside. Her only visitors are an occasional antiseptic tutor, her physician mother and Carla, her nurse. That’s until Olly moves in next door. Bahni Turpin conveys Maddy’s intelligence and a playful spirit that’s surprising for one trapped inside.  Robbie Daymond conveys Olly’s sincerity and a curiosity that matches Maddy’s. Through computer communications, these engaging characters begin a friendship that’s honest, flirtatious and soon becomes a love that’s worth taking risks and has more twists and turns than either could imagine.  (ages 12- adult)   
  5. Escaping the mundane Chores are easier when you have the companionship of a powerful story.  Jonathan Stroud’s "The Hollow Boy" (Listening Library) is the third in a fantasy series that takes place in an alternate universe. Lockwood & Co, three young adults, discover and dispense with unruly spirits.  Now they’re joined by a fourth, a perky new assistant who causes the heroine more horror than the case of the house with bloody footprints.  Emily Bevan balances the tension with the wit of the young detectives.

Susie Wilde, pictured below, has reviewed for magazines and papers across the country for 30 years. When not reviewing, she leads writing residencies for children, teaches adults how to write children’s books and shares stories with children and adults. She’s usually sporting headphones as she listens nonstop to adult and children’s audiobooks.  Read more blogs about books and audios for all ages at ignitingwriting.com/blog.

Photo of Susie Wilde


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