Family Trip? Listen to a Great Book Together!

15211153Lynn: Here in Michigan we have two glorious weeks left before the school bell rings the day after Labor Day. Many families are wedging in one more trip and we’d like to remind everyone of a terrific way to while away the miles, avoid squabbles and enjoy something together. Listen to an audio book! I guarantee that the time will zip by, kids will be entertained and the adults in the car will have their eyes and ears opened to the amazing quality of writing AND recording being done for young people.

I have two sons, now grown, who are BIG readers. Their favorite genre is science fiction and by the time they were in their teens they had long moved to adult sf. We often listened as a family to adult sf, mysteries and thrillers on audio but we also listened to YA books. I still clearly remember the first YA audio I infiltrated into the mix – the wonderful Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman (Recorded Books, 1997). At first there was much disdain among all the males in the car but soon I noticed, the books were down and the chuckles rolled at Birdy’s tricks. When we stopped for lunch, I reached to stop the tape and heard from the back, “Wait, Mom, I want to hear the rest of this chapter.” Got them 😉

Do you have a story to share or a favorite audio to suggest? Here’s a few of my favorites:

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: bk.1) by Rick Riordan (Listening Library, 2005) 7 CD’s 8 hours

This is the start of the wonderful series involving Percy Jackson, who discovers he is the son of Poseidon, and suspected by Zeus of stealing his lightning. Percy must solve the mystery and save his new friends at Camp Halfblood. Lots of adventure, and a painless introduction to Greek Mythology with a modern twist. Boys and girls will enjoy this entertaining tale. Gr. 6-9

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Harper CD, 2007) 7.5 hours

If you like your stories a little creepier, try this fabulous audio about 12-year old Stephanie and Skulduggery Pleasant, the world’s only skeleton detective as they try to solve the murder of Stephanie’s uncle. Gr. Lots of bone-shaking laughs too! Gr. 5-8.

lay-that-trumpetCindy: This past weekend our family spent 20 hours in the car driving our oldest daughter, Kim, up to Michigan Tech University in the far reaches of the Upper Pennisula. We were listening to her summer homework, the freshmen requirement of Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy (Recorded Books, 2007). It’s an adult novel with older teen appeal set in 1951 Florida based on the real story of a 19-year-old African American who is abducted and killed by Klansmen. 12-yr-old Reesa tells the story of how she and her recently transplanted northern family attempt to seek justice during very dangerous times. Families interested in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement will be riveted by this story. McCarthy is speaking on campus to the students and faculty tonight and tomorrow the students will be discussing the novel and author visit in small groups. Wish I were still there.

Here are a couple of my audio favorites:

shoe-birdThe Shoe Bird by Eudora Welty (Brilliance Audio, 2008) 1 hour

A short listening experience to whet your appetite, perfect for back to school shoe shopping! A young boy is heard saying “shoes are for the birds” and it sets off a wild romp of shoe-wearing birds with Jim Dale (of Harry Potter audio fame and awards) expertly narrating the way. As if you needed more, the whole thing was scored for full orchestra and children’s choir by Samuel Jones (performed here by the Seattle Symphony and the Northwest Boychoir and girls of Vocalpoint! Seattle). Move over Peter and the Wolf, there’s a new musical children’s story on the block.

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman. (Listening Library, 2002) 4 hr. 37 min.

You’ll laugh until you cry as you listen to this hilarious story of two star-crossed teens. He’s the son of a mob boss and wants nothing to do with his father’s “vending machine biz-ness” and she’s the daughter of the FBI agent trying to catch the mobster in an illicit act. Those of you old enough to remember the TV sitcom Doogie Howser, M.D., about the genius teen doctor, will recognize the narrator of this audio book as Doogie’s Italian sidekick, Vinnie, played by Max Casella–a perfect choice. Great fun.

ANYTHING on audio by August House.

August House is a publishing treasure of audio storytelling celebrating their 30th year. Visit your public library and check out the 398.2 section of the adult or children’s audio collection for amazing storytelling performances by Donald Davis, Kathryn Tucker Windham, Ed Stivender, Bobby Norfolk, etc. And, while you’re there, if you still have access to a cassette player, snag a copy of Best-Loved Stories Told at the National Storytelling Festival, a two-tape set recorded live at the fabulous annual festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. (National Storytelling Network, 1992). Family stories, trickster folktales, scary stories: there’s something for everyone here.

And now, your turn. What audio book family fun do you recommend? I have many more long college drives up to Houghton ahead of me and need recommendations. Parent’s weekend is in early October in time for fall color tours!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

11 Comments on "Family Trip? Listen to a Great Book Together!"

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  1.' Angela says:

    Back in high school we took a big family vacation road trip from Holland to Las Vegas and we spent a lot of the time in the car listening to the Harry Potter books. We picked them up along the way at Cracker Barrels – they have a great program where you borrow an audio book at one store and then return it when you’re finished to any other Cracker Barrel. Back then, at least, the selection definitely trended towards adult best sellers, so the HP books were the only thing we could find that were family friendly and tolerable to everyone.

  2.' Joanne de Groot says:

    My kids (age 4 and almost 6) loved listening to all kinds of audiobooks in the car on our daily commutes and also on longer trips. They also love listening to audio books in the living room while they are playing with lego or doing other quiet, individual activities. Our favourites continue to include: the Paddington Bear books, the Geronimo Stilton series (especially the ones read by Edward Hermann) and the Ramona series read by Stockard Channing. I have Anne of Green Gables ready to go for them, but I think they’re a little young yet for that one and we also have Charlotte’s Web out of the library to listen to next week. We also listened to Emily’s Runaway Imagination last winter and they enjoyed it. I find that the more they listen to the same story, the more they hear and get out of it. We have had some amazing conversations about books based on the books we have listened to in the car!

  3.' Sarah says:

    We just got Skulduggery this week for a road trip and have loved it so far. I’ll have to check out the others.

    I loved Carter Finally Gets It (for middle school and up) and Harry Potter is always good on audio!

  4.' Mary Burkey says:

    What great suggestions! Especially Skulduggery – that audiobook made me fall in love with a living skeleton 😉
    The Bookends duo are true audiobook aficionados – join them on a tour Inside the Audiobook Studio here:
    I am sure the Stinky Diaper singer had to be either Cindy or Lynn!

  5.' Joanne says:

    I just finished listening to Redwall, and boy did I love it. Full cast, all the different voices, so exciting. It made me feel like I was sitting by a hearth and listening to an old storyteller weave a tale.

  6.' Boni Ashburn says:

    I don’t have anything by way of audio-books to contribute, but I wanted to wish Cindy’s daughter Good Luck! up here- I’m in Houghton in the U.P. and it was startling to see Tech on a children’s book blog that I read! We don’t get too many mentions in general 🙂

    • Boni, how nice to hear from a Hougton reader! Kim’s been busy with orientation activities all week so we haven’t heard much, but it sounds like she’s enjoying it all. We are headed up there in October for Parent’s weekend. I took a photo of the library on the waterfront last weekend, but it was Sunday and the library was closed. I’m on a mission to see the riverfront views from it while I am there next time.

  7.' Mary Ann says:

    Great suggestions – my family has loved Skulduggery Pleasant and Percy Jackson. I just finished listening to The Schwa Was Here – excellent on audio, narrated by the author Neal Shusterman in a perfect Brooklyn accent.

    Thanks for highlighting audiobooks! I’m hoping to introduce the middle school students in my library to downloading them onto their MP3 players.

  8.' Boni Ashburn says:

    Cindy- The view from inside our new library IS lovely. Do make sure to stop back by! Ooh, and while you’re there (if you ever mix business with pleasure, that is…), if you have any suggestions for the YA section, please ask for Mary and share them with her! She orders the childrens books and I help “advise” her on PB and chapter books and some MG, but I am always at a loss on YA (which I don’t read/write). You can tell her I sent you 🙂

    • Boni, I will try to stop in during Parent Weekend in October. I must see the inside of the library and would love to meet you and Mary. And, for Lynn and me both, Business IS pleasure. I always try to visit libraries (and bead stores) when traveling.–Cindy

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