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Time Traveling Audiobooks for Youth

Time travel, time paradoxes, time shells, time hollows—are they fantasy? Reality? The following titles are billed as fiction, but they’re also a look into endless possibilities. Last week, we brought you audiobooks about time travel for adults, but it’s time (sorry) younger readers got their due. Go ahead—or back.


47, by Walter Mosley, read by Ossie Davis

Bestselling author Mosley has the only sci-fi slavery narrative for younger readers that I’ve ever read. (Although Octavia Butler’s Kindred features a young Los Angelean who time-travels and meets her enslaved ancestors, the book’s intended audience is adults.) 47 is only enhanced by the late, great Ossie Davis’ extraordinary recording—truly a rare aural gift. Young “Forty-seven” has been purposefully, lovingly underfed by Big Mama Flore to keep him out of the backbreaking cotton fields of Corinthian Plantation. But at 14, he’s branded his lifelong number and sent to live in the man-slaves’ cabin. He’s befriended by a mysterious runaway who calls himself Tall John, who empowers Forty-seven with the resounding refrain, “‘Neither nigger nor master be.’” Magic, tall tales, and space travel aside, Mosley ironically, tragically reminds us that “Slavery might be the most unbelievable part of this whole story but I assure you—it really happened.”


Archer’s Quest, by Linda Sue Park, read by Feodor Chin

While sitting in his bedroom grudgingly doing his Monday homework, Kevin is shocked to find standing before him the great archer Chu-mong, a Chinese royal who becomes a Korean king. The lost royal has seemingly fallen out of the sky and landed in suburban Dorchester, New York, and Kevin must find a way to get the once and future archer king back to his own time—more than two centuries ago. Try explaining cars, bikes, or a telephone to a time traveler! Narrator Chin enhances the comic pace in Newbery medalist Park’s historically hopscotching adventure.


Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, by Eoin Colfer, read by Nathanial Parker

No one but Parker can unleash the absolutely perfect “D’Arvit!”—the curse-word-of-choice throughout Colfer’s popular series. Thankfully (despite his short-lived inability to accurately pronounce the surname “Nguyen”—no, it’s not ‘en-guy-en’—in Book 1), Parker stays reliably constant voicing all eight Fowl titles. Magic abounds throughout, but the “time spell” is a narrative highlight in Book 5, in which demons defy time and space, and Artemis and friends must traverse time for a monstrous island getaway. Then, in follow-up The Time Paradox, time travel gets totally personal because Artemis will do anything to save his dying mother, including going backwards to face off with his younger self. Of course, you can’t read the series out of order (the horror, the horror!), so be sure to start with the original Artemis Fowl!


The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen, read by Barbara Rosenblat

A ubiquitous title on middle-school reading lists, Yolen’s 1988 classic was aurally rendered 15 years later in 2003 by Barbara Rosenblat, her breathy adaptation perhaps a bit more mature than one would expect from a 12-year-old protagonist. That said, for reluctant readers, the audio option can certainly be useful for finishing assignments on time. Rosenblat’s patient narration of a contemporary, privileged Jewish-American tween’s experience thrust back in time to 1942 Poland to survive a Nazi concentration camp proves to be a difficult, albeit necessary story at any age.


Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, read by Chris Sorensen

Jonah has always known he was adopted, but that doesn’t make him any less Katherine’s older brother (despite their many sibling spats) or his parents’ beloved son. His new friend, Chip, doesn’t have nearly as open a relationship with his parents, and when Chip inadvertently learns of his own adoption, Jonah and Katherine seem to be the only people who understand his anger and frustration. Then the trio discover the boys’ true origins: they are two of the 36 babies who were on board an airplane that mysteriously appeared, then inexplicably disappeared. The 36 turn out to have been stolen by time travelers and delivered to the 21st century to be adopted by families. And now history (and the future) needs to be made right. The book, first in Haddix’s “The Missing” series, sets up what will be an eight-part adventure criss-crossing centuries, continents, and lifetimes. Sorenson robustly narrates the full series, infusing the chrono-exploits with persuasive enthusiasm and unflagging energy.


The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Helig, read by Kim Mai Guest

Sixteen-year-old Nix has had quite the wandering, wondering life on her father Slate’s time-traveling vessel, the Temptation, which ferries father, daughter, and crew to places and times both real and imaginary. Nix’s origins belong in 1868 Honolulu, but 18th-century Calcutta and 20th-century New York City can feel just as familiar. For all his peripatetic journeys, Slate has a single goal: to “unmake the mistakes of his past” and reunite with his one true love, Nix’s mother—even at the cost of losing Nix, because her birth caused her mother’s demise. Guest, who always sounds eternally youthful, imbues Nix with doubt and longing, disappointment and resilience as she follows, cares for, resents, and loves her difficult father. Guest returns as Nix in the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time, joined by James Fouhey.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, read by Jesse Bernstein

Bernstein narrates the first book in Riggs’ trilogy, although Kirby Heyborne (who sounds similar enough) reads the rest of it. The bestselling series has already gone celluloid in Tim Burton’s lauded adaptation of the first book, a quirky, decade-hopping adventure filled with plenty of monsters, spirits, and lost souls. At the narrative center is Jacob Portman, a 16-year-old American who must convince his parents and psychiatrist that he’s not crazy and that his grandfather’s violent death was both warning and message. He travels to Wales, where he meets a mysterious girl who leads him to 1940, where Miss Peregrine and her “peculiar children” await. A new trilogy that begins with A Map of Days, with the main Peculiar protagonists returning along with narrator Kirby Heyborne, will hit shelves in October.


When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, read by Cynthia Holloway

Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal-winning novel is an admiringly clever homage to Madeline L’Engle’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, which happens to be both Stead’s and her 12-year-old protagonist Miranda’s favorite book. Miranda, a lifelong Upper West Side New Yorker, faces a sixth-grade year full of surprises, some clearly out of this world: temporarily losing her BFF, discovering unexpected new buddies, sleuthing out a key-stealer, recovering missing bread, and helping her mother practice to win The $10,000 Pyramid. A mysterious note—“I’m coming to save your friend’s life, and my own”—becomes the key to understanding the future. Wrinkle(s) in time surely await. Narrator Holloway manages to sound both excitedly youthful and undeniably wise.'

About the Author:

Terry Hong created and maintains Smithsonian BookDragon, a book blog for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. She was the writer wrangler for the film Girl Rising. She taught for Duke University’s Leadership in the Arts in NYC. She co-authored two books, Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture from Astro Boy to Zen Buddhism and What Do I Read Next? Multicultural Literature. She reviews extensively for many publications. Follow her on Twitter at @SIBookDragon.

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