Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Audiobooks for family trips (children ages 7 - 10)

Audiobooks are a wonderful way to bring children in 2nd and 3rd grade into longer, more developed stories.  Children in these grades love more complicated stories, but they are still working on their reading skills.  They often do not have the patience or ability to read these longer stories.  Try listening to one together on a long car ride, and you'll see how much you all enjoy it!

Here are three audiobooks we've really enjoyed this year with my family.  Below I will include others that readers have recommended.  Do you have others that you've enjoyed listening to with your children?  Let me know - other parents would love the recommendations!  Send me an email (greatkidbooks at gmail.com) or leave a comment below, and I'll pass the word on to other parents.

by William Steig
narrated by Peter Thomas
Listening Library, re-released 2009
length: 2 hours, 42 minutes
ages: 7 - 10
Dominic is a dog in search of his fortune.  He leaves his home, taking only his hat and his piccolo, and along the way he meets many animals, developing new friends as he goes.  My children have been captivated by Dominic's story, as he bumbles his way along, searching for - well, he doesn't quite know what.  Dominic learns about the world and himself as he makes new friends and outwits the notorious Doomsday gang.  This is a wonderful story, with charm, heart and a bit of magic.  One of the interesting things I found myself wondering is what made Dominic so determined to defeat the Doomsday gang.  Was he getting revenge for the way they had tricked him, or was he trying to make his world a safer place for his friends?

The length of this story makes is a good choice for a broad age range.  While 3rd graders and older will get the most out of this rich story, young children enjoy it as well.  Dominic was re-released this year by Random House / Listening Library.  You can find it on Audible and download it to your computer, iPod or MP3 player.  You can buy the CDs on Amazon, or find them at your local public library.

The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1
by Rick Riordan
narrated by Jesse Bernstein
NY: Listening Library, 2005.
length: 10 hours, 1 minute
ages: 7 - 10
Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson knows he's different, but he never imagined that his life would turn into a hero's journey with fast-paced adventure and life-or-death battles with monsters.  Percy is an average kid living in modern-day New York City; he has trouble concentrating and paying attention in school.  But when his algebra teacher becomes a deadly monster and his scrawny best friend turns out to be a satyr, he learns he's a hero -- the half-blood son of an Olympian god.  These books fly off the shelves in our library.  They become a rage, typically with 4th grade boys - but many girls I've know (including my own daughter) love them.  The stories are filled with twists and turns, weaving in a multitude of characters from Greek mythology.

Listen to these stories before the movie comes out in February.  The audiobooks are gripping, as you hear about Percy's quest to find who stole Zeus' lightning bolt.  As AudioFile magazine writes, "Narrator Jesse Bernstein artfully creates a variety of characters, including nervous goat-boy Grover and bossy wise-girl Annabeth (Athena's daughter), but his masterpiece is the boyish and sarcastic Percy himself... Adults and children alike will be spellbound as they listen to this deeply imaginative tale unfold."

This book appeals to a wide age range.  It's a great choice for 4th and 5th graders, as they may get hoooked and want to read other books in the series.  I've also known many 2nd and 3rd graders to ask their parents to read the whole series aloud to them!  Here is a clip to listen to a bit of the story:

The Lightning Thief is the first of five volumes in the Percy Jackson series.  You can download the audiobook to your computer, iPod or MP3 player from Audible, or buy the CDs through Amazon.  They are also available at your local public library and many local bookstores.

My family has enjoyed many Roald Dahl books, so I was particularly pleased when my children asked to listen to Dahl's autobiography Boy.

Boy: Tales of Childhood
by Roald Dahl
narrated by Derek Jacobi
NY: HarperAudio, 2005
length: 4 hours
ages: 7 - 10
Boy is the first of Roald Dahl's autobiographies.  Listening to Dahl's boyhood antics will give you a glimpse into where he got some of the plot ideas and inspirations for his most popular books.  It is told in episodes, starting with how Dahl's Norwegian father came to Wales, and proceeding through his childhood and school memories.  At times, you will laugh out loud at Dahl's pranks, other times you may cringe.  I found it interesting how he portrays some of the adults in his life, especially since so many of the adults in his stories are rotten.  The audiobook has captivated our family.  As AudioFile writes,
Derek Jacobi narrates this humorous and delightful account of Roald Dahl's childhood in a friendly, amusing tone. The listener feels as if he is at his grandfather's knee listening to tales long ago. Jacobi's enchanting voice makes one feel that Dahl himself is speaking.
Unfortunately, this is getting a little hard to find.  You can download it at Audible to your computer, iPod or MP3 player.  From there you can easily burn CDs.  We found our copy at our local public library.

An interesting question: I noticed that the narrator, Derek Jacobi, also narrates many of the Chronicles of Narnia.  Has anyone tried this series on audiobook with their children?  Michael York has also read   I think we may try this in January.

Other suggestions from readers for great audiobooks for children ages 7 - 10 include:
- novels by Kate DiCamillo, including Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane
- Harry Potter series, read by Jim Dale
- Tales from the Odyssey, written by Mary Pope Osborne
- Beverly Cleary's Ramona series, read by Stockard Channing

Please send other suggestions, and I will add them to the list!

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