Monday, December 21, 2009

Audiobooks for young listeners (ages 4 - 7)

This year I've been encouraging my kindergartner to listen to longer audiobooks.  In preschool, she loved picture book kits, where you listened to a book while turning the pages.  But it's a different skill to listen to a book without the pictures in front of you.  Young listeners need to concentrate on the sounds more, develop the pictures in their mind, and follow the plot.  For these young listeners in preschool and kindergarten, I look for chapter books that are about 1 hour in total length.  Here are two of our favorites from this year.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
by Roald Dahl
narrated by Roald Dahl
NY: HarperChildrens Audio, 2005
length: 53 min.
ages 4 - 7
My daughter was very excited to listen to Fantastic Mr. Fox because she knew that the movie was coming out.  This audiobook production is fantastic - Dahl brings his story alive with dry wit in a way that both parents and children will enjoy.  It is a story of good versus evil, with Mr. Fox being a perfect gentleman as he tries to nobly protect his family and the farmers bumbling, obsessed thugs out to exterminate the foxes.  The story begins with an introduction of the farmers:
Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean.
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean.
Children love to hear how the clever fox outwits the farmers as they try to they try to dig him out.  When the farmers lay siege to the foxes' den, Mr. Fox tunnels to where the farmers least expect him--their own larders! In the end, Mr. Fox brings a feast to his family and a whole community of burrowing creatures.  This is a great first longer chapter book for children to listen to because it has such a clear sense of characters and plot.  Older children (and adults!) will also enjoy it for the fun story, more complex language and captivating narration by Dahl.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is available for download to your computer, iPod or MP3 player on  You can purchase the CDs on Amazon.  And you can find it at your local public library using
The Mercy Watson Collection, volume 1
#1: Mercy Watson to the Rescue
#2: Mercy Watson Goes For a Ride
by Kate DiCamillo
narrated by Ron McLarty
NY: Random House/Listening Library, 2006
length: 41 minutes
ages 4 - 6
Kate DiCamillo, best known for her novels for older children, has written a series of short chapter books starring Mercy Watson, a pig with attitude, good humor and a love of hot buttered toast.  Mercy is a "porcine wonder", the beloved pet of Mr. and Mrs. Watson who treat Mercy as a member of their family.  Children laugh at the craziness of how Mr. and Mrs. Watson adore Mercy, treating her as their own child.  Narrator Ron McLarty brings the simple sentences to life with perfect tone and inflection.  You'll laugh as the police officer talks to himself or the grumpy neighbor, Eugenia Lincoln, proclaims that this is no way to treat a pig.

The Mercy Watson series was written as an early chapter book for children in 2nd and 3rd grade, and it works very well as a first chapter book for preschoolers and kindergartners to listen to.   They love the goofy humor and the Watson family's optimism and good cheer.  This audiobook won the AudioFile Earphones Award in 2006 for truly exceptional audio presentations.

The Mercy Watson Collection, volume 1 is available on Audible for downloading to your computer, iPod or MP3 player.  You can find the CDs on Amazon or at your local public library.

I've gotten some great suggestions from readers.  Here are some other audiobooks that work well with young listeners (ages 4 - 7) recommended by other parents.  I've linked them to WorldCat.  I'd love feedback on whether the links to WorldCat work to link you to your public library.
- Magic Treehouse series, by Mary Pope Osborne, read by the author
- other Roald Dahl stories, especially the BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Beverly Cleary stories, especially the Ramona series and The Mouse and the Motorcycle
- Jim Weiss's collections, especially Best Loved Stories in Song and Dance (fairy tales)

If you make a purchase on Amazon or Audible using these links, Great Kid Books receives a small commission, which will be used to buy more books to review.  Thank you for your support.

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