Oliver has quite the obsession with audio books whether they are CDs or on the iPod (and let’s be honest, I actually still call them books on tape! Not that Oliver even knows what a tape is…..). He is happiest at home when he has boxes and boxes of Lego out all over the front room for “Master Building” and has some sort of audio book playing.
Oliver (age 7) has a voracious appetite for reading and books and I honestly can attribute part of that to listening to audio books from an early age. I love audio books because they keep him entertained during down time, and they help improve comprehension and vocabulary.
There are many ways to incorporate audio books into your daily life with your children, physical CDs, putting playlists together on an iPod/Pad, or listening to a service like Audible.com. I personally like a combination of all three. I actually like owning or checking out physical CDs because it gives Oliver more control over his listening content without being on a “device” that I might have to monitor if he is trying to use it for some other purpose.
This is not an all inclusive list, but ones that we LOVE at our house.
Starting off with Short Stories and Storytellers
Do you know about Robert Munsch? If you don’t, you had a sad childhood! Just kidding, but really, when I think about being a kid I see my sisters and I down the basement hallway, huddled around the cassette player (note to self, teach Oliver what a cassette player is), sporting our bad perms and teeth too big for our faces (you know, the “boogley” stage as we call it in my family), listening over and over to our treasured Robert Munsch tape. It still remember what it looked like, black with silver writing. When Oliver was about 4 years old I discovered the Robert Munsch website and it is now one we frequent regularly (although to be honest, I find the website a bit clunky to navigate). Munsch is probably best known for his print book of “Love You Forever” but I love him most for his wonderful audio short stories. We like to download a bunch of stories (they are free from his website!) and make them in to one playlist and listen to them back to back. Some of our favourites in no particular order are:
- We Share Everything
- Good Families Don’t
- I Have to Go!
- Thomas’ Snowsuit
- 50 Below Zero
- Murmel, Murmel, Murmel
Munsch’s stories are so addictive. His vocal inflection and timing are so captivating and we find his writing so quotable, some of our favourite lines are, “What would the Americans say!?” and “I have to go PEEEE-eeee!” Do yourself a favour and your kids a favour and become a Robert Munsch fan today.
Next up, a Kiwi storyteller who you might not have ever heard of, but should be added to your iPod playlists right away, Tanya Batt. We first encountered Tanya live at a Playcentre leaving party not long after we joined. Seeing her live as a first-time-experience is quite the luxury I know, but I left the party going, “Who was that Lady and how do I get her CD!?” Since then I have been lucky enough to see her a few more times in person and she is just captivating.
The quote that headlines her website, summarizes her work to perfection,
“I’ve always been a believer of magic – not the trick kind but the sort that suddenly makes visible what you couldn’t see and delights you in the process,”
Her stories are bright and fanciful, and her narration skills take you on a journey. She is silly, and zany, and super entertaining. We love her CD, The Story Sack, and have it on our iPod, it is a regular choice for Oliver when he is building or drawing. Her material is harder to get in the USA, but you can get “A Child’s Book of Faeries” and “The Fabrics of Fairytales”
Julia Donaldson is a well-known author of children’s books such as “The Gruffalo” and “Room on the Broom.” We have the CD set, “The Gruffalo and Friends, with each of her 6 most famous short stories on an individual CD, The Gruffalo, Monkey Puzzle, The Snail and the Whale, The Smartest Giant in Town, Room on the Broom, and A Squash and a Squeeze. This is a great series to add to a playlist of short stories on an iPod/Pad. Younger children will love this set because there is a song that goes with each story and after the story is finished the song can be played separately. Even though Oliver is 7 he will still fish this out every once and a while and whip through all of them a few times over.
Stay tuned below for our favourite chapter book of Lauren Child’s, but here is a sweet little collection of short stories from the Charlie and Lola series TV series, “My Completely Best Story Collection.” Who doesn’t love a good Charlie and Lola!? I mean come on, that hilarious way that Lola talks. This CD 5 stories: We honestly can look after your dog, My wobbly tooth must not ever never fall out, I’ve Won, No I’ve Won, No I’ve Won, Whoops! It wasn’t Me, and Snow is my Favourite and my best.
Next up, longer stories and series.
The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, and Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I bought this CD set at a discount bookshop on a whim. Enid Blyton would be very familiar to any British readers, but as an American I was not very familiar with her work. I wasn’t sure if it would be too “girly” for Oliver, but he LOVES this series. For the past 6-months it has been a pretty constant sound at our house.
I love them because they are fanciful and imaginative and Kate Winslet does a lovely job with the narration. The series is based on siblings, Jo, Beth, and Franny who move from the city to the countryside and discover that just near their house is an enchanted wood, with an amazing magic tree. The children go on adventures, meeting new and interesting friends like Silky the Fairy, Moonface, and Old Saucepan Man, and exploring the ever-changing lands at the top of the Far Away Tree, like Topsy-Turvy land, Birthday Land, or the Land-of-Take-Anything-You-Want.
Just recently I found another Enid Blyton CD at our local library, The Famous Five, and Oliver has played it non-stop for a week now. The morning routine goes like this: wake up, cuddle with Mia, turn on The Famous Five and look at Lego Books, eat breakfast and get ready while listening, go to school, walk in the door from school and start CD again, eat snacks and listen. This morning he even took the CD in the car for the short ride to school.
The Famous Five is about siblings, Julian, Dick, and Ann, plus cousin George, and her constant companion, Timmy the Dog, who manage to stumble upon adventure and mystery over and over again. This CD has 8 short stories, each around 15-20 minutes long, and runs 2.5 hours total. As a parent I must admit that I kind of start to go, “Oh wow, in your tiny English village you manage to stop a child kidnapping, dog-napping, and horse-napping, plus stop burglars, and save old people who have fallen down? Man, that is a lot of crime you manage to come upon…..” But really who cares, because Oliver loves the stories, and I guess when you aren’t listening to them back to back, over and over, and look at them from a child’s perspective they are every kid’s dream, adventure, excitement, and things that actually never happen in their real lives. As Oliver said to me when he was reading the books himself:
It’s un-put-downable. I just re-start it when it’s over!
Lauren Child: Again!
Ok, if this is getting long and you are tuning out, TUNE BACK IN!
Oh man, I have to say that Lauren Child’s audiobook of “Utterly Me: Clarice Bean,” might just be what started Oliver’s audiobook obsession, and is one that as a parent I love listening to just as much as Oliver. It was another random choice, this time from the library. I noticed from the artwork that it must be the same author as the “Charlie and Lola” series which we were familiar with through the DVDs when we lived in China (yep, good old China, where you buy DVDs for a dollar, all pirated…..). What a fantastic stumble-upon! Oliver was probably only 5 when I discovered this audiobook and two-years on it is still a strong favourite. He goes through phases where he will listen to it constantly and he seriously can recite half of it as it goes along! It was listening to this story where I realized that Oliver is such an auditory learner, I was shocked when he started quoting paragraphs at a time along with the narrator.
The Clarice Bean series has 4 short picture books, and 3 longer novels. Utterly Me is the first of the novels, followed by “Clarice Spells Trouble,” and “Clarice Bean, Don’t Look Now.” Utterly Me is a fantastic listen. Clarice Bean is a hilarious pre-teen girl who is crazy about The Ruby Redfort book series about a child-detective. In Utterly Me Clarice finds herself with mystery all around her like, “Where has her best friend Betty Moody suddenly disappeared to?” and “Who stole the book prize trophy?”
Part of the reason I love the stories its that Claire Skinner is just an amazing narrator, she really brings the characters of both Clarice and Ruby to life. Her timing and cadence are impeccable and I love listening to Oliver quote the story just like Claire reads it. Just go and buy this one today and put it on your iPod for incessant listening like we do!
And as an aside, in the books Clarice is always reading a Ruby Redfort book and we get to hear parts of the book throughout. People kept asking Child when she was going to write actual Ruby Redfort books, and so she did! We have only read the books, we checked out an audio book of the first book “Don’t Look Now,” but Oliver didn’t like the narrator, so we didn’t listen very like. Oliver likes the series, but if we had to pick one over the other, it would be Clarice Bean.
Oh man do we LOVE the Geronimo Stilton series at our house (Disclaimer: Oliver loves them, both audio and book. I like them, partly because Oliver loves them and they encourage independent reading. Clarke actually hates them, but I say he can’t hate something that fuels his child’s book obsession!). Oliver will plow through a Geronimo book in less than an hour just reading on his own. Good thing the series is absolutely HUGE!!!! I honestly have no idea how many books there are, over a hundred across multiple series within a series? The series is written by Elisabetta Dami but to the children is written by Geronimo himself. Geronimo lives in New Mouse City, Mouse Island and is a best selling author and editor of The Rodent’s Gazette, the most famous newspaper on Mouse Island. Geronimo is a nervous, self-proclaimed “scaredymouse,” who despite his homebody ways, finds himself falling into far-flung adventures and mishaps. We love checking out Geronimo audio books from our local library, and also own a few on the iPad for long journeys.
Some of Oliver’s favourite audio books from the series are:
- #11/12 -“It’s Halloween You ‘Fraidy Mouse” and “Merry Christmas Geronimo!”
- #13/14 – “The Phantom of the Subway” and “The Temple of the Ruby of Fire.”
- #15-16 – “The Mona Mousa Code” and “A Cheese Colored Hamper.”
- #20/21 “Surf’s Up Geronimo” and “The Wild, Wild West.”
- #25/26 “The Search for the Sunken Treasure” and “The Mummy with No Name.”
Note that Books 1-10 are narrated by Edward Herrman and 11 and up are narrated by Bill Lobely. I’ve seen some people on the Amazon reviews go a bit crazy saying they didn’t like Lobely’s style and wanted Herrman to continue, but honestly I am fine with either. People complain that Lobely is shrieky, but kids will love the very animated way he narrates.
I mean come on, this is the very obvious recommendation because who doesn’t love pretty much every Roald Dahl book? But seriously, the audio versions of the books are so addictive. Once again, these are audio books that we will listen to on repeat. When Oliver is in an obsession over a certain one he will drop into his “memorizing-whole-paragraphs” at a time thing. It is honestly mind-blowing to me. For some of Dahl’s books there are a few different versions with different narrators. For us, the narrator matters, such as with Matilda, there are three versions, even one with Kate Winslet as the narrator, but we honestly will only listen to the Puffin version with Rula Lenska as Ms. Trunchbull (“Two Sevens are FOURTEEN!”), it is FANTASTIC! I am linking only to the versions we love.
- Matilda (must be the version with Rula Lenska as Ms. Trunchbull)
- Danny Champion of the World
- The Fantastic Mister Fox (narrator Martin Jarvis)
- The BFG (narrator David Walliams)
- Whole Puffin Collection
Ok, you made it this far? Congratulations! Seriously though, we are very passionate about audio books at our house, and these are our top picks that we listen to constantly. So go out to the library today and request a few of these CDs or hop on to Audible.com and take some for a spin. If you find you love them, I recommend buying the physical CD, and putting a CD player out in the playroom or wherever your family congregates to play or be creative. Take time to be together as a family listening to stories. It promotes family unity and common interests, and then you can all quote to each other things your favourite lines from your favourite stories. Some of our gems come from the terrible Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s “Matilda:”
You clotted carbuncle!
You useless glob of glue!
Or from Clarice Bean:
Who do you think does everything around here? Mr Nobody?
Mrs. Wilberton is allowed to say rude things about me and I am not allowed to say them back. That is the rules of school.
I think it is important to keep your options open, because you never know what is the actual in fact truth these days.
So, did you make it this far!? Good for you. Now, what are your favorite audio books for kids? Share with us in the comments below.
P.S. – I just stumbled across this adorable lesson plan for understanding character and using descriptive language regarding characters using all of the horrible insults that Miss Trunchbull uses in Matilda. AWESOME!
P.S. – This post contains affiliate links, but rest assured, I don’t recommend anything we don’t love or haven’t used/read/listened to personally!