Celebrate Summer with Audiobooks

Ah, June. School is out. Summer Reading has begun. And many families are ready to travel. Since June is Audiobook Appreciation Month, what better way to celebrate both audiobooks and summer than with titles great for family sharing? Added bonus – depending on your library, it might count towards Summer Reading for everyone! 

I’ve been hooked on audiobooks ever since a grad school assignment required me to listen to one. I had tried listening to books a few times, but just couldn’t get into the format. One book changed it all: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Lynn Redgrave. I was drawn into the story in ways that I never imagined possible. It was pure magic. And it was a perfect way to pass the time over my weekly 6-7-hour (roundtrip) commute. 

In this digital era, it seems that the library’s physical audiobooks collections are slowly becoming obsolete. Many households no longer have a CD player and, for the past several years, most automobiles have been manufactured without them. Thankfully, with the growing number of audiobook titles available through streaming platforms such as Hoopla, Overdrive (Libby/Sora), and cloudLibrary, the world of listening with your ears is more accessible than ever before. 

Myles, age 6 1/2, enjoys reading with his ears at home.
Photo taken and permission given by Gretchen Conover.

In addition to being entertaining, audiobooks are great for reluctant or struggling readers, allowing them the opportunity to enjoy difficult texts by reading with their ears instead of their eyes, therefore fostering a growing appreciation for the written word. 

Audiobooks can also be a wonderful way for families to enjoy books together. By sharing the reading experience through audiobooks, families can be exposed to a diverse world, developing cultural awareness, giving them opportunities to see themselves and others within the stories.

Below are two dozen of my favorite titles to entertain children and adults alike, listed by runtime. Some may be more appropriate for an older, middle grade, audience. Note: There are multiple productions of a few of the titles. In those cases, I recommend the narrators listed. 

For additional titles, check out the Odyssey awards, the ALSC Notable Children’s Recordings lists, and Audies awards, which includes Young Listeners, Middle Grade, and Young Adult categories. And, for older listeners, take a look at AudioFile SYNC. This celebration of audiobooks, which was shared in a recent ALSC blog post, releases two free titles weekly, primarily for ages 13+, from April 28 – August 17.

Don’t see your favorites on the list?  In the comments, share your recommendations for listens perfect for the whole family. 

Short trips (under 2 hours)

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo. Read by Barbara Rosenblat 19 mins. 

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers. Read by James ‘D Train’ Williams, Vaneese Thomas. Run time: Thomas 42 mins

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Sarah, Plain and Tall) by Patricia MacLachlan. Read by Glenn Close. Run time: 1 hr. 1 min. 

We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson. Read by Dion Graham. Run time: 1 hr. 53 mins.

Emma, age 2 1/2, mimics her big brother.
Photo taken and permission given by Gretchen Conover.

Medium trips (3-6 hours)

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Read by Graeme Malcolm. Run time: 3 hrs. 30 mins. 

Matilda by Roald Dahl. Read by Kate Winslet. Run time: 4 hrs. 18 mins. 

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Read by Rainn Wilson. Run time: 4 hrs. 41 mins. 

A View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. Read by Jenna Lamia, Jan Maxwell. Run time: 4 hrs. 41 mins. 

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Read by LeVar Burton. Run time: 4 hrs. 55 mins. 

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. Read by James Avery. Run time: 5 hrs. 14 mins. 

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. Read by Kate Simses. Run time: 5 hrs. 15 mins. 

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Read by Hope Davis. Run time: 5 hrs. 27 mins

The Book of Chaos (Starfell) by Jessica Renwick. Read by Reba Buhr Run time: 5 hrs. 30 mins. 

Long trips (6-10 hours)

Savvy (Beaumont Family) by Ingrid Law. Read by Lily Blau. Run time: 6 hrs. 16 mins. 

Ellen Outside the Lines by A. J. Sass. Read by Emma Galvin. Run time: 6 hrs. 49 mins 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Read by Alfred Molina. Run time: 7 hrs. 9 mins. 

The Wee Free Men (Discworld/Tiffany Aching) by Terry Pratchett. Read by Stephen Briggs. Run time: 7 hrs. 9 mins. 

The War that Saved My Life (The War that Saved My Life) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Read by Jayne Entwistle. Run time: 7 hrs. 38 mins. 

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Read by Cassandra Morris. Run time: 8 hrs. 12 mins. 

Extra long trips or There and back again (10+ hours)

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.) by Johnathan Stroud. Read by Miranda Raison. Run time: 10 hrs. 10 mins. 

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Read by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Andrews MacLeod, Rebecca Soler. Run time: 10 hrs. 31 mins. 

The True Meaning of Smekday (Smek) by Adam Rex. Read by Bahni Turpin. Run time: 10 hrs. 38 mins. 

Drift House by Dale Peck. Read by Richard Poe. Run time: 11 hrs. 27 mins. 

Inkheart (Inkheart) by Cornelia Funke. Read by Lynn Redgrave. Run time: 15 hrs. 34 mins. 

Today’s blog post was written by Amanda L. S. Murphy, Branch Manager at Warren-Trumbull County Public Library in NE Ohio, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at murphya@wtcpl.org. 

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group, II. Reference and User Services, IV. Collection Knowledge and Management

One comment

  1. Jared White

    Thanks for this post and there are some great recommendations! Another that I would add would be Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling and it comes out at 5 hours and 27 minutes. The second in the series is also wonderful but dives quite a bit deeper into the issue of bullying (and has a scene that still makes me cringe/angry/etc. even months later) so that one may be better for tweens and up. I would also recommend City Spies by James Ponti, which is 6 hours and 50 minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *