We Recommend: Over the Rivers and Through the Woods, and on the Long Line, and Through Airport Security…

All right, here's your unexpected holiday We Recommend, part of our long-running series, in which we endeavor to recommend just the right book for your particular person/situation/desire/world-view/etc etc etc. Though in this particular case we fail. But don't pay attention to that! Need a recommendation? E-mail us!

I should just start off honestly and say that we're relying on you, our readers, more than ever, because I have NO IDEA what to recommend to this person. But I thought I'd try. Here goes:


My family will be traveling for the holidays this year, and I'd like to get some audio books for my older daughter to listen to on the plane. And I know there are scads and piles and mountains of wondrous books out there. But I want wondrous books that are also read well. Granted, she's 8, and is less picky about this than her parents tend to be. But why not shoot for the moon?

So. She's 8, loves stories of all kinds, but especially adventures (D'Aulaire's myths, Jungle Book, Narnia, Oz), and stories that immerse you in someone else's life (Little House, Tom Sawyer). She's quite smart, very much a philosopher, a total goofball, and also on the sensitive side. My husband has been reading to her at bedtime for going on 4 years, so she's clearly a big fan of hearing stories being read to her. The only ones she has heard as professional audiobooks are Starship Galileo and Ella Enchanted – both of which she loved, the Heinlein perhaps a bit more, or at least she talked about it more. Has anyone experienced the gamut of audio literature and is therefore an expert on the best narrators for the good stories?

So here's where I admit that I have only ever listened to one children's audio book, which was unfortunately a long van ride with the Magic Treehouse series. A very fine and important series for many early readers, this proved altogether excruciating for me to listen to, as it was the (no doubt lovely, sweet and wonderful) author who read it, and she had a tiny little bubble voice that made me want to weep.

However. No doubt there are all sorts of perfectly produced and gripping audio adventure tales out there. And she seems like an eager and curious reader. So hear ye, oh listeners out there, what is the best audio book to make this 8-year-old girl not even notice the horrors of travel? Give up your secrets to the comments! And then go eat some turkey, or leftovers, or something. Have a good Thanksgiving!

17 thoughts on “We Recommend: Over the Rivers and Through the Woods, and on the Long Line, and Through Airport Security…

  1. There are good recordings of Beverly Cleary books – we enjoyed THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE on our last trip.
    (and there is an excellent audio series of the Chronicles of Narnia)
    In addition, Rabbit Tales has several fun CD’s of fairy tales, tall tales, etc – each story is about 20 minutes long, and usually read by a celebrity of sorts (Angelica Huston, Garrison Keillor, Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Nicholas Cage, Johnathan Winters and the like).

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  2. Tamora Pierce’s First Test is available in audio. Just read not acted out. Daughter loved the book when she was 8 (it is not too mature). Also I heard Bruce Coville speak on audio and recommend his site
    http://www.brucecoville.com/fca.asp
    Of the titles on this site I read not listened to:
    Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
    Emperor Mage
    The Moffats
    Jennifer Murdley’s Toad

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  3. Perhaps when she is a bit older, the Harry Potter series. Jim Dale does a magnificent job of reading the text.
    In the mean time, you may want to try http://librivox.org/. This project offers free audio books in the public demain. The quality of the books can vary as the books are read by volunteers; however, as they are free to download, it can’t hurt to look.

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  4. Seconding Beverly Cleary — we lucked out with all the Ramona books read by Stockard Channing at our library and loved them. (Amazon lists them, if you are in the mood to buy.)

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  5. We do audio books in the summer when we are running from here to there CONSTANTLY. This summer we listened to The 1,001 Arabian Nights–Huge hit. My kids LOVED them. I only wish there really would have been 1,001 of them. Then we listened to Peter Pan. Awesome. So, so good. We listened to a Winnie the Pooh, but I can’t remember the title. Something about a house. Maybe A House on Pooh Corner? Also Excellent. And we listened to Frindle, which was also loved. The ones that were not a hit were Treasure Island (abridged…I didn’t realize…) and Alice in Wonderland. I had a nine-year-old girl and six-year-old twins (boy/girl) in the car with me. It was a great summer! I tend to look for books that I have a hard time reading aloud, like Peter Pan. I am thinking about trying to find A Christmas Carol on CD for December….hmmmm.

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  6. Yes to all Stockard Channing Ramona books and Jim Dale’s Harry Potter. And: Barefoot Books audio books, Fabrics of Fairy Tale, Princess Stories and Grandmothers’ Stories (read by Olympia Dukakis), and Shakespeare’s Storybook are favorites in our house (2 girls, ages 7 and 10). Oh and Winnie the Pooh read by Jim Broadbent, Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan read by EB White (just awesome), James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons. We love long car rides!

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  7. This summer we listened to “the Magnificent Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart on a long car trip with our 10-y-o daughter, which was a big hit. We also listened to one of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, and while that was also entertaining, it made you realize that the Stewart book is much better written. .

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  8. Our library has a service where you can check out audio books as downloads to your mp3 players (Sunnyvale, CA, though you can check out from anywhere in California). You might check to see if that’s available where you live.

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  9. We are all about the audiobooks around here, they are my go to for keeping my two children from fighting in the car on the way to and from school- my 8 year old daughter highly recommends the following (her 13 year old brother and I enjoyed them as well – oh, I feel your Magic Tree House pain):
    Any of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books (read by Karen White) – these are stories – really funny for grownups too
    The Melendy Family Books (starting with The Saturdays) read by Pamela Dillman
    James Herriot’s animal stories read by Jim Dale (we all loved these and listened to them multiple times)
    Journey to the River Sea read by Imelda Staunton or The Secret of Platform 13 (also by Eva Ibbotson – dont remember the reader) – these have a bit of a Roald Dahl feeling to them
    And on the Winnie the Pooh front, there is an amazing BBC radio dramatization with Stephen Fry as Winnie the Pooh and Judi Dench as Kanga
    All of these are available on AudibleKids (we have a subscription…)

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  10. I second the Peter Pan suggestion. Pre kids, my husband and I listened to it while driving all over Ireland. the Narnia series is good too. I know there are loads of free childrens audio books available for download with a little googling. Production values may vary, of course.

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  11. Thank you thank you! So many wonderful suggestions! And also you all made me remember that she had actually listened to some Roald Dahl over the summer. But by no means all of it.
    Now I’m excited to check out the offerings at the library!
    As a bit of gratitude, since nobody has mentioned it, and perhaps some of you will enjoy it: A friend suggested the Lemony Snicket books, which are read by Tim Curry. And as yet another friend put it, I could listen to Tim Curry read the phone book. 🙂 In any case, even if my daughter isn’t interested, I might just have to get those for myself!
    Thanks again everyone!

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  12. I hope it’s not too late…I will add that the Glenn Close rendition of Sarah, Plain and Tall was an absolute OBSESSION of mine right around that age. I probably listened to it hundreds of times over the years.

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  13. Nope, not too late! Thanksgiving and a head cold have slowed me down considerably in my travel preparations. Thank you, everyone. I feel like I’m part of the coolest book club ever.

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