Whether you need an audiobook for a family road trip, or because your voice has gone hoarse, of just for the drama of it all, audiobooks are the greatest thing to happen to the book world since the printing press. (When I said “drama of it all,” I didn’t exaggerate.) So why not make a resolution this year to listen to more audiobooks? After all, audiobooks do count as reading.
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Below are 24 family-friendly audiobooks, two for each month. Either because of length or subject matter, a general guideline is that the first of the two will be enjoyed by younger children on up, the second of the two by slightly older children. I’ve noted my personal age recommendations for listening.
Many audiobooks can be obtained digitally or as CDs through your local public library (we listen on the Overdrive app). I’ve included links to the Audible versions. You can try Audible out for free here which also gives you 2 free audiobooks.
Start out the year with some laughs with these funny audiobooks.
The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm
by Norman Hunter, read by Martin Jarvis
My son adores this book and it is truly hilarious! An English absentminded professor provides lots of entertainment for eager listeners with his misguided inventions like pancake-making machines and burglar-catchers. A 1930s classic that will make modern kids and families giggle! All ages. 4 hours, 11 minutes
A Year Down Yonder
by Richard Peck, read by Lois Smith
In this companion book to A Long Way from Chicago (one of our favorite read alouds), 15-year-old Mary Alice narrates a year’s events while staying with her eccentric Grandmother in rural Illinois during the Great Depression. Because each chapter operates as more of a stand-alone short story, this is a great pick when your family doesn’t want to have to turn off the audiobook on a suspenseful note. 3 hours, 21 min. Ages 6 and up.
February is Black History Month, these family audiobooks will teach and entertain.
Heart and Soul
by Kadir Nelson, read by Debbie Allen
Listen to it on Audible
A 100 year old woman narrates this epic tale African-American history as though she is remembering the tales her ancestors told her. It’s nice to have a beautiful book that covers a wide range of historical topics and is entirely appropriate for elementary school children. Because Nelson’s paintings are so stunning, pick up a hard copy of the book, as well. Ages 6 and up. 1 hour and 38 minutes
Stella by Starlight
by Sharon M. Draper, read by Heather Alicia Simms
One night, Stella and her brother witness the KKK burning a cross and it becomes a catalyst for the action in this heartbreaking and compelling story set in Jim Crow South. As the narrator, Stella describes the terror her community lives every day, when walking down the street and looking at a white person could land them in jail, or how a white man can slap her with impunity any time he wants. The intelligent Stella is always questioning the way things are and strives to get her thoughts down on paper. She meets with kindness in small ways and makes connections in unexpected places. Ages 9 and up. 6 hours and 46 minutes
March is Women’s History Month and these girls will capture your hearts!
by Mitali Perkins, read by Zehra Naqvi
In Bangladesh, Naimi feels frustrated when she is constantly told she cannot work to earn money for her family because she is a girl. When she accidentally ruins her father’s rickshaw, she disguises herself as a boy to get work and meets someone who will change her life. The book includes a glossary and an author’s note about micro-finance. Ages 7 and up. 1 hour 13 minutes.
Catherine Called Birdy
by Karen Cushman, read by Kate Maberly
In the 13th century, 14-year-old Catherine, the daughter of a landed knight, has a little more gumption than a girl of her standing is supposed to have. Her father is trying to marry her off to enrich his coffers but she would rather run around with the peasants on the manor and thwart his efforts. This short novel is told in a diary format and is hilarious. Spend time discussing the differences and similarities of how girls are treated in the middle ages vs. today. Ages 9 and up. 3 hours.
April calls for some sparkling fun.
The Birthday Ball
by Lois Lowry, read by Elissa Steele
Princess Patricia Priscilla is bored with her life, and a bit spoiled. She is horrified at the idea of her impending 16th birthday ball, at which she is required to choose a husband. She offers her maid a chance to spend the day reading Alice in Wonderland in exchange for her peasant clothes and spends the next several days attending the local school. This is a highly entertaining story in which everyone seems to have a good time, there is lots of delicious word play and plenty of quirky characters to keep the family laughing. My then-7 year old listened to it and got quite a kick out of the story. We both had a grand time laughing at the foibles of the characters, especially the ridiculous suitors. Ages 6 and up. 3 hours 25 min.
The Wizards of Once
by Cressida Cowell, read by David Tennant
Fans of Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series, or the famed Harry Potter will love this tale of magic and adventure. Misfits, Prince Xar and Princess Wish, from two separate kingdoms team up and learn how to appreciate their individuality while they work together to defeat the evil forces around them. Tennant’s stupendous award-winning narration will enrapture listeners, making them laugh and gasp in turns. Ages 8 and up. 5 hours, 56 minutes
For May, choose a family audiobook book featuring neurodiverse characters.
A Boy Called Bat
by Elana K. Arnold, read by Patrick Lawlor
Third grader, Bixby Alexander Tam, goes by the nickname Bat and exhibits behaviors that would place him on the spectrum. He flaps his hands and avoids eye contact, but the author never labels Bat “autistic.” She simply allows us to see Bat, and all his friends, as unique individuals. Bat’s mom is a veterinarian and one day she brings home baby skunk. Bat wants to take care of it and must prove to his mom that he knows what he is doing. Full of wonderful characters and lots of interesting information about skunks, this is an absolutely delightful story. Ages 5 and up. 3 hours, 27 minutes.
Song for a Whale
by Lynne Kelly, read by Abigail Revasch
12 year old Iris is Deaf; her mother is hearing but she grew up close to her Deaf grandparents. At her school, she has an interpreter but fails to connect with the other children. When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who sings at a frequency that other whales cannot hear, she sets out to create a song for Blue 55. Touching. Ages 8 and up. 6 hours, 34 minutes.
June is a great time to delve into fairy tales and folktales with these imaginative audiobooks.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin, read by Janet Song
Minli’s family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family’s destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twists and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli’s quest, her father’s stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Follow up with the companion auiobooks, Starry River of the Sky and When the Sea Turned to Silver. Ages 5 and up. 4 hours, 58 minutes.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
by Christopher Healy, read by Bronson Pinchot
Four bumbling princes are thrown out by their respective fairy tale princesses. The princesses have their own personality quirks, but all together they battle the less savory creatures in the kingdom and have their own versions of happy, mediocre and not-so happy endings. Very funny and hilariously tongue in cheek. It may be long, but you will never want the fun to end. Ages 7 and up. 9 hours 4 minutes
Listen to a story about animals!
More: It’s summer now, will you be traveling? Don’t forget to take along one of these best audiobooks for family road trips!
The Cat Who Came in off the Roof
by Annie M.G. Schmidt, read by Katherine Kellgren
First published in the Netherlands in 1970, this is a charming story about Mr. Tibble, a shy reporter who befriends a cat, Miss Minou. Miss Minou is no ordinary cat, though and she delivers valuable information about the goings on around town which help Mr. Tibble advance his journalistic career. Ages 6/7 and up. 4 hrs and 2 mins
by Tor Seidler, read by Jenni Barber
Both my then-7 and -11 year olds pronouced this audiobook, “Awesome!” Maggie the Magpie narrates the story of how she leaves her familiar home and meets a group of wolves. Maggie is impressed with the wolves and decides to cast her lot with them. Her description of the wolves’ behavior is fascinating, as well as her admiration for one of the the firstborn wolves, Lamar, who exhibits non-wolf like interests. This is a truly wonderful book for kids who are interested in the natural world, but the story also abounds with examples of the harsh realities of the natural world. So if you don’t want to read about eating prey, premature death or the thrill of the hunt, this is not the book for you. Ages 7 and up. 4 hrs and 56 mins
Listen to audiobooks with strong characters who have a positive outlook on life.
Ways to Make Sunshine
by Renée Watson, read by Sisi Aisha Johnson
Heroine Ryan Hart is absolutely delightful. She is the first one to see the silver lining in any situation, and she always tries to see the best in people. But that doesn’t mean everything always goes according to plan. Dad loses his job at the post office and the family has to make some big changes, not to mention her sometimes bossy older brother! A great choice for families looking for a realistic story about contemporary life. Ages 6 and up. 2 hours, 21 min.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
by Dusti Bowling, read by Karissa Vacker
This funny and moving book will be your new favorite! Aven Green and her family move from Kansas to Arizona, where her dad has taken a job as the manager of a western theme park. Aven was born without any arms but that hasn’t stopped her from accomplishing anything–she just does it with her feet! Aven narrates her own tale with a humorous, clever and truth-telling eye. With the help of her new friends, she sets out to solve a mystery and learn the secrets of Stagecoach Park. Ages 8 and up. 5 hrs and 27 mins
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th, one realistic novel and one total fantasy will get you in the spirit.
How Tía Lola Came to Stay
by Julia Alvarez
10-year-old Miguel, his sister Juanita and his mom have just moved from NYC to Vermont. His aunt Lola comes to visit from the Dominican Republic. Tía Lola’s dynamic and outgoing personality helps Miguel navigate his feelings about the divorce, his new status as the only Latino in his school class as well as adding humor, joy and adventure to his daily life. Ages 7 and up. 2 hours, 58 minutes. Also available as an audiobook in Spanish.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe
by Carlos Hernandez, read by Anthony Rey Perez
My son listened to this on audiobook and loved it! He was alternating between gasping and laughing. Salvador Vidón is the new kid, but is also an unusual kid because he is able to open portals into alternate universes with his mind. He meets Gabi Reál who is a bit suspicious of his explanation about the mysterious things that happen when he is around. This is a really fun book, with lots of fast-paced action and crazy humor. Highly recommended! Ages 8 and up. 9 hours, 35 minutes.
October is the time for mischief and mayhem!
The Enchanted Files: Diary of a Mad Brownie
by Bruce Coville, read by various artists
You may know this story by its revised title, Cursed. Angus is bound by a curse to the girl, Alex. Angus is a mischievous brownie with an extreme penchant for neatness, while Alex is the messiest creature he has ever encountered. Alex and Angus set out to break the curse, but it won’t be easy. This book is hilarious and the full cast audiobook rendition is loads of fun. Be sure to listen the companion books, Hatched and Trolled. Ages 5 and up. 4 hours, 56 minutes
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
by Julie Berry, read by Jayne Entwistle
I loved this splendidly wicked book and when I listened to the audiobook narration of this twist on the Victorian boarding school mystery novel, I found it to be glorious. I didn’t know what to expect and when in the first few pages, the headmistress and her brother drop dead from poison, and the girls subsequently decide to bury them instead of report it, I thought, “how macabre!” The girls, who have wonderful monikers like “Smooth Kitty”, “Disgraceful Mary Jane”, and “Stout Alice” decide to try and convince everyone that their headmistress is still alive so they can avoid being sent home. Author Berry is a smart, clever storyteller with a sharp wit. Ages 9 and up. 9 hours, 24 minutes.
November is a time for giving thanks, honoring Native American History Month and acknowledging the contributions of a diverse immigrant population.
Children of the Longhouse
By Joseph Bruchac, read by Elaina Erika Davis
November is Native American Heritage Month, as well as a good time to read a bit more about the American Indians other than the fact that some of them attended the first Thanksgiving. This is a historical novel narrated in alternating viewpoints between Ohkwa’ri and his twin sister Otsi:stia. The siblings are Mohawks living in the 15th century in what would later become upstate New York. Ohkwa’ri tells the elders he heard another boy planning activity that would break a peace accord with a neighboring tribe. His resentful new enemy plans to get revenge during a game of what we might call lacrosse. There is so much wonderful information about Native American life, culture and traditions in this book. Ages 6 and up. 3 hours 34 min.
Other Words for Home
by Jasmine Warga, read by Vaneh Assadourian
This free-verse novel begins in Syria around the start of the Arab Spring. Jude and her pregnant mother decide to emigrate to live with her uncle in America. Her older brother, caught up in the protests against the government, stays behind with their father. In America, Jude meets new friends and discovers an interest in theater. With unflinching honesty and a keen perception, Jude describes the transition from Syria to her experiences adjusting to living in America. A splendid book. Ages 9 and up. 3 hours 50 min.
Here are two wonderful Christmas stories. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, listen to a fun nonfiction title, Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy (find it at Audible, here).
Written by Michelle Houts, read by Amy McFadden
Families are supposed to leave the nisse a traditional bowl of Christmas pudding on the eve of the holiday, but this year, Bettina’s family is beset by troubles and they forget the pudding. In a fit of mischief, the local nisse, Klakke, steals the family baby! Bettina sets out into the woods to find her sister and encounters more mythological creatures and adventure in this tale of magic and kindness. Break out the pepparkakor because you will love this story. Ages 6 and up. 4 hours, 45 minutes.
A Boy Called Christmas
Written by Matt Haig, read by Stephen Fry
My son adored this book. When Nikolas’ father doesn’t return from a journey at the expected time, Nikolas leaves his neglectful aunt and goes off in search of him. Along the way he meets a village of elves and his future is forever changed. I also recommend the companion Christmas audiobooks, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me read by Carey Mulligan and Natascha McElhone, respectively. Ages 6 and up. 4 hours, 25 minutes.