Are you are looking for some great classic children's audiobooks but tired of the same old recommendations? You've come to the right place because on this list you will surely find some great classic audiobooks you may not have listened to, yet! Audiobooks are an excellent way to get kids to "read" the classics. (And by the way listening to audiobooks isn't cheating.) As with our list of the best audiobooks for family road trips, the titles on this list are excellent for the whole family!
By the way, be sure to tell your kids that "classics" doesn't mean "old and stuffy." It means "old enough that your parents may have read it as a kid." (Although, if that still means "old and stuffy" to them, I can't help you with that, ha ha ha.)
If your kids are having trouble adjusting to the audiobook format, check out these great tips on learning to love audiobooks.
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My favorite way to listen to audiobooks is to check them out from the library. Check your library to find out if they have a CD version or a digital audiobook copy of the choices here. I know many smaller libraries have limited collections, so I've included Audible and Libro.fm links for each title. You can try Audible out for free here which also gives you 2 free audiobooks. Libro.fm has a similar deal and also supports independent booksellers.
Children's Classics on Audiobook
THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF PROFESSOR BRANESTAWM by Norman Hunter
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!
THE PEOPLE COULD FLY by Virginia Hamilton
Short story collections are very useful when you don't want a single audiobook that takes 8 hours to get through! Celebrated children’s author Virginia Hamilton put together this wonderful collection of Black American folktales. There are several categories of tales ranging from animal trickster legends, stories of the supernatural and slave tales of freedom. At the end of each short story, Hamilton includes her notes on the origin of the tale and its dialect. A unique audiobook indeed!
This is a classic series about a Jewish family with five girls growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 20th century. This is a great choice for families who like stories of old-fashioned fun and historic settings. This book is on every “must read books” list so why not make it an audiobook selection!
THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin
The classic puzzle mystery that requires listeners to pay close attention to details, thus exercising their comprehension skills! Mr. Westing, an eccentric millionaire has turned his will into a game. The named beneficiaries must discover who murdered him in order to inherit his fortune. “Players” are separated into teams with clues. This unusual mystery, with its host of curious characters and surprising plot twists, kept my son on the edge of his seat.
A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park
. I like to recommend A Single Shard as a listening book because my experience has been that kids think they won't be interested in a story set in 12th century Korea. But they will surely be proved wrong! Tree-Ear, an orphan, lives under the bridge with the disabled Crane-man. The two survive from day to day but Tree-Ear is fascinated by the local revered potter, Min. Circumstances collide and Tree-Ear becomes Min's apprentice. Tree-Ear must learn patience and an appreciation for hard work. When Min sets about creating pottery to impress an emissary, Tree-Ear is determined to help him succeed and undergoes an important, life-changing journey.
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ by L. Frank Baum
I believe I may have recommended this classic book twelve zillion times, but I just can't help myself. The movie (while wonderful in its own right) is not an acceptable substitute. Listen this original "American Fairy Tale" with your kids. There are several audio versions; Anne Hathaway's narration is delightful and earned an Audie Award nomination. The Hathaway version is only at Audible; Libro.fm has a number of other narrators.
ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor
Told from the perspective of a nine year old girl, this is an incredibly powerful book about an African-American family who struggles against racism in the South in their fight to keep their land and their dignity. If I were to make a list of books all children in the U.S. must read, this one would be on it. Listening to it as a family will start some important conversations. May be a little intense in parts for your youngest listeners. This version includes Jacqueline Woodson reading her own introduction to the book.
THE RELUCTANT DRAGON by Kenneth Grahame
At first I was going to include a wonderful BBC ensemble version of Grahame's other classic children's book, The Wind in the Willows, on this list but then I remembered how much fun it was to listen to this short and charming novel! A boy befriends a poetry loving dragon in the caves near his village. When the rest of the villagers learn of the dragon, they assume he is a threat and enlist St. George to rid them of the beast. Instead the boy, dragon and St. George successfully conspire to bring everyone together and show the villagers that their prejudice is misplaced.
TUMTUM AND NUTMEG by Emily Bearn
Find it: Audible (only)
This is actually a pretty recent audiobook (i.e. not something parents would have read as a kid!) but it comes across as a classic so I decided to include it anyway. It is perfect for families who have very young kids, but it's clever enough that older kids shouldn't get bored. Two mice get caught up in adventures while trying to improve the lives of the children living in Rose Cottage. It is the perfect blend of daring rescues and charming sweetness.
THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE by Louise Erdich
Here's another modern classic (1999) that is simply beautiful. The Birchbark House takes place on an island in Lake Superior in 1847 where 7-year-old Omakayas, "Little Frog" and her Ojibwa family live. Erdrich describes the daily life and experiences of the Ojibwa as well as their sorrows and joys. May be a little intense in part for your youngest listeners.
THE PUSHCART WAR by Jean E. Merrill
Merrill may have penned this classic tale of underdogs in 1964, but its appeal endures and still makes listeners laugh out loud. Narrated as a sort of historical documentary, the story, set in New York City, follows the fate of the pushcart vendors when they dare to stand up to the truck drivers who are taking over the city streets. The vendors sabotage the bully truckers with the Pea Shooter Campaign. The Pushcart War offers so much to talk about with your kids. Discuss the writing style and humor as well as the larger theme of the big guys vs. the small guys.
HOMER PRICE by Robert McCloskey
We listened to this classic children's audiobook during a family vacation. Homer and his pals are a fun way to read about kids having good old fashioned fun without the help of digital devices–exactly the kind of fun a family wants to have on a vacation together! Best of all, these stories are quite funny. Also: donuts! Note: there are some, shall we say, "old-fashioned ways of thinking," in this book that you will want to discuss with your kids.
More books and audiobooks to enjoy: