Before the world closed down for this surreal global pandemic, we spent a fair amount of time in the car. I certainly drove less as a work-at-home mom than I did when I had a 45 minute commute each way to work, but between visits to grandparents, trips to children’s museum or playgroups, and ice skating and swimming lessons, we still clocked between forty and ninety minutes in my truck some days. I am a super lucky mom in that my kids like audio books and will listen peacefully in the car to the right story for extended amounts of time. Truthfully, it’s a nice break during which I can either enjoy the story or zone out and just drive. Even now that we are sticking to only seeing the other people in our house, we have been known to pack the kids in the car and go for an audio book drive when we need a change of scenery. Or just want the kids to stop moving for more than ten seconds.
I know other families that put on audio books when their kids play or do other things. That rarely works for us. My kids are loud when they play and very little of the story can be heard over their enthusiasm. So other then the car, the only other time of day we can enjoy audio books is when they are falling sleep at night. At first, I worried they would miss parts of the story when they finally dozed off, but often we listen to the same audio book multiple times and I realized quickly they were taking it all in. And there is always the option to rewind if need be.
My kids won’t always listen happily to long books without a lot of pictures if I read them, but on audio, they are often mesmerized. I can’t say that I blame them. There are some pretty talented audio book narrators out there. Over the past two months, these are the stories that we’ve enjoyed having read to us:
Zapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules. This series is delightful. The audio books are not long (usually around thirty or thirty-five minutes), so if your kiddos aren’t ready to listen for a couple hours at a time, these might be a hit. And who wouldn’t enjoy a story about a kid who is gifted sneakers that give him superhero powers like super-speed, super-hearing and super-bounce? From my perspective, it’s an added bonus that Freddie Ramos and his mom are Hispanic. We live in an incredibly non-diverse area and it is very important to me that our children be exposed to children of different races, ethnicities, religions and gender identities. I am a big believer in the We Need Diverse Books movement and that these books show an ordinary kid having great, believable adventures makes these a win-win-win in my book.
Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce. Both my boys are going through a big Unicorn Phase. We have unicorn clothes, unicorn puzzles, unicorn toys and naturally, unicorn books. The first of the Pip Bartlett series that we listened to was the second book in the series: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training. I stumbled across it on CD at our public library. Happily, Pip’s adventures entertained both me and the kids so we quickly devoured Pip’s Guide to Magical Creatures (#1 in the series) and Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Sea Monsters (#3 in the series). Pip, who can talk to magical creatures, and her new best friend Tomas, who is allergic to everything, are likable, quirky and scrappy. Although the stories are clearly aimed at children in the eight to eleven age range, there was nothing that I found problematic for my four year olds to hear, so I can honestly recommend Pip to magical creature lovers of any age. I’m just hoping that Pip is currently working on a Guide to Mermaids.
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. While Pippi will never claim the title of my favorite red-headed literary heroine (Anne Shirley shall always hold that place in my heart), she has captivated my boys. They find her funny and charming. They often want to pretend to be Pippi, Tommy and Annika and the other day when they found a pretty beaded necklace in a pile of dirt near our house (don’t ask me…), they declared themselves “Thing Finders.” Some of the more dated content gave me a bit of pause at the beginning, but it’s led to some good conversations. When the library re-opens, I’ll be heading over to get books two and three in the original Pippi series.
Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke. I love Anna Hibiscus. In fact, this is probably my favorite series of kid’s chapter books that I’ve discovered since becoming a mother. She lives in Africa… “amazing Africa” with her large extended family. She has twin brothers (Double and Trouble), loves snow before she ever sees it and has taught me and the kiddos a bunch about Africa. The characters are loveable, the chapters are short and and Anna’s experiences keep our attention. We have checked out four of the series from our library’s electronic audio book collection and listened to each multiple times. There are more books in the series I haven’t yet found through the library, so I may just have to buy them. They are definitely worth having in my collection.
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. So far, the boys favorite Cleary books are, hands down, the Ralph S. Mouse collection but they certainly do enjoy a good tale about Ribsy and his human Henry Huggins. In this story, Ribsy gets lost from his family and spends the remaining chapters trying to find his way back to Henry. Along the way he encounters a number of different families and has a number of adventures, including a particularly fragrant lavender scented bath.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. I watched the movie version of this classic British tale many times as a child (yes, I can still sing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song), but somehow I missed out on the book series. I am happy that I discovered them now though for the Potts family’s adventure with their magical car outwitting a gang of bandits delighted all of us recently. I foresee checking out the others in a series soon.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This is another new to me classic. I had never even heard of My Father’s Dragon before I started devouring lists of books to read to your preschooler. This books was on every list. The first time we listened to this story of a young boy who runs away from home to free an abused dragon from evil animals, I wasn’t sure if the kiddos actually liked it. They listened in total silence and made no comment when I asked if they enjoyed it. I think it was a little tenser than our usual stories, since the brave boy must outsmart some pretty scary animals. But by the time they had asked to listen to it for the four or fifth time, I figured out that we had a winner on our hands. This is yet another book that is the first in a series that we haven’t completed. Isn’t it wonderful to know we will never run out of lovely stories to share with our kids?
A quick note on where I get audio books. I have never purchased an audio book for me and the kids to listen to. I spend plenty of money on physical books (ask my wife!), but I am content with the library for my audio books. When they are open, I will check CDs out of the library to listen to, but by far my favorite way of getting kids audio books are through the library’s e-collections. Download an app, enter your library card number and boom… audio books galore. And no CDs to change while you are driving or to forget to put back in the case before you return them. Most library’s utilize Overdrive for their audio and e-book collection and the Libby app is easy to use. The only real downside to Overdrive collections from the library is that there are often long waiting lists for books you want (especially right now when everyone is relying on electronic media from their libraries). If your library subscribes to Hoopla this is not an issue since all Hoopla content (they have e-books, TV shows, movies, and comic books too) is always available. I am a huge fan of Hoopla and during all this extra time at home I am devouring their content.
What are your family’s favorite audio books? Do you purchase your audio books or do rely on the library to satisfy your listening needs?
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