Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours with people of our own ages and interests, with one big exception: the time we spend with our families. If you’ll be hitting the road with yours this summer, here are suggestions for audiobooks to entertain a carload of various ages:
Ages 12 and up
Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer (2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)
Reduced to begging and thievery in the streets of 18th Century London, 13-year-old orphan Mary Faber disguises herself as a boy and connives her way onto a British warship. Read by award-winning narrator Katherine Kellgren, this first book in the Bloody Jack adventure series features rip-roaring action, romance, and cheeky humor.
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
In late 18th Century Europe, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve were said to be “dead days,” when the line between the spirit and corporeal worlds blurred. In those few days, the magician and alchemist Valerian must search graveyards, churches, and underground waterways for a book he hopes will save him from a pact he made with evil. His unwilling accomplices are Boy (a child with no past) and the orphan girl Willow. Tony Award winner Roger Rees narrates this eerie Gothic tale.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
In an alternate 1914 Europe, 15-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from powers who are trying to take over the world using fantastic machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn, who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically engineered beasts. Another Tony Award-winning actor, Alan Cumming, reads this steampunk/alternate history tale that’s a thrill ride for all ages.
Ages 10 and up
Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg
Twelve-year-old Griff Carver, a seasoned safety patrol officer who’s seen it all, confronts an illegal hall pass ring run by a charismatic candidate for school president, aided by his by-the-book sidekick Tommy Rodriguez. Read by a full cast, this is a laugh-out-loud sendup of hard-boiled detective noir.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (2004 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults)
Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts him and tries to force him into his evil service. The late Lynn Redgrave finds just the right voice for each character in this tale of fantasy, magic, and intrigue.
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
The four Willoughby children set about becoming “deserving orphans” after their neglectful parents embark on a treacherous around-the-world adventure, leaving them in the care of an odious nanny. Actor/comedian Arte Johnson narrates this clever parody of old-fashioned children’s books. Adults will appreciate the satire, and kids will enjoy the silliness.
Ages 8 and up:
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Liam is a strapping 12-year-old who looks like he’s 30. Sometimes that works to his advantage, like when he convinces a car dealer to let him test drive a Porsche. Liam finds himself in over his head, though, when he cons his way into being the “responsible dad” on the first spaceflight for kids. Having to pretend to be a dad makes Liam realize just what his own father means to him. Kirby Heyborne narrates this sweet comedy.
The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens
Kevin, the overweight and klutzy son of a former football star, discovers that Cromwell, his fat and lazy dog, is unexpectedly — and obsessively — interested in competing in dog agility contests. The only problem is that Kevin’s dad thinks football is the only sport worth competing in. Sean Runnette reads this fun story with enthusiasm and great timing, creating unique voices and accents for characters.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1998 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Haunted by his parents’ divorce and the secret that caused it, 13-year-old Brian Robeson, the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness, must draw on untested skills and strength to survive. Renowned actor Peter Coyote brings this nail-biter of a survival tale to life.
Ages 6 and up:
The Alvin Ho Collection: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things and Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look
Alvin Ho is a second grader who is afraid of pretty much everything — especially school. He has a PDK (Personal Disaster Kit) to help him handle “disasters,” but sometimes they strike anyway. Young actor Everette Plen voices Alvin, a nervous but sweet kid who just needs to learn how to chill!
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
The Browns finds a very small bear “from darkest Peru” at the Paddington train station in London, and their lives are turned upside down once he becomes a member of their family. Actor and comedian Stephen Fry’s English accent and wry wit breathe fresh air into this charming classic.
The Collected Stories of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Sure, you know the story: Pooh and his friends have fun adventures in the Hundred-Acre Woods. Could be a real snooze, except for the readers in this full-cast delight, including Stephen Fry (again) as the voice of Pooh and Oscar winner Judi Dench as Kanga.
Hmm, my choices seem to skew British and boy-centric! What’s going to be playing in your car this summer?
— Suzanne Neumann, currently reading The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda and listening to N.E.R.D.S: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley