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16 Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips

Posted on June 4, 2015 at 6:00 am

By Rachel Edmondson

16 Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips by Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library District

Whether you love them or hate them, family road trip season is just around the corner. I vividly remember road trips from when I was a kid. At the beginning everyone was filled with anticipation, halfway through we all started to get bored, and by the end all anyone could think was “Are we there yet?” Of course, I grew up in the days without DVD players in cars, iPods, iPads, and smartphones. The only technological entertainment we had was a cassette tape blasting oldies. What made road trips even more unbearable for me was not being able to even read a book in the car. I could only make it about two minutes before car sickness would set in—so unfair. For this reason, I wish my family had discovered audiobooks when I was growing up.

Audiobooks are a wonderful way to keep kids (and their adults) entertained during a long trip without resorting to hours of screen time. These days, audiobooks have become hugely popular and more and more titles are being produced. The library has several types of audio formats available. We have digital audiobooks that can be downloaded to your mobile device or tablet via our Digital Library. If you haven’t used this service before, check out the help page on OverDrive (our digital content provider) to get you started. The library also has Playaways (single books pre-loaded onto MP3 players) available in our Kids and Teen collections. Have one kid who loves fantasy and another who’s into historical fiction? Playaways are a great way for kids to listen to their own books during car rides. They can simply plug their headphones into the Playaway and start listening. Of course, we also have many books on CD, which is a great way for families to listen to a book together.

Finding titles that appeal to the whole family can be difficult. Also, when it comes to audiobooks, the reader makes or breaks the experience. To help you sort through the many options, I’ve put together a list of suggested titles. Since there are so many out there, I gave myself a few criteria. All the books on the this list are at least an hour long and appeal to both kids and their parents. For any title I’ve read but haven’t listened to myself, I leaned on the expertise of my fellow librarians. This means, if I haven’t listened to the title myself, it has been included on either an ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings list or a YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults list.

16 Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips by Rachel Edmondson | Spokane County Library District

Grades 1-3

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (1.5 hours – Book on CD)

Clementine has a good heart, but a tendency to find mischief. Following in Ramona Quimby’s footsteps, Clementine will keep you laughing.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (3.5 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library, Playaway)

This fairy tale has an old-fashioned feel that will charm kids and adults alike. It is the story of a heroic mouse named Despereaux, who is in love with a very human princess.

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary (2 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library)

Nothing exciting ever happens to Henry Huggins, until one day he encounters a stray dog he names Ribsy. Neil Patrick Harris narrates this heartwarming and engaging story.

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s First Case by Alexander McCall Smith (1 hour – Book on CD, Digital Library)

Precious is good at noticing things, and she doesn’t make assumptions. These are good characteristics to have if one is going to grow up to be a detective. Adult fans of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series will get a kick out of seeing its main character as a kid.

Grades 4-6

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (8 hours – Book on CD, Playaway)

August “Auggie” Pullman was born with severe facial abnormalities. This year he is in fifth grade and is attending public school for the first time. Told in alternating viewpoints, this story will stay with you for a long time. I confess I cried a little while listening to this one.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (8 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library)

Harry lives with his Aunt and her family in a bedroom under their stairs, until one day he discovers a whole new world filled with magic, friendship, and a wizarding school far away from his miserable relatives. The series is read by Jim Dale, who is simply brilliant. All of the books are amazing in audio version, but keep in mind that the series gets darker as it goes.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (6.5 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library)

Collins creates a fantastical world filled with large rats, bats and other various creatures. When Gregor and his sister fall through a laundry shoot into the “Underland,” they begin a daring journey to find their missing father. First in a series.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (4 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library, Playaway)

Four siblings enter the world of Narnia, where they encounter the evil White Witch and embark on a life-changing journey. This series has captured audiences of all ages and endured the test of time.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library)

After moving to a new town, India Opal Buloni finds her first friend in an adopted, smiling dog she names Winn-Dixie. This is a story with classic themes—friendship, love, and acceptance.

Grades 7-9

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (8.5 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library)

If you loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, then Hattie Big Sky is the book for you. Hattie, a teenaged orphan, heads west to Montana to try and prove-up on her late uncle’s homesteading claim.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (7.5 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library, Playaway)
Holling Hoodhood’s seventh grade year is off to an auspicious start. While his classmates go to temple or catechism, Holling is left alone in Mrs. Baker’s class reading Shakespeare. Set in the 60s, this audiobook reminds me of the television show, The Wonder Years. Humorous and hopeful, with a lovable antihero, this books charms. I recommended it to my dad and insisted he listen to the audio version. He loved it!

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (10 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library, Playaway)

Shannon Hale’s marvelous retelling of Grimm’s fairy tale is everything a fairy tale should be. The main character is a delightful and courageous heroine who must overcome many trials to take her rightful place in the kingdom. First in a series.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (5 hours – Book on CD, Digital Library, Playaway)

This Newberry-Award-winning book presents a dystopian society where there is no pain or fear, but there are also no choices. Every person is assigned a role in their community and when Jonah turns 12 he begins his training with “The Giver.” The Giver holds all memories. He holds the truth. First in a series.

Grades 9-12

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (10 hours – Book on CD)

Friends Queenie and Maddie are young British women who are transformed by World War II when one is lost behind enemy lines. Confession, it took me awhile to get into this book. But since friends were raving, I pressed on. I’m so glad I did! I haven’t listened to this one, but reviews claim the readers heighten the “nail-biting tension in this haunting narration.”

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (7 hours – Book on CD, Playaway)

Teenagers Hazel Grace and Augustus have a chance meeting in a cancer support group. A book about two teenagers with cancer could go wrong in so many ways, but Green handles the big questions of life, love, and death with humor, subtlety, honesty, and respect.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (10 hours – Book on CD)

Marcelo has an Asperger’s like-condition and prefers the safety of his special school. His father wants Marcelo to get a taste of the real world, and requires him to spend the summer working at his law firm.


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