May 24, 2018
How does a family headed out on a summer road trip choose audiobooks that everyone in the car will enjoy as the miles roll by? We have suggestions for six middle-grade audiobooks that are full of family, friendship, and adventure, and that are sure to keep the kids AND the adults engaged. And, as a bonus, three of our picks are part of series featuring the same narrator, so there’s an opportunity to extend the listening journey. Bon voyage!
The True Meaning of Smekday
Adam Rex, read by Bahni Turpin (Listening Library, Ages 10+)
Narrator Bahni Turpin takes the helm for this hilarious, heartwarming buddy adventure/road trip featuring an alien invasion, and she delivers the most adorable voice for an alien you’ll ever hear. If your kids saw the movie Home, based on Rex’s book, it was definitely geared toward a younger audience. Smekday can be enjoyed as a road-trip comedy AND as a springboard for discussing topics such as race and Native American reservations. Listen to the sequel, Smek for President, for more wacky outer space shenanigans.
The War That Saved My Life
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle (Listening Library, Ages 10+)
For a more old-fashioned listen, try The War That Saved My Life -- narrator Jayne Entwistle has just the right voice to immediately transport you to a different time and place. Ten-year-old Ada and her younger brother, Jamie, are sent to the countryside to escape the bombing during WWII. Their experiences there are a world away from their difficult lives in London. It’s a totally compelling listen, and everyone in the family will want to know what happens to Ada and Jamie next -- thankfully, there’s a sequel!
The Hidden Oracle
Rick Riordan, read by Robbie Daymond (Listening Library, Ages 10+)
Author Rick Riordan pretty much has the market on Greek myths cornered, and for good reason. His audiobooks are funny, exciting, and full of mythological adventure. I’m a fan of the Trials of Apollo series because Robbie Daymond has narrated all three of them, and he so perfectly captures the voice of the god Apollo, who has been turned into a teenage boy as punishment from Zeus. Apollo is conceited and self-important, but Daymond’s narration makes sure the listener is always on his side as he learns how to manage without his godly gifts. His adventures will keep the family laughing AND on the edge of their seats. Use subsequent road trips to listen to the next two in the series.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Pablo Cartaya, read by Pablo Cartaya (Listening Library, Ages 10+)
When Arturo’s family is threatened by a land developer, they must band together to protect their neighborhood. Through lively prose and a lyrical narration, author Pablo Cartaya weaves a story of courage, food, family, love, and community that will inspire listeners to think about their own family traditions, history, and connections. Cartaya brings humor, poignancy, and a fresh voice to his narration. It’s a feel-good listen for summer that’s bursting with warmth, personality, and passion.
Erin Entrada Kelly, read by Ramon de Ocampo, Amielynn Abellera (HarperAudio, Ages 8+)
Two narrators, Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera, give lively performances of this charming story told from four points of view. The lives of four middle-schoolers intersect one summer day when a prank traps one of them at the bottom of a well. The engaging and sensitive production fully accesses the story’s keen perceptions on family, courage, bullying, and fate, and will make kids and adults alike think about the important friendships in their lives.
See You in the Cosmos
Jack Cheng, read by Kivlighan de Montebello, Brittany Pressley, Graham Halstead, Michael Crouch, Jason Culp, and a Full Cast (Listening Library, Ages 10+)
A full cast of narrators lends their voices to this audiobook, but the real star is 11-year-old narrator Kivlighan de Montebello, whose engaging young voice embodies 11-year-old Alex Petroski. Alex is obsessed with space travel and with his hero, astronomer Carl Sagan. A road trip takes him from Colorado to New Mexico, and he records the whole experience on his iPod. Featuring friendship, family, and a great dog, this is an inspiring listen (and a good reminder to look up at the night sky).