November 18, 2017

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Fantasy Series Starters | Listen In

1604-ListenIn_FantasyFantasy series are perfect for family listening, especially on long car trips. But once you’ve listened to the classics—Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle—what’s next? These fantasy series will delight listeners with well-crafted stories impeccably interpreted by talented narrators. The launch titles are listed here, but we bet you wouldn’t stop at just one!

Colfer, Eoin. Artemis Fowl. (Artemis Fowl: Bk. 1). 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. 2004. $45. ISBN 9781400085910.

Gr 5-8 –Nathaniel Parker ably creates voices for characters belonging to a wide range of species—human, fairy, troll, and more—in this first adventure of 12-year-old Irish millionaire supervillain Artemis Fowl, who here sets out to kidnap a fairy. Parker narrates all eight titles in the series.

Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone. (The Dark Is Rising Sequence: Bk. 1). 6 CDs. 7:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2007. $55. ISBN 9780739349045.

Gr 3-7 –Alex Jennings wrings out every drop of menacing drama as the Drew children uncover a mysterious map while vacationing in Cornwall. Two of the five books in the series stand out particularly: The Dark Is Rising received a 1974 Newbery Honor and The Grey King took home the 1976 Newbery Medal. All are read by Jennings, with the exception of The Grey King, which is narrated by native Welsh speaker Richard Mitchley.

Dashner, James. A Mutiny in Time. (The Infinity Ring: Bk. 1). 4 CDs. 4:31 hrs. Scholastic Audio. 2012. $24.95. ISBN 9780545466295.

Gr 4-6 –History is broken and three teens must use the powers of the infinity ring to go back in time and fix it. Written by several authors and including an online component, this multi-platform series builds on the popularity of “The 39 Clues.” Narrator Dion Graham is the common thread, developing individual voices that easily differentiate the characters, and using pitch and pacing to enhance the excitement. Older listeners should check out Dashner’s dystopian “Maze Runner” books.

1604-ListenIn_CVsGrove, S.E. The Glass Sentence. (The Mapmakers Trilogy: Bk. 1). 13 CDs. 15 hr. 49 min. Listening Library. 2015. $65. ISBN 9781101892145.

Gr 6-9 –When The Great Disruption of 1799 broke time apart, the world was thrown into chaos. Cassandra Campbell’s well-modulated tones make Grove’s high fantasy world, with its complex characters and landscapes, entirely believable. From teens to terrors, Campbell guides listeners through an alternate Earth filled with astonishing maps and extraordinary beings.

Jones, Diana Wynne. Howl’s Moving Castle. (Howl’s Moving Castle: Bk. 1). 8 CDs. 8:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2008. $87.75. ISBN 9781436159500.

Gr 6-9 –Jenny Sterlin is the perfect interpreter for this challenging, multifaceted fantasy. Sophie Hatter, turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste, takes refuge in the castle of the wizard Howl where, as they battle to free themselves from their respective curses, the pair falls in love. The later novels in the series, Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways, are also narrated by Sterlin.

Nix, Garth. Sabriel. (Abhorsen: Bk. 1). 10 CDs. 12 hrs. Listening Library. 2003. $70. ISBN 9780807216057.

Gr 7 Up –Tim Curry’s tour de force performance is a perfect match for Nix’s eloquently written high fantasy featuring Sabriel, a young necromancer seeking to free the spirit of her father from Death. Curry pulls out all the stops for the purring, growling cat companion, Mogget, a free magic elemental whose motives can never be trusted. Curry repeats his vocal feats in Lirael and Abhorsen. A prequel, Clariel, is narrated by Graeme Malcolm.

Pierce, Tamora. Terrier. (Beka Cooper: Bk. 1). 12 CDs. 15:03 hrs. Listening Library. 2006. $80. ISBN 9780739337905.

Gr 9 Up –Beka Cooper is a rookie with the Provost’s Guard who can hear the voices of the dead with the help of pigeons, and the birds clue her in to two murderers on the loose. The trilogy (Bloodhound; Mastiff) is set in the same world as Pierce’s popular Alanna, but 200 years earlier. The first-person narration makes for an intimate audio experience, especially in Susan Denaker’s capable hands.

Pratchett, Terry. The Wee Free Men. (Tiffany Aching Adventures: Bk. 1). 7 CDs. 7:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2005. $29.95. ISBN 9780060785987.

Gr 5-7 –Nine-year-old apprentice witch Tiffany Aching must rescue her little brother from the Queen of Fairyland with the dubious help of the Mac Nac Feegle, or Wee Free Men. Six inches tall and blue, they are among the most devious residents of the Chalk. Stephen Briggs is given free reign to mine the humor and hazards that come with battling the wicked queen and her minions. His Feegle brogues will have listeners laughing out loud. Four additional titles complete the series.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. (His Dark Materials: Bk. 1). 9 CDs. 10:24 hrs. Listening Library. 2002. $65. ISBN 9780807210499.

Gr 7 Up –This sprawling epic of connected worlds has at its heart spiky, loyal Lyra Belacqua. Pullman himself provides rich, resonant narration for Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass; he’s joined by a full cast for the latter. His voices for armored bears, witches, children and adults of both genders, and a wide variety of animals are easily distinguishable and add an additional layer of characterization.

SMITH, Cynthia Leitich. Feral Nights. (Feral: Bk. 1). 6 CDs. 6 hrs. Brilliance. 2013. $59.97. ISBN 9781480585546.

Gr 7 Up –When werecat Yoshi, werepossum Clyde, and human Aimee, voiced by Nick Podehl, Todd Haberkorn, and Amy McFadden, are kidnapped, they end up on a remote tropical island ruled by a very unusual species.

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. (The Raven Cycle: Bk. 1). 10 CDs. 11:08 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. 2012. $39.99. ISBN 9780545465939.

Gr 8 Up –For her whole life, psychics have been predicting that Blue would end up killing her true love. She’s never particularly cared—until she meets Gansey. Her clairvoyant powers kick in at the same time, alerting her that he’ll be dead within a year. Will Patton provides polished narration for the whole series.

Sharon Grover is a youth services & audiobook literacy consultant, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan is a school library and audiobook consultant, Easton, MD. They are the co-authors of Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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