February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Books of Summer | Listen In | June 2015


Summer is the ideal time for audiobooks. With a break from classes, July and August allow time for relaxing when students can plug in their earbuds and choose their own reading. From our personal and professional experience, we recommend audiobooks as a satisfying way to keep everyone entertained on car trips of any length. These 12 titles will be welcomed by kids and teens for their own listening, but parents will love them, too. For more suggestions, try the summer reading lists at Sound Learning or the free downloads from Sync, which match up classic titles with new releases. Queue up a new and exciting audiobook—or a proven classic—and get listening!

Early Elementary

Cleary, Beverly. Ramona the Pest. 2 CDs. 2:35 hrs. Harper Audio. 2010. $14.99. ISBN 9780061774089. digital download.

K-Gr 4 –Universal themes of family, school, and growing up are highlighted here as Ramona Quimby heads off to kindergarten. Unsurprisingly, she has difficulty settling into a classroom routine. Stockard Channing channels Ramona’s energy, humor, and enthusiasm to perfection, and the happy ending will calm the fears of listeners worried about the next school year.

Frozen: The Junior Novelization. 2 CDs. 2:20 hrs. Blackstone. 2014. $24.95. ISBN 9781483019673. 1 MP3-CD, Playawy digital.

K-Gr 4 –Andi Arndt admirably gives voice to this novelization of Disney’s highly popular “Snow Queen” reimagining. With Frozen sing-alongs now a staple of library programming and a sequel to the movie in the works, families will enjoy a new way to continue their relationships with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and the lovable snowman, Olaf.

Milne, A.A. The Collected Stories of Winnie the Pooh. 4 CDs. 4:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2009. $38. ISBN 9780307706102. digital download.

K-Gr 3 –A superb ensemble cast including Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, and Geoffrey Palmer gives full dramatic treatment to 20 stories from the world of Pooh. Fry captures the essence of the silly old bear, and Palmer is the consummate melancholic Eeyore. A splendid introduction to these classic tales for a new generation.

middle grade

Berry, Julie. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place. 8 CDs. 9:24 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $45. ISBN 9780553396027. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –It is scandalous indeed when a band of seven descriptively named Victorian girls (Smooth Kitty, Pocked Louise, Disgraceful Mary Jane, etc.) turn to sleuthing in an attempt to discover the identity of their headmistress’s murderer. Jayne Entwistle’s fully voiced performance highlights the humor and plot twists of this 2015 Odyssey Honor winner.

Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon. 4 CDs. 3:30 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2014. $20. ISBN 9781478954002. digital download.

Gr 3-6 –Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III may be the right leader for a new age, but first he must prove that brains really do trump brawn. David Tennant imbues each character in this wild tale with energy and humor, from the booming members of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe to the ominously cultured tones of a terrifying sea dragon.

Feiffer, Kate. The Problem with the Puddles. 3 CDs. 3:04 hrs. Listening Library. 2009. $25.50. ISBN 9780739381298. digital download.

Gr 3-5 –Clever plot twists abound in this silly story of Mr. and Mrs. Puddle, who can’t agree on anything. Accidentally leaving their dogs behind when returning home from a family vacation leads to hilarious misadventures and a surprise reunion. Halley Feiffer’s spot-on vocalizations fully capture the silliness and sarcasm of the outrageous tale.

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2014. $27.99. ISBN 9780062364463.

Gr 5-8 –Derek Jacobi leads an outstanding full cast in this new production of the 2009 Newbery Medal winner. Effective musical transitions build suspense as Bod/Nobody grows up among the benevolent graveyard inhabitants. Superb vocal interpretations of the many protagonists capture the elements of friendship, family, and murder. Gaiman concludes with a description of the story’s origin.

McKinley, Robin. Beauty. 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $51.75. ISBN 9781470360238. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Charlotte Parry’s nuanced reading of this fairy tale retelling will enchant listeners. From her spirited renditions of wealthy life in the city and her solid characterizations of country characters to a fearful voicing of the Beast, Parry embraces the core of the iconic story.

Mull, Brandon. Wild Born. (Spirit Animals, Bk. 1). 5 CDs. 5:37 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. 2013. $20.99. ISBN 9780545600385.

Gr 4-7 –This first title in the popular series features four young people joining forces to fight against the evil threatening Erdas, their world. A coming-of-age ritual bonds Conor, Abeke, Rollan, and Meilin with their spirit animals, creating a formidable group with the addition of a panda, falcon, wolf, and leopard. Each volume in the series is written by a different well-known author, with all audio versions narrated by Nicola Barber, whose expressive interpretations provide a nice cohesiveness.

young adult

MacHale, D.J. SYLO. 9 CDs. 10:40 hrs. Dreamscape. 2013. $59.99. ISBN 9781624068546.

Gr 7 Up –Tucker Pierce loves Pemberwick Island and plans to spend his high school years having fun and lying low. When the island is attacked by unknown forces and the government quarantines residents without warning, Tucker’s life changes forever. Andrew S. Bates employs accurate tone and pacing to create the world of this adventure trilogy opener.

Pratchett, Terry. Dodger. Digital download. 10:30 hrs. Harper Audio. 2012. $18.99. ISBN 9780062201959.

Gr 8 Up –The late master of the beloved Discworld books turns here to 19th-century London. Seventeen-year-old Dodger roams the sewers, scratching out a meager living. Then one night he rescues a young girl from the clutches of murderous ruffians, propelling himself into the midst of Victorian intelligentsia, hobnobbing with “Charlie” Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli. Historical fantasy mixes with Pratchett’s trademark humor for a rich tale that’s impeccably interpreted by Stephen Briggs.

Sharon Grover is Head of Youth Services at the Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan was a school librarian and the district library supervisor for the Arlington (VA) Public Schools before her retirement.

This article was published in School Library Journal's June 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.