Seven Audiobooks to Make Holiday Travel Fly By

The impending holidays make me think of travel with kids. I don’t know any kid who likes a long car ride, but a good audiobook can turn cranky into complaisant and make hours feel like minutes.

For the Younger Set:

audio-winnie-the-poohWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

The set we had when our children were small was put out by the BBC. We loved it because it had pooh stories but it also had poems from When We Were Very Young. There are loads of editions out there. I’d definitely go for British actors!


audio-junie-b-jonesJunie B. Jones by Barbara Park

The whole family loved to listen to Junie B stories. She always got us laughing out loud with her antics!


For Older Kids:

audio-hp-and-the-sorcerers-stoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

This one almost goes without saying. We’ve listened to some of the Harry Potter stories in addition to reading them. They’re beautifully read by Jim Dale, and each book contains hours of material. We found we got a different appreciation for the stories by hearing the words read aloud.

audio-chronicles-of-narniaThe Chronicles of Narnia C. S. Lewis

My in-laws gave my daughter this boxed set with all seven of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. They’ve been a favorite of both my kids. There are connected stories that fall both before and after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so there’s lots of material there. They’re read beautifully, so even though my husband and I aren’t C. S. Lewis fans, we’ve all listened to them together.

My Current Favorites:

audio-the-graveyard-bookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I’m just listening to this book now. It’s one I’ve been meaning to read for years and what a fun book it is! Nobody, the main character, is a living boy raised by the ghosts in a graveyard. So charming, such beautiful language, so very English! It’s a tribute to The Jungle Book with a very different setting. The beginning is quite violent and scary, so if you’ve got very small or sensitive kids, this might not be the best choice.

audio-brown-girl-dreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this book, but it became an instant favorite. Written in verse and read by the author, it was an absolute delight to listen to in the car. Because each track is a poem, it would also be a great book to listen to in small chunks. The language is gorgeous and Woodson’s memories of growing up brown during the civil rights era is important for all American children to hear. This book could also spark great discussions. I may have to plan a road trip, so I can share it with my family.

Finally, Flashing My Geek Card — the radio play my entire family can quote from:

audio-hitchhikers-guideThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This series was actually a radio play before it was published as a book. It’s got everything you need for a long, boring trip: excitement, space travel, and the answer to life, the universe, and everything. What more could you need besides a towel?

The library’s a great place to discover new audiobooks, and for airplane trips Playaways, those tiny library mp3 players with just one book on them, are perfect. Then everyone can have their own story to enjoy.

Wishing you peaceful, story filled holidays and safe travels.


Code Name Verity by Elisabeth Wein


Hyperion, 2012

Maddie’s a wiz with an engine. She’s proved it with the motorbike her granddad gave her for her birthday, but her focus on motorbikes quickly changes in 1938 when a young noblewoman crash lands her Puss Moth airplane in a pasture near Maddie’s home. The chance meeting leads to an opportunity for Maddie to learn to fly, which she continues until the war begins in earnest. But the war brings unusual opportunities for women both in work and friendship. Code Name Verity is the story of two such women, women thrown together by the war who build a strong and enduring friendship.

When I saw this title on the library shelf, I remembered that the book had caused a fair amount of buzz when it came out. I’d never followed the buzz into detail. Perhaps all I’d seen was on Twitter, and the cover, which looks like it’s about torture. Which, to be fair, is an important part of the story, but I’m hesitant to read books about torture, strange for someone who devours mysteries and thrillers and books about World War II, I know. But be still my heart, the other things this book has – England, Scotland, World War II, codes, women pilots, Special Operations Executive spies, the Moon Squadron and a fabulous friendship between two women. How could I have waited four years to read this book?

I spent a good part of last weekend engrossed in its pages. I found Code Name Verity to be extremely well researched, and I’ve read a lot about WWII and Special Operations Executive in the past years. I found it an utterly gripping story. The suspense drew me in; trying to piece together the story and the story beneath the words kept me riveted; and the personal relationships in the book kept me satisfied. This book will appeal to so many different types of readers.

I won’t chance spoiling the plot by revealing more, but I will recommend this book for personal reading, classrooms, and libraries. I’ll be adding Code Name Verity to my select private library. And next time I anticipate a quiet weekend, I’ll search out Rose Under Fire, another World War II book from Elizabeth Wein. I’ll let you know what I think.

The King’s Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce by Mollie Hunter

The King's Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce

Harper Trophy, 1998

In 14th-century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Martin Crawford spies Robert the Bruce being hunted by the English. That day marks the start of Crawford’s involvement in the fight for Scottish independence from the English, but he’s not a warrior. Martin’s wish is to be a cleric, and his involvement is as an observer, spy, and message bearer for the king. His mobility allows him to be privy to the king’s strategic decisions as well as see the battles from a distance.

The King’s Swift Rider provides a good background to long-ago events. Though this account is strongly biased toward the Scots, I enjoyed learning more about this period in history and about the famous British and Scottish leaders involved. The contrast in attitudes between Martin, a pacifist who is nonetheless deeply, and nonviolently, involved in the war, and his brother, a sometimes blood-crazed warrior, deepened the interest in the story for me. This is not a story that either glorifies or wholly condemns war or violence.

This book will appeal to readers who enjoy action, history, and books about war and strategy. The details about medieval life will appeal to fantasy enthusiasts as well as Live Action Role Players (LARP). The main character is sixteen, but I think this book will appeal to upper middle grade readers as well as young adult readers.

I checked this book out of my local library.

Stay Where You Are and then Leave by John Boyne

Stay Where You Are And Then Leave

Henry Holt, 2013.

Just before his party on Alfie’s fifth birthday, war is declared. As suddenly as that, Alfie’s comfortable life in London is turned upside down. Alfie’s dad joins up the following day. Dad sends letters from his training camp and also from the trenches. In the years that follow, Alfie learns to check the casualty lists in the paper every day and never sees his dad’s number there. Even so, Alfie’s relief is halfhearted because Dad’s letters have stopped coming and Alfie’s mum has become evasive about Dad’s whereabouts. Alfie vows he won’t stop until he finds some answers. But life in war is very different than normal life, and the answers Alfie does find simply lead to more questions.

Stay Where You Are and then Leave is the story of one family’s struggle through World War I. Like many of the soldiers in the Great War, Alfie’s father returns home from years of horror in the trenches suffering from shellshock, a condition that doctors were still struggling to understand and treat and a condition that most of the public did not even know existed. Today post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is a more well-known, though still often misunderstood, condition.

I loved this book for its clear representation of a time not so distant in years but remote in world view. Boyne did a masterful job of conveying the era’s vastly different roles of children and parents as well as the relations of citizens with the government in times of war. This book presents harsh facts about life during this time in history alongside views of strong community and loving family. Reading it is a wonderful way to immerse oneself in another time.

My reading of Stay Where You Are and then Leave was greatly enhanced by having read Kathryn Atwood’s Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Soldiers, Spies, and Medics. School and classroom libraries would benefit from adding both these books to their collections.