Audiobooks have made so many of our three-hour drives from Austin to Houston so easy, and also made our drives to and from school relaxing before school went virtual. Here’s a list of our “greatest hits” list so far, arranged (roughly) from youngest to oldest audiences – within a range of older elementary to lower YA.
The way my life is organized these days, it’s tough for me to write reviews, so below are simply their blurbs, but I loved all of these as much as my child did. Hopefully you find something new to read and enjoy!
Before we jump in:
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These are billed as companion novels but tbh I think it would spoil some stuff if you read Starry River first?
About Mountain: “In the valley of Fruitless mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life’s questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family’s fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer.”
My husband didn’t let us listen to this without him in the car too, he was so enthralled.
The Knights’ Tales Collection, written by Gerald Morris and narrated by Steve West.
My caveat: the first story is very funny, and I sort of expected the others to be similar, however they are very different in tone. They’re all excellent but I can see some kids feeling bait-and-switched.
“Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table.
Sir Lancelot the Great: Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so…shiny as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he’d had his afternoon nap.
Sir Givret the Short: Poor Givret, his size makes him so easy to overlook. But there’s more to knighthood than height, and before long, Givret’s quick thinking lands him a place at the famous Round Table!
Sir Gawain the True: The knights didn’t always act quite as gallantly as a true knight should. Even King Arthur’s nephew, known at that time as Sir Gawain the Undefeated, was too full of himself to accept a token of thanks from a rescued princess! Someone needed to teach Sir Gawain that courtesy and friendship are just as important as strength and courage.
Sir Balin the Ill-Fated: While most of King Arthur’s knights freely chose a life of duty, for Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, destiny was foretold in a prophecy. Still, no matter how dire the task, a loyal and gallant knight never refuses adventure!”
Books 2-4 of the Ghosthunters series, starting with Ghosthunters and the Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost, written by Cornelia Funke and narrated by John Beach.
Caveat: We hated the first book of this series due to massive time taken up by sibling fighting. Like, if we’d listened to it first we’d never have kept going. All the backstory you need about what happened is recapped in Book 2.
“Boy hero Tom, Hugo the Averagely Spooky Ghost, and famed ghoul hunter Hetty Hyssop have formed an agency dedicated to dealing with difficult apparitions. No spook can defeat them, until their too close encounter with a Gruesome Invincible Lightning Ghost (or “GILIG” in ghosthunter-speak). This superheated specter has taken over the penthouse suite of a beach-front hotel, where it’s passing its eternal vacation by turning guests into ghosts themselves!
Maybe Hugo’s slime can douse the flaming phantom, or maybe the ghosthunters’ plan is doomed to go up in smoke…Get scared silly!”
The Five Kingdoms series, starting with The Robe of Skulls, written by Vivian French and narrated by Renée Raudman.
Caveat: It became a running joke between me and my son how every dang book the female MC needs to be rescued. But if you can laugh and roll your eyes at that, the fantasy world is so compelling and we really enjoyed the books of this series that were made into audio.
“Trouble is brewing in the first book of the Tales from the Five Kingdoms series. The sorceress Lady Lamorna wants a skull-studded gown of deep black velvet but finds her treasure chest empty of gold. That doesn’t stop her from kidnapping, blackmailing, and using more than a little magic to get what she needs.
Will all her best-laid plans be foiled by the heroic Gracie Gillypot, two chatty bats, a gallant (if rather scruffy) prince, the wickedest stepsister ever, a troll with a grudge, and some very Ancient Crones?”
The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horwitz and narrated by Merissa Czyz.
“Dastardly deeds aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one hears the name “Clementine”, but as the sole heir of the infamous Dark Lord Elithor, 12-year-old Clementine Morcerous has been groomed since birth to be the best (worst?) Evil Overlord she can be. But everything changes the day the Dark Lord Elithor is cursed by a mysterious rival.
Now, Clementine must not only search for a way to break the curse, but also take on the full responsibilities of the Dark Lord. As Clementine forms her first friendships, discovers more about her own magic than she ever dared to explore, and is called upon to break her father’s code of good and evil, she starts to question the very life she’s been fighting for. What if the Dark Lord Clementine doesn’t want to be dark after all?”
The Jumbies, written by Tracey Baptiste and narrated by Robin French.
“Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining, yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?
When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home”
The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart and narrated by Del Roy.
“ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD LOOKING FOR SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES?
Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests. (And you, dear listener, can test your wits right alongside them.)
Only four children – Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance – succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it, they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden labyrinth of the school’s underground tunnels is more than your average school supplies.”
Fantastic series, and the separate standalone novel The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is even better, IMHO.
Chasing Vermeer, written by Blue Baillet and narrated by Ellen Reilley.
“When a book of unexplainable occurrences brings Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay together, strange things start to happen: seemingly unrelated events connect, an eccentric old woman seeks their company, and an invaluable Vermeer painting disappears.
Before they know it, the two find themselves at the center of an international art scandal. As Petra and Calder are drawn clue by clue into a mysterious labyrinth they must draw on their powers of intuition, their skills at problem solving, and their knowledge of Vermeer. Can they decipher a crime that has left even the FBI baffled?”
The Artemis Fowl series, written by Eoin Colfer and narrated by Nathaniel Parker.
“Twelve-year-old Artemis is a millionaire, a genius-and above all, a criminal mastermind. But Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren’t the fairies of the bedtime stories-they’re dangerous!”
The Parker Inheritance, written by Varian Johnson and narrated by Cherise Boothe.
“The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It’s waiting for Candice Miller. When Candice finds the letter, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, after all, who left Lambert in a cloud of shame. But the letter describes a young woman named Siobhan Washington. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Grandma tried and failed. But now Candice has another chance.
So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues in the letter. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the summer ends?”
The Supernaturalist, written by Eoin Colfer and narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor.
“In the future, in a place called Satellite City, 14-year-old Cosmo Hill enters the world, unwanted by his parents. He’s sent to the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys. Freight class.
At Clarissa Frayne, the boys are put to work by the state, testing highly dangerous products. At the end of most days, they are covered with burns, bruises, and sores. Cosmo realizes that if he doesn’t escape, he will die at this so-called orphanage.
When the moment finally comes, Cosmo seizes his chance and breaks out with the help of the Supernaturalists, a motley crew of kids who all have the same special ability as Cosmo: they can see supernatural Parasites, creatures that feed on the life force of humans. The Supernaturalists patrol the city at night, hunting the Parasites in hopes of saving what is left of humanity in Satellite City. Or so they think. The Supernaturalists soon find themselves caught in a web far more complicated than they imagined, when they discover a horrifying secret that will force them to question everything they believe in.”
Skulduggery Pleasant, written by Derek Landy and narrated by Rupert Degas.
Note: The level of gruesome in this is pretty far from the books earlier in this post. Definitely more YA then MG.
“She’s 12. He’s dead. But together they’re going to save the world. Hopefully.
Stephanie’s uncle Gordon is a writer of horror fiction. But when he dies and leaves her his estate, Stephanie learns that while he may have written horror it certainly wasn’t fiction. Pursued by evil forces, Stephanie finds help from an unusual source – the wisecracking skeleton of a dead sorcerer….”
And that’s the list! Hope you found something interesting. If you have any suggestions for me, get in touch, always happy to hear about good books!