Recommended Audiobooks

The audiobooks recommended below were released within the last several years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.

 

YOUNGER FICTION
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

The Alvin Ho Collection: Books 1 & 2 by Lenore Look; read by Everette Plen (Listening Library)
Second-grader Alvin faces (some of) his fears: school, girls, and camping. Eleven-year-old Plen ably reflects the youth and energy so evident in Alvin’s descriptions of his anxieties. Grade level: 1–3.

Clementine, Friend of the Week by Sara Pennypacker; read by Jessica Almasy (Recorded Books)
Clementine’s plans to bribe her classmates into saying nice things about her as “Friend of the Week” go awry. Almasy’s just-over-the-top narration embodies the vivacious third grader. Grade level: 1–3.

 

INTERMEDIATE FICTION
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt; read by Gabra Zackman (Simon Audio)
This haunting story of one dog’s and two kittens’ journey toward freedom is a unique creation of repetition, rhythm, and sustained foreboding. Zackman’s narration is appropriately melodious. Grade level: 4–6.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones; read by Jenny Sterlin (Recorded Books)
Spoiled bookworm Charmain begins the adventure of her life when she is enlisted to house-sit for ailing Great-Uncle William —who also happens to be the powerful Wizard Norland. Sterlin narrates as if the novel were a scrumptious high tea, enjoying every bite. Grade level: 5 and up.

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls; read by Charlotte Parry (Recorded Books)
Eleven-year-old Sam has enough goals for a lifetime, but because he has leukemia, he knows he only has a short time to accomplish them all. Parry reads Sam’s story with compassion and humor. Grade level: 5 and up.

Nation by Terry Pratchett; read by Stephen Briggs (Harper Children’s Audio)
Two divergent young people—Mau, an island boy; and Daphne, the unknowing heir to the British throne—are thrown together as the result of a devastating tsunami. Briggs’s narration, meshing his style with Prachett’s, is well suited to the tale. Grade level: 5 and up.

The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan; read by Tony Chiroldes (Scholastic Audio)
In childhood, Nefatlí Reyes (a.k.a. Pablo Neruda) hears the call of words, and even his cruel father cannot stifle the growing poet. Chiroldes’s lilting voice is perfect for this lyrical novel. Grade level: 4–6.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; read by Cynthia Holloway (Listening Library)
Narrator Holloway does an excellent job of inhabiting main character Miranda, a Wrinkle in Time–loving New York sixth grader who discovers a series of anonymous notes that seem to be a matter of life, death, and, incredibly, time travel. Grade level: 5 and up.

The Emerald Atlas [Books of Beginning] by John Stephens; read by Jim Dale (Listening Library)
This first book in a series introduces three orphans, Kate, Michael, and Emma, and their involvement in an epic battle between good and evil magic. Dale’s performance of the voices of the large cast of characters is thoroughly engaging. Grade level: 6–8.

The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel by Jonathan Stroud; read by Simon Jones (Listening Library)
In 950 BCE Jerusalem, djinni Bartimaeus finds himself the unlikely ally of a young girl who intends, suicidally, to steal the magic ring of Solomon. Jones gives a riveting, hilarious portrayal of the wisecracking Bartimaeus, Grade level: 5 and up.

Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; read by Jenna Lamia with Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library)
Stuck in the small town of Manifest for the summer of 1936, Abilene’s searches for clues to her father’s past but finds her own future. In contrast to the many secrets Abilene discovers, she’s an endearingly transparent character; Lamia channels her to perfection. Grade level: 4–6.

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt; read by Wendy Carter (Listening Library)
Fredle (a curious young house mouse) ends up Outside, where he learns to embrace life’s larger possibilities—independence, friendships, a love of beauty and nature. Carter’s superb narration of this fresh coming-of-age novel multiplies its considerable virtues. Grade level: 3–6.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; read by Sisi Aisha Johnson (Recorded Books) 
During one life-changing summer in 1968 Oakland, California, three sisters come to know their estranged mother and become involved in street-level politics. Johnson captures protagonist Delphine’s strength and vulnerability Grade level: 4–6.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles; read by Emma Galvin (Listening Library)
In this documentary novel, Air Force brat Franny juggles friendships, crushes, and family loyalty during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Galvin voices the many characters convincingly; sound effects nicely underscore the era and enhance listeners’ “this just in!” experience. Grade level: 6–8.

The Mysterious Howling [Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place] by Maryrose Wood; read by Katherine Kellgren (Listening Library)
Kellgren’s spot-on voicing of this howlingly funny romp recounts the adventures of plucky fifteen-year-old governess Penelope and her young charges: three children raised by wolves. Grade level: 5 and up.

 

OLDER FICTION
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares; read by Kimberly Farr (Listening Library)
The summer after eighth grade is a formative one for three best friends who have grown apart over the years. Farr narrates with control, compassion, and just enough youthful intensity. Grade level: 6–8.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore; read by David Baker and a full cast (Full Cast Audio)
In the Seven Kingdoms, an exceptional few are burdened with gifts that brand them Gracelings. This lush world makes the perfect backdrop for the complex interplay of a full cast of voices, each ideally suited to their roles. Grade level: 7 and up.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; read by the author (Recorded Books)
When a baby escapes murder by toddling into a graveyard, he is adopted by two ghosts. This coming-of-age novel follows Bod’s encounters with witches, ghouls, and vampires. Gaiman-as-narrator brings his characters to life with wit and meticulous pacing. Grade level: 7 and up.

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty; read by Bianca Amato, Toby Leonard Moore, Colin McPhillamy, Anushka Carter Paris, Andy Paris, and Charlotte Parry (Recorded Books)
Characters from The Year of Secret Assignments return in a novel melding mystery, ghost story, school story, and Australian history. This complex, clever story is even better as an audiobook. Grade level: 8 and up.

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; read by Julia Whelan (Brilliance Audio)
Lennie is utterly bereft when her sister Bailey dies suddenly but gradually realizes she is sleepwalking through her own life. After some tortuous detours, true love wakes her up. Whelan delivers a flawless performance. Grade level: 8 and up.

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve; read by the author (Scholastic Audio)
Fever Crumb, an orphaned girl raised by a sect of Engineers in steampunk England, begins to remember a life not her own. Reeve’s narration highlights his wordplay, humor, and nuanced description. Grade level: 7 and up.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork; read by Lincoln Hoppe (Listening Library)
Hoppe authentically narrates the experiences of Marcelo, a seventeen-year-old with an Asperger-like condition, in the “real world”—a summer job at his father’s law firm—with dramatic intensity. Grade level: 8 and up.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp; read by MacLeod Andrews (Brilliance Audio)
Hard-partying senior Sutter doesn’t waste time worrying about his future. Sutter’s philosophical musings (delivered with a devil-may-care twang) build to an honest conclusion. Grade level: 8 and up.

 

NONFICTION
Suggested grade level listed with each entry

The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle; read by Yesenia Cabrero, Chris Nuñez, Ozzie Rodriguez, and Roberto Santana (Listening Library)
Inspired by the life of poet Manzano, these free verse poems portray a talented artist who grew up in slavery, sustaining himself with his love for words and his hope for freedom. As remarkable to hear as it is to read. Grade level: 6–8.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman; read by Rosalyn Landor (Listening Library)
This biography of Darwin concentrates on his marriage and its effect on his work and religious beliefs (or lack thereof). Landor reads this work of nonfiction as though it were a novel, with individual voices for all parties and plenty of warmth. Grade level: 6 and up.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka by Jon Scieszka; read by Jon Scieszka (Brilliance Audio)
In this laugh-out-loud audio of the beloved author’s memoir, Scieszka hits punch lines like a stand-up comedian while authentically recalling the voice and emotions of his younger self. Grade level: 5–7.

 

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