Listen, laugh, and learn

Some stories can be at their funniest — and most poignant — when read aloud. The following audiobooks, recommended for intermediate and middle-school listeners, offer lots of laughs and lots to learn.

perkins_nuts to you audioLynne Rae Perkins's Nuts to You tells the wacky story of a trio of industrious young squirrels saving their respective colonies from the impending danger of human deforestation. What's lost in the absence of Perkins's quirky, digressive illustrations is made up for in Jessica Almasy's all-in, over-the-top performance. Making the most of the sensory descriptions, comical dialogue, and tangled action, she maximizes this classic-feeling animal fantasy's considerable entertainments and adds weight to the deeper environmental message. (Recorded Books, 8–11 years)

graff_absolutely almost audioAlbie, star of Lisa Graff's Absolutely Almost, is not having a good fifth-grade year at his new school. His best friend from his old school, Erlan, is distracted by being on reality TV, and Betsy, his only real new friend, isn't speaking to him. But there are spots of brightness, including Albie's punning math club teacher, his free-spirited babysitter Calista, and, of course, doughnuts. Noah Galvin's narration is engaging and earnest, reflecting Albie's naiveté and his heart in equal measure. The quick pace pulls readers along to the hopeful, satisfying conclusion. (Recorded Books, 8–11 years)

gantos_key that swallowed joey pigza audioWith his depressed mother in the hospital and his ne'er-do-well father out of the picture — but lurking — Joey becomes "man of the house." The unexpected arrival of Olivia, "the meanest blind girl in the world," helps lessen the load, but Joey must still prove himself to himself in order to move beyond his wired-kid past. Narrated by author Jack Gantos, The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza is the fifth (and final) Joey Pigza story, and there's nuance and emotion at every turn. It's a satisfying sendoff for a uniquely imperfect kid in a very imperfect family. (Listening Library, 9–12 years)

holm_fourteenth goldfish audiobookOn its surface, The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm delights as a comic tale of a middle-school girl coming to terms with her grandfather's fountain-of-youth breakthrough, which has turned him into a teenager. As the plot bounces along, however, subtle character development and substantial inquiry add layers of meaning, posing important questions about bioethics and family responsibility. Georgette Perna's frothy narration enhances the novel's lighter elements, keeping the pace brisk and humorously reflecting the adolescent cadence of the dialogue; when the novel's deeper revelations surface, they are that much more surprising and reverberant. (Listening Library, 10–14 years)

From the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.
Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more