Audiobooks for the Young

By Carol Kennedy

Summer is upon us, and what better time to introduce your children to the pleasures of books on CD or play-away? The Swarthmore Public Library has an extensive collection of audiobooks for children and adults alike, and if you are planning a road trip, they might be just the ticket for keeping the family from being bored, fidgety, or querulous in the back seat!

Play-aways, in case you are not familiar with them, are audiobooks that one person listens to at a time. Each unit is a book in itself, and has its own batteries and headphones so that a child can listen without disturbing others. They work like an old-fashioned tape player but are fairly compact (the size of a cell phone or smaller) and easy to use.

On the other hand, a CD can be enjoyed by the whole family and offers the opportunity for discussion and shared laughter, tears or excitement. My recommendation for maximum laughter is Jon Scieszka’s Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka. Jon, also the author of Stinky Cheese Man, grew up with five brothers, all of them full of mischief and a naughty sense of adventure. Their antics will keep your whole family thoroughly amused.

There are also books available for downloading from the library to your electronic device. Details are available at and

Here are just a few other titles that might be of interest to elementary-age and pre-teen listeners:
• Gary Paulsen’s Liar, Liar (another funny tale by the excellent author of Hatchet).
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (a realistic story about an orphan girl looking for a family, good for ages 10-14).
Maximum Ride by James Patterson (combines mystery, science fiction and the supernatural).
The Big Dark by W. Rodman Philbrick (science fiction adventure with a dose of realism).
Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (will have the whole family in stitches).
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (realistic fiction for grades 7-12).
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (time and space have strange ways of behaving for a 1970s-era New York City girl).
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements (science fiction and humor for the middle-grade listener).
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle (as good a time as any to enjoy this classic sci-fi adventure).
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin (yet more sci-fi, for young adults, also downloadable).

Come to the library to find even more titles before your trip, or check the website for electronic books you can easily download!

Carol Kennedy of Swarthmore is a retired school librarian and a member of the TriState Young Adult Review Committee (

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