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Listen to a Good Book This Summer


          With the last day of school on the horizon, be sure to stock up on audiobooks for summer car trips. Whether you’re ferrying kids to day camp, day care or day trips to Kings Dominion, you’ll find that a good audiobook makes up for any traffic jams or backseat quarreling.
          Second grader Stink Moody is the shortest kid he knows. No matter how often he checks, he measures just three feet eight inches tall. He’s always in the front for class pictures, and he usually plays the mouse in the school play. Then something terrible happens – his big sister Judy discovers he’s shrunk a whole quarter of an inch since the morning! Listeners five and up will be entertained and sympathetic to his plight, as told in “Stink, The Incredible Shrinking Kid” by Megan McDonald. Narrator Nancy Cartwright, familiar to “Simpsons” fans (she plays Bart), voices each character with energy and humor. Kids who like this can listen to a half-dozen additional books about Stink and his family.



          If your nickname were “Byrd-the-Nerd,” you might dream of superpowers, too. In Wendelin Van Draanen’s “Shredderman, Secret Identity,” fifth grader Nolan Byrd suffers under the bullying of Bubba Bixby until a teacher’s offhand comment and a school assignment give him a great idea. He takes on the identity of Shredderman, a superhero who documents Bubba’s every deed, then posts it on a web site and tells everyone at school about it. Nolan might be small and nerdy, but he knows how to use his brain to outwit his arch-enemy. Narrated by eleven-year-old Daniel Young, this audiobook and its sequels will have the back seat laughing in no time.
         “I come from a family with a lot of dead people,” Comfort Snowberger tells readers on the first page of Deborah Wiles’ “Each Little Bird That Sings,” set in a little town in Mississippi.  Not only that, but her family runs the local funeral parlor, so the rituals of death are never too far away. But this is not a sad or gruesome book – instead, as ten-year-old Comfort deals with the death of her great-great-aunt Florentine and the estrangement from her best friend, Declaration, listeners will smile at her family’s eccentricities and root for Comfort as she adjusts to life’s changes. Kim Mai Guest narrates in a soft Southern accent.
          Jon Scieszka and his five brothers were called “knuckleheads” by their long-suffering father, and listeners to “Knucklehead, Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka” will soon know why. Scieszka (rhymes with Fresca) tells stories from his childhood in Flint, Michigan, that mingle his experiences in Catholic school, summer trips to the lake, and a fair amount of typical boy behavior for a series of short pieces that will enliven any commute. Kids eight and up will find this hilarious, though parents might find themselves warning kids to enjoy the stories but not imitate them!
          Kadir Nelson’s “We Are the Ship, The Story of Negro League Baseball” is notable not just for its compelling storytelling but for Nelson’s award-winning full-page portraits of the players. The producers of the audiobook have ensured that kids won’t miss a thing by including a bonus disc with the paintings from the book. Narrator Dion Graham portrays the colorful characters in an easygoing style that will entertain sports fans ten and up.
First published in the Free Lance-Star on June 8, 2010.