By Rachel Placchetti
Summer is here, and with those long, hot days comes the warm-weather institution of the family road trip. Be your children in car seats or high school, an annual dogpile into the minivan can often signal the beginning of summer vacation. This year, avoid a family sing-along to the Frozen soundtrack* by checking out an all-ages-friendly audiobook that will keep everyone entertained.
Those with very young children will want to check out A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond. This charming story is made palatable to even the most reluctant adult (and teenaged) listener by the skillful narration of actor Stephen Fry.
Other marvelous audiobooks narrated by celebrities include Matilda, by Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, and the entire run of A Series of Unfortunate Events, including The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket. Read by Kate Winslet, Stockard Channing, and Tim Curry, respectively, these kid-friendly titles will keep the whole family happy with their fast-paced stories and skillful, energetic readers.
Modern reads with a classic feel will also appeal to a wide range of passengers. Fans of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will find much to enjoy in the game-themed wonderland of Chris Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall, is another timeless story whose charm resonates across generations, and Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho Collection conveys the all-too-familiar eccentricities of boyhood in a way both ageless and laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Finally, families with older readers in the audience might appreciate a more action-packed listening experience. For these intrepid vacationers, I recommend The Graveyard Book and Fortunately, the Milk, both by Neil Gaiman, and Savvy, by Ingrid Law. All three stories feature brave heroes and heroines whose adventures are appropriate for youngsters, yet are most satisfying for those of us with more years under our belts. Featuring ghosts, secret societies, time travelers, and superpowers, these titles might not be one-size-fits-all experiences but are nonetheless excellent and widely appealing.
Audiobooks are often the perfect soundtrack to a long, mixed-age trip in the car. I hope these suggestions bring peace and joy to your family road trip—or, at the very least, drown out any cries of “Are we there yet?”
*Not to underestimate the power of Anna and Elsa belting it out during a particularly strenuous stretch of road. Sometimes, it really is just best to “Let It Go.”