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The Most Riveting Family Audiobooks

John Lawton

Photo: John Lawton

Look for these picks in your bookstore or library, or order them. Most are unabridged, so the spell can last for days. You may end up sneaking them out yourself for the morning commute.


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Listening Library; 3 hr.; ages 9 and up). A favorite writer for boys—both bookworms and reluctant readers. Actor Peter Coyote drives home the drama in this tale of a 13-year-old city kid who survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness and lives for two months using only his wits and, you guessed it, a hatchet.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (Listening Library; 3 hr.; ages 6 and up). You know the story: that indomitable trio (a bull terrier, a yellow Lab, and a Siamese cat) treks across the countryside, going up against bobcats, bears, and the forces of nature. Moving and well told, with plenty of action and excitement.

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (Harper Audio; 11/2 hr., abridged; ages 7—12). The ultimate pony ride. Actress Daisy Eagan—the teenage star of Broadway's The Secret Garden—reads this 1948 favorite, which is set on Virginia's Eastern Shore and the famed island of wild horses. Having an actual child narrate is often a risk; in this case, it works.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (Recorded Books; 73/4 hr.; ages 9 and up). Poignant tale that takes place in the Ozarks of the 1930's, about a boy and his devotion to two redbone hounds. A guaranteed tearjerker with narration by Frank Muller, one of the great audiobook readers. Repeat: You will cry.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Listening Library; 6 hr.; ages 10 and up). This prizewinning novel follows a 13-year-old Native American Ohio girl and her eccentric grandparents across America in search of the girl's mother. British actress Kate Harper gets the voices just right and makes the multilayered narrative clear and coherent.

Bull Run by Paul Fleischman (Audio Bookshelf; 2 hr.; ages 10 and up). Compelling radio-style theater: 16 actors take on 16 characters (Union and Confederate, young and old) in this fictional telling of the first great battle of the Civil War. Perfect for kids interested in history.

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck (Listening Library; 4 hr.; ages 9 and up). For seven summers, starting in 1929, a brother and sister from Chicago visit their irrepressible, gun-toting grandma in small-town Illinois, each year stumbling on a new adventure. Read with folksy charm by actor Ron McLarty.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Listening Library; 5 hr.; ages 8 and up). Orphaned, homeless, but still spunky, 10-year-old Bud ("not Buddy") Caldwell sets off across the Midwest during the Depression, determined to find the jazz musician he suspects is his longlost father. Actor James Avery's voice is by turns sweet, sad, and hilarious.


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