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The Most Riveting Family Audiobooks

John Lawton

Photo: John Lawton

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (Harper Audio; 11/2 hr. abridged; ages 10 and up). A young Eskimo girl flees her home and is lost on the Alaskan tundra—then adopted by a wolf pack. A wilderness survival story told from a rare femaleperspective.

Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger (Listening Library; 3 hr.; ages 9—13). When city kids Kendra and Oscar are visited by Frank, a 15-year-old Wisconsin farm boy, their parents organize a summer-long scavenger hunt all around New York. Performed by the author in a breezy tone everyone can follow (though some kids might say "Eeew" to Kendra and Frank's budding romance).

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (Listening Library; 31/2 hr.; ages 8—12). Deciding to run away from home, Claudia and her little brother choose an unlikely—and endlessly diverting—destination: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If this doesn't get the kids excited about museums, nothing will.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (Listening Library; 21/2 hr.; ages 7—10). Charming story of a country cricket who inadvertently hops a ride to Manhattan, where he's befriended by a newsstand owner's son, a smart-aleck mouse, and a streetwise cat. Don't blame us if your kids take up bug collecting.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (Puffin Books for Young Readers; 10 min.; ages 2—5). Your parents loved it; you loved it; now your kid will love the story of the Mallard family's journey through Boston. The tape comes with the book, so children can follow the narration with McCloskey's timeless, evocative illustrations.

Roald Dahl himself reads The Roald Dahl Audio Collection (Harper Audio; 1 hr. per volume, abridged; ages 5 and up): Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Enormous Crocodile, and The Magic Finger. Dahl's performance—like the stories—is creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, and funny as all get-out.

E. B. White narrates Charlotte's Web (Listening Library; 31/2 hr.; ages 4 and up). Who better than the author to capture the undeniable heart of this story?"Some reading," as Charlotte might say. Stockard Channing acts out Beverly Cleary's eight terrific Ramona books (Listening Library; 2—3 hr. each). The Tony-winning actress has the ideal voice for these sassy stories. Ramona's hilarious high jinks are best for children four and up.

Your kids have the four Harry Potter books, the board game, the Warner Bros.–issued bedspread, but they're still missing out on something if they haven't heard Jim Dale's extraordinary readings (Listening Library; 8–20 hr. per volume). The English actor uses dozens of voices to tell J. K. Rowling's amazing tales, which are great for children as young as six (who aren't easily frightened), to say nothing of adult Muggles.

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (Listening Library; 81/2 hr.; read by Alex Jennings; ages 10 and up) is one of five books in a series that's perfect for kids who've finished Harry Potter and want more.

Ditto Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (Listening Library; 8–15 hr. per volume), a wildly popular, sophisticated trilogy suited for bright 10-year-olds and up. The author performs each work with a full cast of British stage actors.

Robert Sevra reads Ruth Stiles Gannett's Three Tales of My Father's Dragon (Listening Library; 21/2 hr.; ages 5–9), a childhood favorite for three generations, infused with wit, wonder, and crackling suspense.

Listening Library: 800/726-0600; www.listeninglibrary.com.

Harper Audio: 800/331-3761; www.harpercollins.com/hc/features/audio.

Recorded Books: 800/638-1304; www.recordedbooks.com.

Audio Bookshelf: 800/234-1713; www.audiobookshelf.com.

Puffin Books for Young Readers: 800/788-6262; www.penguinputnam.com.


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