We are frequently asked to recommend our favourite audiobooks for kids. With so many great options out there it can be difficult to know where to begin. Are your kids up for something funny, something magical, an adventure, a mystery, a short story or a chapter book? As part of our ongoing collaboration with Audible we thought we’d share our kids’ ten favourite audiobooks.
As important as the audiobook is its narrator. A great narrator (or cast) can elevate a work of literature into a completely engrossing and thoroughly entertaining experience. With better-known titles often recorded by multiple artists, choosing the best performance is key. We use Audible’s ‘sample’ feature to preview every title before we buy it. Some of our kids’ favourite narrators are Kate Winslet, David Walliams, Stephen Fry and Tim Curry.
This was not an easy list to compile as each of our kids had a long list of favourites. Ivy could have quite happily put ten Roald Dahl titles here. Easton and Quin would have David Walliams dominating the list. And of course Marlow, never short of an opinion, had a couple to add.
Here, in no particular order, are our kids’ favourite audiobooks. I’d say all are appropriate for ages 6 to 12, but you’ll find a couple for under-5s too:
Matilda by Roald Dahl. Narrated by Kate Winslet.
One of the many audiobooks we brought home from the Roald Dahl museum, Matilda remains a family favourite. Kate Winslet’s performance, as always, is fantastic and Roald Dahl’s unforgettable characters are forever popping up in our kids’ imaginative play.
The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Narrated by Tim Curry.
Our older kids especially love this series of ‘unhappy’ tales of the Baudelaire orphans. So far we’ve listened to the first 3 books in the series and Tim Curry’s performance of the eccentric characters takes their misfortune to a wonderfully, dreadful level.
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Narrated by Imelda Staunten.
Marlow’s pick. This classic English short story by famed children’s author Julia Donaldson is a perennial favourite. Michael and I have probably read the book to each of our kids a hundred times but Imelda Staunten’s reading plus the music and sound effects puts ours to shame. Our kids are happy to listen to it with or without the book to hand.
The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. Narrated by Kate Winslet.
Another fantastic performance by Kate Winslet and a wonderfully imaginative tale by one of our kids’ favourite authors. This is the first story in the Faraway Tree series and we will be sure to listen to more. Our kids are also very fond of Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series, with Easton and Quin having read four or five titles each.
Awful Auntie by David Walliams. Narrated by David Walliams, Maggie Steed, & Nitin Ganatra.
Our older kids love almost all of David Walliams’ books and his performance of them. This story of a little girl forced to live with her ghastly Aunt Alberta kept them laughing all the way through. Some of David Walliams can be a bit crude and bathroom humour is not uncommon, so be sure (you and) your kids are ready for it.
Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. Narrated by Penelope Rawlins.
Our friend Vanessa Gerbrandy has a knack for picking great audiobooks. This was one of her recommendations and our older kids loved it. Set deep in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, it’s the story of a young English girl sent to live with her cousins. Our kids’ enjoyment of the story was amplified by their recent visit to the country.
Call of the Wild by Jack London. Narrated by Garrick Hagon.
An American classic, we listened to this while on our road trip through California. It’s the tale of a dog named Buck who is stolen and sold into a harsh life as a sled dog in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
A Bear called Paddington by Michael Bond. Narrated by Stephen Fry.
A classic tale read by a wonderful performer. The adventures of Paddington are popular with all four of our kids.
Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo. Narrated by Derek Jacobi.
This is the story of a young boy and his dog who fall from a boat in the Pacific and wash up on a remote island. The story of their survival reminded our kids of another favourite, ‘The Island of the Blue Dolphins’.
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Performed by a BBC Radio 4 cast.
This was the first story we listened to in the Narnia series and it remains our favourite. It is performed by a full cast, with music and sound effects. It’s more akin to a radio play than an audiobook and once we heard this recording, we started to look for other BBC Radio 4 performances.
Many of these wonderful audiobooks were recommended to us and we’d love to know yours too. Please leave your favourites here in a comment.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Audible. Like all of our sponsored posts, we only work with companies whose products we use and love. The opinions and text here are entirely my own.
27 thoughts on “Our Top Ten Audiobooks for Kids”
Hello! forgive the basic question, but how does audible work? I looked on the site but couldn’t fully work it out. When you pay the membership fee, does that include the books you listen to? or do you pay membership plus for each book? And do you stream, or download?
You pay for a membership that includes a certain number of books per month. You can purchase books individually without a membership, but they’ll just cost more. We started with a one credit/month membership and then topped up by purchasing ‘credits’ when they were on special offer. Books are downloaded to your device. Once downloaded, you can listen when offline.
You should be able to find information on available membership plans here: http://www.audible.co.uk/pap
Also, when we announced our partnership we included a free trial link: http://audible.com/somewhereslower. Maybe give it a try to start. I assume it’s still active, though I cannot check from here in France as it takes me to the French site only.
Thank you! I have signed up for the trial.
Well after a few months with audible, I’m back to say that we’re enjoying it! I bought a kindle fire over the summer, and it’s wonderful to have the two together – transferring books is seamless, the kindle has a huge memory (card) and long battery life that make it easy and reliable (unlike my iphone in both respects!). We drive twenty or thirty minutes to her preschool three times a week (Los Angeles!), and it makes those trips really entertaining for both of us. After a few months, our recommendations (and duds) – the Roald Dahl audio collection read by Roald Dahl himself is lovely – his reading of The Enormous Crocodile is the perfect length and complexity for my almost four year old. I was looking forward to George’s Marvellous Medicine by Derek Jacobi, but on balance I find his reading too frenetic – paired with the dark humour of the material, for me he tips the story into something too unpleasant for very small children.
I’ve realised that short stories are what she (and I) like at this preschool age so after a bit of thinking I have just downloaded the Just So stories read by Geoffrey Palmer, and the complete Beatrix Potter with a variety of readers, and am excited for my little one to hear some of them tomorrow. Winnie the Pooh is another one in perfect, sweet little chunks – we already had an old CD read by Bernard Cribbins, and it’s just marvellous. I’ve been made to listen to it literally fifty times, and it never grates, his reading is absolutely impeccable. Poor old Marlow, I think you should try it with your boys, they may be surprised. Like so many British children’s stories, there’s such nice humour in it that goes straight over the littlest ones’ heads but will keep the older ones (and adults!) amused.
One of the things I’ve found that I really like about the whole business is, as a Brit living in America, the fact that I can find books written and read by Brits and easily bring British language and humour into my daughter’s life. We don’t watch much tv at all, so this cultural input from audiobooks is lovely for me. (The downside though is that lots of things, including the Enid Blyton you recommend, aren’t available in America. I’m so sad because I really wanted to hear that one especially!) So thank you for the little push toward expanding our audio horizons, or we might have been listening to that Winnie CD for the rest of time!
I don’t know too much about the audio versions, but have you looked into any Newbery Award winners? You mentioned The Island of the Blue Dolphins author and there are just so many more great books. The Westing Game, Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, A Single Shard, The Tale of Despereaux… I could go on!
I also wonder if there are any good narrations of the Anne of Green Gables series. Oh, and I’ve heard that the narrated Harry Potter series is great. I think Stephen Fry does that one.
Have you had any issues with listening collectively to books whose themes or perhaps just certain scenes may be too mature for Marlow? Just curious.
Courtney, I have to thank you for piquing my interest sufficiently to download Audible with your last post about it. I now have a 17-book wish list! My slightly smaller ones (7, 4 and 2) have really loved listening to The Giraffe, The Pelly and Me narrated by Hugh Laurie, whilst we’ve been travelling around Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Like your clan, they have also enjoyed Paddington, but we’ve had a couple of duds as well, so it’s great to have a list of direct recommendations. Thank you…. again!
Oh my, if you haven’t listened to Winnie the Pooh narrated by Alan Bennet you *must*! My sister and I used to listen to tapes – as they were back then – before bed and loved this.
Also the Just William stories narrated by Martin Jarvis are so wonderful (he’s fantastic and hilarious at narrating. He also narrates ‘Carry On Jeeves’ which we liked too…)
Have your children read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler? Not sure what the narrator is like, but it would be a good one to read aloud.
I’m so happy to have these new book recommendations! We have been meaning to play Winnie the Pooh for Marlow, but she always gets outvoted by the older kids who want more grown-up stories! We’ll definitely play this for her soon.
And I have never heard of the other books, so I’m really excited to check them out too! Thank you so much for sharing. xx
Ah Winnie the Pooh is so fantastic, regardless of age. I think so anyway 🙂 Milne is so sarcastic which I love, and Alan Bennett captures the irony in his writing so well.
Hi Courtney. Thank you so much for listing your recommendations.
Just a question – how do you listen to your audio books? I noticed in your first photo a speaker on the table.
We have the Audible app on our iPhones and download the stories that way. Depending on where we are listening, we either use a cable to connect our phones to the speaker you see in the photos, or to the car stereo system if we’re in the car. (The car we are currently driving around Italy doesn’t have a place to connect a cable or blue tooth technology, so we’re actually driving around with that speaker playing inside our car so the kids can listen to the audiobooks.That speaker has been really handy to have this year!)
I hope this helps,
Thank you Courtney! We are going away on a three month adventure soon and would love to be able to listen to music and audio books in the car – could you tell me what brand of speaker you have as there are so many choices out there so it would be better to know a good one that somebody has used already – thanks xx
hi Courtney, thank you for the suggestions it will be super helpful for us, we travel a lot.
Can I ask if the kids use screen, phones, tablets etc? We try to limit the usage but find the kids always asking to watch my phone or the ipad. It is my biggest bugbear and any tips greatly received.
Natalie (mama to Carmen 4 and Lola 3. )
Thanks for your comment and question. Our children do not use screens. I have written a bit about this on Babyccino here: http://babyccinokids.com/blog/2014/12/12/my-thoughts-on-tv-and-other-electronics/ and here: http://babyccinokids.com/blog/2014/04/05/lets-talk-about-electronics-and-our-children/.
Perhaps our views on electronics will change as our children get older, but at the moment none of our children, including the boys (11 and 9), have no interest in phones or video games and I would like to encourage this for as long as possible.
Hi Courtney! I’m just catching up on all your blog posts, and your links sent me down a rabbit hole of reading. I loved reading all about your views on electronics, and I also loved all the conversation it started in the comments sections. You’ve inspired me to rethink my three-year-old’s “screen” time (which is Netflix- I don’t even understand how kid apps work!). I use it often when I need to get things done around the house, mostly things my son wants to “help” with but can’t (cleaning the bathrooms, for example). He is an only child who does not yet attend school, and I know when he is watching TV he is not, say, emptying the filing cabinets or drawing on the walls. I need to get creative in thinking of structured activities that will keep him sitting while I get things done. And I totally agree with you when you said that yes, the kids may whine for 5 minutes, but then 10 minutes later you look over and they are engrossed in their play. I know this is especially true for my older nephews (7 and 5). Thanks for all the inspiration/motivation!
Also, I can’t wait to play Gruffalo for my son. We love anything Julia Donaldson, thanks to my sister who also lives in England. I’ve added your recommendations to my lists 🙂 There is a podcast called Stories Podcast (http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/stories-podcast) that we have really enjoyed. They are short and sweet, though they are probably way too young for your boys.
I feel like such a fangirl writing to you!
This is such a lovely, genuine comment. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with me. I agree that it can be more challenging to keep an only child entertained, and many of my friends with one child admit to turning to TV for entertainment during the day. And like you said – if the TV is on, you know he’s not emptying the cabinets or drawing on the walls. I think, every once in a while, it’s okay to turn on a movie to offer him some downtime and you a bit of a break – I just think it gets complicated when it becomes a routine or when your children start to expect it or rely on it for their entertainment. But anyway, it sounds like you know all of this! 🙂
Thank you again for your sweet comment – and thanks for the recommendation for the Stories Podcast – I think someone else recently mentioned this to me, so we definitely have to check it out.
Thank you so much for sharing Courtney, I’m so exited, can’t wait to start listening to these with my daughter.
I’m keen to try out many of these titles, in fact, had just ordered some Donaldson. We get our audiobooks on cd from the public library, which is an easy, cheap option if you’re not traveling like Courtney. Our kids are 3 and 6: right now the huge hit is Judy Blume’s The Pain and the Great One, which is a series of books. So funny and not sugary, but not too adult for our 3-year-old; and filled with several stories per book, which makes the total listening time over an hour usually. I hadn’t realized that Blume wrote for the younger set, but she does and is brilliant. We’ve also liked Mog’s Christmas; all sorts of William Steig stories, like The One and Only Shrek, Brave Irene, The Amazing Bone. Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep as narrators are amazing. I would love to hear the Kate Winslet narrations; I’m a bit worried some Dahl will be a little too adult for our younger one. These are generally for car rides to school, swim lessons, etc.
Thanks Courtney. I’m determined to wean my 4 year old off TV (the withdrawals seem similar to coming off coffee for adults, oh boy! 😖). I’ve taken up the free trial and have downloaded Matilda. Thanks for opening the dialogue on no/limited to & screens & also introducing me to audible. Sarah x
Thank you for sharing your list of audiobooks!
our favorite audio books are:
all books in series “The Moomins” by Tove Jansson
also particular favorite is “Emil of Lönneberga” by Arstid Lindgren
and since recently Legends of Scandinavian, Greek and Slavic gids and goddesses by Nikolay Kun
Couldn’t find the Legends of Scandinavian, Greek and Slavic gods and goddesses by Nikolay Kun… is it in English? Could you post the link?
Hi Courtney, we are getting ready for a long road trip tomorrow so I wanted to reread your favorite audible books. I checked for the Enid Blyton books but only see two. Do you think there are differences between the sites and what they offer? I think I’m on the .com site from having a membership for years. Maybe I need .Uk? Any advice? I look forward to more of your favorites. Take care! Kate
A long road trip! How exciting! Where are you heading?
I do think there are differences between what’s available on the UK versus US sites. We have a UK membership and I know it’s different than a US one when it comes to certain titles.
Have a great time! x
Thank you for this post! It’s been very helpful for us. We are currently traveling in the desert, in Sedona, AZ. I saw that Michael is from Nevada. Do you guys have any book suggestions that would possibly be relevant to the desert or this area? Thank you! I LOVE your blog and instagram. It’s been a major source of inspiration and your tips have all been so helpful!
I’m glad to read such a wonderful blog review like this. Kids audiobook is an essential tool used for learning and entertainment. I must have these audiobooks for my nieces