Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early chapter books - the audio versions

Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 recently posted about the lack of great early chapter books. To quote, the quality chapter book is
 Rarer than quality board books. More elusive than good picture books for older readers. The goal, the gem, the one kind of book all children’s librarians seek but know are so difficult to find . . . . the really well written early chapter book.
I agree, and would like to add that rarer still is the great audio version of an early chapter book.

Perhaps there are focus groups of giggling seven and eight-year-olds that choose the character voices for kids' audiobooks, and it's only my older ears that are affronted; but I find the vocal adaptations in most of the short chapter audiobooks to be overstated, over-the-top, exaggerated.  Maybe I just don't watch enough cartoons these days to appreciate the style, but the audio characterizations are more caricature than reality.  Is that what children like in an audiobook?  I don't know, but I'd love to hear other opinions.

In the meantime, here are a few excerpts and comments about audiobook titles that I've recently downloaded.

McDonald, Megan. 2010. Stink: Solar System Superhero. Read by Nancy Cartwright. Listening Library

Most recently, I listened to Stink: Solar System Superhero, in which Stink is distressed that Pluto has been downsized to a dwarf planet and, with the help of his classmates, organizes a campaign to reinstate Pluto into the solar system. The voice for this book is none other than Nancy Cartwright, famous voice of Bart Simpson!  Cartwright does a great job of creating individual voices for the many characters in the book. Understandably, however, they all sound like cartoon characters - particularly the teacher - imagine a long face, pinched nose, and pursed lips and you'll have the voice.  Kids will probably like this one, though, and may even recognize the famous voice.

Gifford, Peggy. 2009. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing Piano: But She Does Love Being in Recitals. Read by Clea Lewis. Listening Library.

Truthfully, I couldn't finish this one.  I think I'll have to try the printed version.

Feiffer, Kate. 2009. The Problem with the Puddles. Read by Halley Feiffer. Listening Library.

This is a title  I reviewed last year, but I enjoyed the quirky premise. Halley Feiffer's drier style of delivery suited the story, which is madcap enough on its own!

If you have a suggestion for a great early chapter audiobook, I'm all ears!

Finally, oops! My apologies. Today is the first time that I accidentally published a post before it was finished (actually it was barely started!)  I deleted the post and apologize in advance if you receive a blank email or corrupted RSS feed.


  1. I once bought a Magic Treehouse audiobook for my kids to listen to in the car. It was the most boring thing I had ever heard! Too bad I didn't save it for future insomnia attacks. The good thing is that kids can listen to stories more complicated than they are able to read at an early age...

  2. kids used to love listening to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories at a very early age. The most excellent narrator was Peter Dennis, who passed away last year. You can hear Peter Dennis reading from Pooh at

  3. Live Oak Media has several well done productions of first chapter books.

  4. I just listened to Clementine done by Recorded Books and it was excellent!

    Neil Patrick Harris does all the Henry Huggins books and does a phenomenal job. We hipped through those in my house with both my boys totally engaged.

  5. Thanks, Laurina and Jana for your suggestions. I'll be sure to check them out. Narration makes such a difference!