Inside: Five Great Audio Book Classics for Families
Audio book narrators have a tough job. They have to communicate the words of a story in a vibrant way without going over-the-top with character voices. They attempt to engage listeners with the right amount of enunciation but in an unobtrusive way.
Honestly, when you consider the nuance involved, it’s a wonder there are so many good ones.
While audio books aren’t a one-for-one substitute for reading aloud to your children, really great ones can create a memorable experience for a family. The same might be said for really dreadful ones, too, but we’ll stick with recommending ones worth your time. Time to pull out the puzzles (or whatever other read aloud activities your family loves).
If we gave out audio book awards, these five versions of classic books would all win blue ribbons for their stand-out performances.
1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (narrated by Michael York)
My oldest started listening to this at bedtime when he was still sleeping in a crib. It’s never too early to begin developing vocabulary and excellent taste in literature. There may be other audio versions of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but this Michael York version is so incredibly well done that I can’t imagine listening to another one.
Each Chronicles of Narnia book in this audio book series is narrated by a different actor, and they are all unique and wonderful in their own way. I highly recommend all of them but must kindly insist you begin the series with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Never with The Magician’s Nephew. It’s always Lucy through the wardrobe first. Always.
A simple game of hide-and-seek turns into a thrilling and dangerous adventure for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Through the wardrobe they enter the mystical land of Narnia, where only the Great Lion, Aslan, can conquer the dark magic of the White witch and restore beauty and peace to the land.More info →
2. Peter Pan (narrated by Jim Dale)
Sometimes you find a wonderful audio book, and sometimes you find an audio book narrator that’s so good you’ll buy any audio book just because their name is on it. That’s Jim Dale for me. Hearing his familiar voice instantly makes me want to curl up with a cozy blanket and a cup of tea to relax. It’s like listening to an old friend.
To be honest, I’ve always found Peter Pan to be an odd, quirky book, but Jim Dale makes it come alive in a fun way.
3. Mary Poppins (narrated by Sophie Thompson)
I first heard of actress Sophie Thompson in the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version of the novel Emma. When I listen to her voice in this audio version of Mary Poppins, I can’t help but help but picture sweet Miss Bates from that movie. However, her narration of Mary Poppins is much more composed although similarly genial.
Something about her voice for the character of Mary Poppins has a touch of Julie Andrews to it, which warms me to this audio book even more.
4. Anne of Green Gables (narrated by Rachel McAdams)
Rachel McAdams’ audio version of Anne of Green Gables conveys that sweet, spirited eagerness of the beloved main character. The youthfulness of her voice and style won me over after a chapter or two of listening. It might not be the Anne in my mind when I read the book, but it’s a very good one.
Hearing Rachel McAdams read the familiar words of the story in an unfamiliar way made them feel somewhat new to me, which I never thought possible with Anne of Green Gables. My family turns on this audio book whenever we need a dose of our favorite kindred spirit.
With all of the pluck and charm of its eponymous young hero, Rachel McAdams delivers a spectacular reading of Montgomery's beloved Anne of Green Gables. In moments both funny and bittersweet, McAdams' voice is imbued with the spark that has made Anne a much-loved symbol of individualism and cheer for over a century.More info →
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (narrated by Scarlett Johansson)
My kids and I chose Scarlett Johansson’s audio version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on a whim one day when driving out of town. It exceeded our expectations to the point that we forgot how long we were driving, paused it when we arrived, and turned it back on in the hotel room. Her voices are riveting and so much fun to hear.
Scarlett Johansson brings a palpable sense of joy and exuberance to her performance of Lewis Carroll's enduring classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. From the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat and Queen of Hearts, she imbues each madcap character with a distinct voice and personality that will leave a lasting impression long after the adventure is over.More info →
Let’s Hear From You
Have you listened to any of these audio books? Do you have a different favorite version of one of them?
Are there any other classic audio books your family loves? Tell us in the comments below!
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