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To say we love books is an understatement. We borrowed over 500 books from the library this year.
Add the fact that our kids are (mostly) screen-free, we have plenty of opportunity to expose them to great books.
We are big fans of the Read Aloud Revival. Sarah has loads of great resources including book lists for all ages and stages of life. She shares amazing information on the value of reading aloud (and listening to audiobooks) with your kids! When I first discovered Read Aloud Revival, I was inspired to increase our daily read-aloud time; you can learn more about how we fit reading aloud & audiobooks into our life.
Of all the books we’ve listened to, we have some overwhelming favorites. And, coincidentally enough, they are all book series! Isn’t it wonderful when you fall in love with a book, only to discover there are more books in the series to love?
As with any online recommendation, please use your own judgement to determine what’s best for your family. Read parental reviews such as Common Sense Media, read book reviews on Amazon, or pre-read the books to determine appropriateness for your children.
Our very favorite read aloud / audiobook series are:
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Publisher’s description: The Penderwicks series skillfully uses a deliciously nostalgic tone to tell the story of four very modern sisters. Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.
Why we love it: We want to be best friends with the Penderwicks. In fact, we feel like we actually know them – their unique personalities, their quirks. When situations arise in our own life, my daughter will say, “That’s something Jane would say,” or, “she reminds me of Rosalind,” as if they are real people. They seem real to us, because we’ve watched them grow up, overcome challenges, solve problems, and grow into wonderfully unique young women.
I wasn’t sure if our sons would enjoy spending so much time with a family of four daughters, but they love The Penderwicks just as much as my own daughter.
We also loved Susan Denaker, the reader of this audiobook. She did a wonderful job staying true to each character over the entire series, yet still aging their voices. I can’t imagine hearing them any other way!
The Secret Zoo by Bryan Chick
Publisher’s description: Something strange is happening at the Clarksville City Zoo. Late at night, monkeys are scaling the walls and searching the neighborhood—but what are they looking for? Noah, his sister Megan, and their best friends, Richie and Ella, live next door to the zoo. Megan is the first to notice the puzzling behavior of some of the animals. One day Megan disappears, and her brother and their friends realize it’s up to them to find her. Their only choice is to follow a series of clues and sneak into the zoo. But once inside, will they discover there’s much more to the Clarksville City Zoo than they could ever have guessed?
Why we love it: This series is a real page turner (or whatever the audiobook equivalent is for turning pages). This story is one adventure after another. Filled with mystery and imagination, our kids did not want to turn it off!
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Publisher’s description: Four adventurous siblings—Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie—step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice.
Why we love it: Is there any reason to not love Narnia? This classic has been loved for generations for a reason! A mesmerizing story of a world filled with thrilling events and beautiful allegories. Even after listening to the series on audiobook, our daughter has enjoyed reading the series on her own.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Publisher’s description: When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear reader, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support. But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all?
Why we love it: We were hooked from the beginning! It starts off mysterious and is filled with clever tricks, codes, and clues. The characters are thoroughly unique and equally lovable in their quirky ways. They use their minds to thwart evil plans, and the books stay exciting without venturing into scariness.
Masterminds by Gordon Norman
Publisher’s description: Eli has never left Serenity…why would he ever want to? Then one day, he bikes to the edge of the city limits and something so crazy and unexpected happens, it changes everything. Eli convinces his friends to help him investigate further, and soon it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. The clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, connecting their ideal crime-free community to some of the greatest criminal masterminds ever known. The kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents.
My daughter read the entire book the next day. Wanting to know what all the buzz was about, my 8-year old son starting reading it. He read 180 pages in one day and finished it in three days.
They insisted we get the audiobook so my husband could listen to it during his commute. The day after he downloaded the audiobook, it snowed 18 inches. Yep, 18 inches in one day. We were cozied up at home, and what’s better than a good audiobook on a snowy day? We paired my husband’s phone to our Amazon Echo and listened to the entire book. SEVEN HOURS. In one day. I kept urging breaks, but my husband couldn’t stop. My kids (who had read the book) couldn’t stop. It’s just that good.
This audiobook is read by five alternating characters, which keeps the interest-level high!
Note: Some kids may find the idea of their parents having secret identities as scary, and the sequels do portray some law-breaking. Pre-read (or pre-listen) if you have any questions for your children.
OK, this isn’t a series, so it doesn’t quite fit the list, but I can’t talk about read-alouds without mentioning Kate DiCamillo.