When Holly was younger we considered the option of getting an in-car DVD system for long car journeys. We were torn on the issue: on the one hand, it would help alleviate boredom on terribly long drives, on the other we never had TVs in the car and managed (just about) to remain sane. Surely the travelling is part of the experience? There’s at least one famous quote from a famous writer on that but my tired, weekend brain can’t summon it.
Update – thanks mum! (Sam’s mum): ‘To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.’ Robert Louis Stevenson
Luckily, Holly solved this problem for us by declaring that she gets carsick (she doesn’t) and so doesn’t want to read or watch anything while in the car. This left us with the option of audiobooks and, equally luckily, there are some fantastic examples out there to amuse everyone. Though I must say I am glad Holly is a little older now to move beyond the extremely abridged Peter Pan audiobook she had that was over in ten minutes and which we must have listened to thousands of times.
In three weeks’ time we’re heading off to the Jura region in France, which will involve a lot of driving, so we’ve already started thinking about our listening choices. For those days when you spend most of the time in the car, it’s handy to have a longer story that you can keep tuning into, rather than a series of short ones that you flick between. I’ll let you know our final selection soon but Holly and I thought we would share our current top ten favourites in case they come in handy for you. There is something for children of all ages too! The last few lack Holly’s verdict – something I will add in a day or two (we ran out of time because bed beckoned!).
Top ten audiobooks (in no particular order of preference)
The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson, read by Ruth Jones
Holly’s verdict: This is an adventurous book and audiobook and is read clearly.
Sam’s verdict: Ruth Jones, best known from her Gavin and Stacey role, makes a great narrator, capturing the different voices well but not caricaturing them to the extent of detracting from the story. This is currently Holly’s favourite to listen to as a treat at bedtime and she’s always disappointed when we change it over to something less stimulating so she can go to sleep! It’s also a good listen for parents.
The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams, performed by David Walliams and Matt Lucas
Holly’s verdict: This is a story about being yourself and it is read in a very funny way.
Sam’s verdict: We all hoot with laughter when we listen to this audiobook – and any of the collaborations between Walliams and Lucas (check out Mr Stink too). Imagine a sanitised version of Little Britain and you’ve got the voices here on an audiobook the children can listen to with pleasure and parents can laugh along to with the crazy voices. However, it’s not just silliness: this story (in my opinion, Walliams’ best) does look at the problems children – and adults – face when they feel different to others. A great way to while away a few hours.
Winnie the Pooh, by AA Milne, read by Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Jane Horrocks and Michael Williams
Holly’s verdict: This seems like a babyish choice but it isn’t. It is not what you think at all – some adults still read it. I think it is read in a very funny sort of way.
Sam’s verdict: This is Holly’s number one comfort listen. She goes to sleep each night listening to it and I am sure that she can now recite it by heart. The performances are lovely on this CD and suit children of any age.
The Twins at St Clare’s, by Enid Blyton, dramatised version
Holly’s verdict: This is excellently told. It is very descriptive especially with food.
Sam’s verdict: There are a few dramatisations of Enid Blyton’s boarding school series and this is Holly’s favourite. It brings the writing to life more to have a dramatisation rather than a sole reading but I must admit that some of the speaking grates a little on me. Equally, having grown up with the ‘Mamzelles’ I found the casting on this to be totally strange – they sound like university students, not eccentric spinsters.
Image courtesy of jazams.com
Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers, read by Sophie Thompson
Holly’s verdict: Mary Poppins is funny and tells a nice story and is calming.
Sam’s verdict: We enjoyed listening to this on a 4-hour car journey but I must admit I just had trouble with some of the narration. Perhaps this is because I have Julie Andrews cemented so firmly in my head (from countless views of the film) that anyone else doesn’t live up to expectations. A great story though.
Image courtesy of hachettebookgroup.com
Mr Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater, read by Nick Sullivan
Holly’s verdict: An exciting story and funny too because all these babies come along. The narrator reads it in a funny way especially when he does the female voices.
Sam’s verdict: I downloaded this because I wondered if Holly might like the story … and she did! At first she seemed unsure but then she became enthralled and demanded to listen to the rest of it once we got home. The narration itself is rather peculiar, with a most bizarre drawl, but it suits the story no end. It’s very different from the film, which Holly also enjoyed, as it takes place much earlier than Carey’s noughties version.
Just William 10, by Richard Compton, read by Martin Jarvis – guardian/Observer giveaway
Holly’s verdict: I think personally that it is very funny because it’s about a really naughty boy and he likes going around and playing tricks on people. The narrator is hilarious.
Sam’s verdict: Martin Jarvis is a marvellous narrator and he brings the Just William stories to light excellently. We all love listening to them, and have moved on to the books from the CD, which is great as I doubt Holly would have considered picking them up otherwise.
Matilda, by Roald Dahl, fully dramatised (including performances by Rula Lenska and Christopher Timothy)
Holly’s verdict: To come…
Sam’s verdict: Holly loves this and I can see why. The casting is spot-on, particularly Rula Lenska as the dreadful Miss Trunchbull. We never tire of listening to this and I defy anyone not to laugh aloud, particularly at some of the punishments Matilda metes out to her parents.
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl, fully dramatised (including performances by Timothy West and James Saxon) – part of the Daily Telegraph giveaway
Holly’s verdict: to come
Sam’s verdict: I am not quite so familiar with this audiobook as it tends to be a bedtime choice more than one that comes out in the car. However, the story itself, as with all of Dahl, is energetic, if rather surreal, and there are some musical interludes which children can sing along to if so desired.
The Cat in the Hat and Other Stories, by Dr Seuss, read by Adrian Edmondson, Daily Telegraph giveaway
Holly’s verdict: to come
Sam’s verdict: We haven’t listened to this much in the car but who else to convey Dr Seuss’s zay writing than the superb Adrian Edmondson? This selection won’t take ages to listen to so is good for short car journeys or times when you just don’t want to listen to anything lengthy.
Over to you:
What audiobooks do you love to listen to? We’d be grateful of some recommendations before we make our next selection!