Sometimes I wonder what really good children’s books did I miss out on when I was a kid? My parents are immigrants, and English was our second language, so I was pretty much left to my own devices when it came to choosing reading material.
I luckily stumbled onto some wonderful books (like these ones and these ones), that I still love, but sadly, I completely missed British author Enid Blyton. Until now.
The Faraway Tree collection is a lovely series about siblings who discover different magical lands by way of an enchanted forest.
You know you can’t go wrong when the audiobooks are narrated by Kate Winslet!
I had not previously read this novel by Tony DiTerlizzi, about a bookish young rabbit named Kenny and his new friend, a reluctant dragon named Grahame (in case it’s not obvious, it’s a riff off the classic The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame). The story is pretty cute, and my fantasy-loving kid enjoyed it.
But seeing that it was narrated by Scottish actor Alan Cumming is what sealed the deal for me. I distinctly remember him as the wonderful narrator of the 1994 movie version of Black Beauty. So we were definitely going to listen to this story next! We were not disappointed by his fabulous performance.
If you enjoyed My Father’s Dragon, this would be a great follow-up.
Last weekend, it was raining, the kids were sick, and we all just stayed home. For a treat (and a break for me), I put on one of my favourite childhood movies, Disney’s Mary Poppins, and did they ever love it!
It dawned on me that the movie was based on a series of six books by P. L. Travers, and so of course I had to seek out the audiobooks. We’ve been listening to just the first book, narrated by Sophie Thompson, and it’s really different from the movie! First off, Jane and Michael have twin siblings, who were obviously cut from the film. And they have all sorts of different magical adventures with the titular nanny.
While they are missing the fun songs and Julie Andrews, the books are terrific in their own whimsical way, and if I could have a do-over, I would recommending checking out the books before the movie. (This is usually the case with movie adaptations!)
A Dog’s Purpose is a best-selling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, and was made into a movie earlier this year. No, I haven’t seen it. But it’s about a lovable dog who gets reincarnated as different canines over the course of several decades, and touches the hearts of many people along the way.
A couple of those “lives” have been adapted into stand-alone stories for younger readers, and those are the ones we listened to. As an avid Paw Patrol fan, my daughter especially liked the story of Ellie, the search and rescue German shepherd.
There is a sequel to the main book, called A Dog’s Journey, and it features another special dog named Molly. Overall, it’s a wonderful little series if you’re an animal lover!
Halloween is almost here, so thought I’d share this lightly spooky series by Angie Sage.
Despite the titles, these books are not actually that scary! They are moderately entertaining adventures about a precocious, rather sarcastic girl named Araminta, who happens to live in a haunted house.
There are four titles available as audiobooks, and several more books that haven’t been recorded.
My 5 year old really likes them, and asks for them over and over. I thought they were… okay. Narrator Katherine Kellgren definitely made listening much more enjoyable! (We also love her in other works.)
Another sweet, funny, British classic. My daughter loved Winnie the Pooh, so it was no surprise when I introduced Paddington that she would love him too. These silly bears are always getting into trouble!
Lots of books in the series by Michael Bond:
Fabulous narrators include British actors Stephen Fry, Hugh Bonneville, and Jim Broadbent.
(I have to say, Stephen Fry’s narration is really softening me up to his version of Harry Potter. Right now I’m still in the Jim Dale narrator camp, but can be persuaded…)
Despite its popularity, this was not a series that I grew up with, and so I’m reading/listening to it for the first time along with my 5 year old daughter. Whenever people give audiobook recommendations, Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the semi-autobiographical series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is always a top suggestion. So I felt like we had to try it.
There are nine books in the series. We haven’t gone through them all yet, but they are:
I can definitely see why they are so beloved. My daughter was fascinated by how Laura and her homesteading family made their own butter and cheese, hunted, and collected honey from a beehive. Laura’s life as a pioneer girl is just so interesting and beautifully described. As for the audiobook, narrator Cherry Jones‘s voice has the perfect twang, and overall it’s a wonderful production.
Why I hesitated for long to read this series was because of the overt racism toward First Nations people, especially in the subsequent books.
I needed time to commit and prepare, time to listen with my daughter and pause the story as needed, and time to have some frank discussions with her. I still wrestle with what to say, and I know it won’t be the last time we have to talk about a problematic classic, but hopefully we can still use these books for some teachable moments.