Series – The Faraway Tree

ft2Sometimes 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!

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Series – Mary Poppins

  
  

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!)

Series – Little House on the Prairie

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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.

Book – Pippi Longstocking

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I have really fond memories of this book, about a fabulously strong, kind and completely unconventional girl and her two next-door neighbour friends. My 5 year old laughed along too!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren is just about as absurd and fun as I remember it. Definitely a classic worth listening to.

Narrator Christina Moore is actually a bit no-nonsense sounding, but somehow it works well for this book.

Series – The 39 Clues

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So I’m actually embarrassed by how much I was entertained by this collaborative adventure series (speaking as a grown adult, and not because I enjoyed this as a child like some of the other children’s books I’ve reviewed).

Rated for age 9+ and definitely not for young kids as there’s violence, murder, and mean language. But despite having a completely unrealistic story line and unnecessary merchandising, the series was quite thrilling and fun.

The plot centers on two orphaned siblings, Amy and Dan, who are a part of the Cahill family, the most influential family in the world! *insert eye roll* However this leads to lots of incidental learning about historical figures and different countries.

Amy and Dan must compete with their extended family members to gather the 39 clues in order to solve an ancient family mystery.

The series is written by a number of different authors, such as Rick Riordan, and is narrated by David Pittu, who does a nice job. Check this out at your library if you’re looking for not too serious, popcorn-y entertainment.

 

Series – Flat Stanley

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Young Stanley Lambchop was hit by a falling bulletin board and is now as flat as a pancake. But being half an inch thick has advantages, like the ability to be mailed all over the world! Readers can travel with him and his brother Arthur, in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures.

My daughter loved the original whimsical picture book by Jeff Brown. This particular series was written after his death by a number of different authors, including Sara Pennypacker (who we know and love from the Clementine series)! My daughter devoured it all the same.

Series – Magic Tree House

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There are so far over fifty books in this long but popular historical fantasy series about siblings Jack and Annie, and their time/space travels via the magic tree house. Readers/listeners get to follow their quests, and learn about different historical eras in locations around the world!

The audio series is narrated by the author Mary Pope Osborne, who is not my favourite narrator unfortunately as her performances are a little dry, but the material is great. You can give it a try through your library.