5 Spot: Middle-grade fantasy audiobooks to enjoy with your kids
FARGO--I love audiobooks. They make boring tasks like cleaning or driving for long periods of time a lot more interesting. The problem, however, is I can't always listen to audiobooks with my kids around. Even young adult novels might contain som...
FARGO-I love audiobooks. They make boring tasks like cleaning or driving for long periods of time a lot more interesting.
The problem, however, is I can't always listen to audiobooks with my kids around. Even young adult novels might contain some words or situations I don't want my preschooler and preteen hearing.
But I've listened to a few children's book series over the past couple of years that have captivated both me and my kids. Not only are the books a good way to pass long car rides together, but listening to them together before bedtime can also be a great bonding activity.
Audiobooks can be expensive, but I borrow most of the ones I listen to from the Fargo Public Library.
Here are five fantasy audiobook series (besides "Harry Potter" and "The Chronicles of Narnia") you and your kids can enjoy together.
'The Land of Stories'
We're currently listening to book two in "The Land of Stories" series by Chris Colfer (the actor who played Kurt Hummel on "Glee.")
We listened to the first book in the series, "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell," almost two years ago on a road trip to Chicago and while I wouldn't say the time in the car flew by, the book definitely made it more enjoyable.
The books are an interesting take on classic fairy tales as they follow the adventures of adolescent twins Alex and Connor Bailey, who find out not only that fairy tales are real and not quite the stories they'd been told but also that their family is inextricably entwined in the magic.
Colfer reads the books, and while his narration can at times be hurried, he does a great job differentiating the characters' voices.
The books are recommended for children ages 8 to 12 years old, but I enjoy them as much as my kids, who are ages 4 and 11.
We bought the first "Spirit Animals" book for our daughter at a book fair because it seemed interesting and she loves both animals and video games. There's an online game built around the books.
She loved the book so much that I started reading and listening to them.
The stories revolve around four adolescents whose bonds with great spirit animals give them incredible powers and the responsibility of combating a dark force from the world of Erdas' past. The books deal a lot with the theme of self-sacrifice for the greater good.
There are several books, written by various authors, in the series. They are recommended for ages 8 to 12. There are a lot of battle scenes in the books, but they did not seem too scary for my 4-year-old, and whenever he had questions or concerns, we would stop and talk about it.
The narrator, Nicola Barber, does a phenomenal job voicing so many different characters.
'The Unicorn Chronicles'
"The Unicorn Chronicles," by Bruce Coville, is a series of four novels and two short stories that tell the story of a young girl who jumps off a church roof and into a world inhabited by unicorns and other fantasy creatures.
She befriends several of the creatures and fights with them to prevent the destruction of all unicorns. Along the way, she learns new truths about herself and her family.
The books are recommended for ages 8 to 12 years. Some of the battle scenes in this series can be a bit graphic for younger kids, but the stories are fast-paced and interesting. They explore the bonds of friendship as well as overcoming differences and what can make a person turn evil.
The books are narrated by the author and performed by a full cast of actors, which make it feel like a theatrical production.
I read and listened to the "Underland Chronicles" series by Suzanne Collins after reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, which she also wrote.
My kids didn't really listen to this one with me, but it is one I'm willing to listen to again so I can share it with them.
In "Underland Chronicles," 11-year-old Gregor follows his 2-year-old sister through a grate in a New York apartment building laundry room. They find themselves in a dark Underland filled with giant bats, cockroaches and rats, and they are pulled into a battle between the humans and some of the creatures that live there.
The books are action-packed, emotionally gripping and funny. But the stories do take place during a war. So there is death and it can be rather violent, but no more so than the books in the Harry Potter series.
(Mild spoiler) I was disappointed with the ending of this series. The rest of the series was crafted so well, but finishing it left me feeling discontented. Some reviewers say it's more realistic than most young adult books, but I don't read young adult or middle grade fantasy novels for their realism.
The books are recommended for children ages 8 to 12. Because of the ending and violence, I will probably hold off a bit before reading or listening to this with my son.
'Guardians of Ga'hoole'
For the last audio book suggestion, I turned to my friend Sarah Nelson, who works as a children's, teen and reference librarian for the Fargo Public Library.
Nelson recommends the middle grade animal adventure series "Guardians of Ga'hoole" by Kathryn Lasky. It centers around a young owl named Soren separated from his family and sent to the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, which turns out to be a dangerous place.
"The series is a good mix of action, suspense and fantasy legends," she said. "Older listeners will pick up on some deeper themes. It even meets the needs of nonfiction fans with its attention to owl behavior and traits."
The books are recommended for ages 9 and up. Fargo Public Library has the series available on e-audiobook, Nelson said.
There is also a Guardians of Ga'Hoole computer game at www.scholastic.com .