Ten of the Best Audiobooks for Children

Some adults worry that audiobooks are a cheat, and that a child who listens rather than reads is somehow not developing the right skills. But the love of story is the most important thing to impart in the making of readers. In my experience, says Nicolette Jones, the listener often goes on to enjoy the same book in physical form. Audiobooks, like reading aloud, give children a way in to stories and make the deciphering of text (particularly of classics) easier and more enticing, enabling them to ‘hear’ the words in their head and

The Ruby in the Smoke

Philip Pullman, read by Anton Lesser (Audible) 11+

The reader whose voice, more than any other, makes me feel instantly like snuggling down in my duvet and letting myself drift away on a story (even if I am driving a car) is Anton Lesser. This rendition of Pullman’ spoof Victorian thriller is an extraordinary demonstration of Lesser’s capacity to convey

atmosphere and characters. He understands the tone of the narrative perfectly, and sounds like a whole cast, including the female voices. He does menace so your spine shivers, not least in the malevolent Mrs Holland who wears her late husband’s false teeth (‘plenty of wear in them yet’). Sally Lockhart’s dangerous adventures are often chilling but we will happily accompany Lesser anywhere, even into the opium

How to Train Your Dragon series

Cressida Cowell, read by David Tennant (Hodder) 7-11 Securing David

Tennant as

the reader of the How to Train Your Dragon series was a coup that preceded his celebrity as Doctor Who. He has


stayed with the audio series for all twelve books, bringing his rich Scottish voice and exemplary comic timing to this increasingly profound and complex sequence about Vikings and dragons and

the hazardous upbringing of inadequate Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III that makes him into chieftain material. Tennant can do equally well the voices of brawny warriors (Stoick the Vast), weedy boys (Fishlegs) and, unmissably, to break your heart, the demanding little dragon Toothless.

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grasp the voices in dialogue. The capacity to listen and follow is also a crucial skill, and great preparation for the classroom and the lecture theatre. Never discourage a listener. All readers, reluctant and otherwise, can increase their appetite for literature through audio. And listening together, in the car for instance, is a much richer experience than leaving a child alone with isolating headphones. This list of favourites demonstrates too what a great actor can add to a story, making of it a whole new entertainment.


A A Milne read by Bernard Cribbins (Bolinda audio) 6+

Alan Bennett is famously one of the great readers of Winnie- the-Pooh, but this version by Bernard Cribbins should not be forgotten (though check the format for compatibility). It is a joyous and beautiful thing. If you want to know what Pooh, Tigger,

Piglet, Kanga, Eeyore, Roo, Wol,

Rabbit and Christopher Robin really sound like, banish those

terrible Disney voices from your head and listen to Cribbins imparting the memorable, touching, laugh-out-loud truth. .

Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

Roald Dahl, read by Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig and Miriam Margoyles (Puffin) 5-7

This compilation, with

squelchy noises, puts together Dahl’s twisty, no-holds-barred, rhyming rewritings of well- known fairy tales, and his menagerie of eccentric animals (such as the toad who jumps to France), and finds three

glorious readers in Mangan, Greig and Margoyles, who understand as well as anyone how to deliver comedy. This will entertain adults as much as children, and make constant repetition endurable.

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