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Best audiobooks for kids

If you're going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, audiobooks are a great way to keep the kids from whining, "Are we there yet?" But today's audiobooks do a lot more than foster family harmony in the form of group diversion when you're stuck in holiday traffic. Here are 11 picks for youngsters through young adults.

By Chris Colin

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Bird Songs

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song
Edited by Les Beletsky
Narrated by the birds themselves
Ages 2 to adult, $50

An auditory field guide to birds of the United States and Canada, this book will delight toddlers, preschoolers, and beginning readers, although it's marketed to adults. It's packed with authentic hoots, tweets, honks, and chirps. The youngest budding birders will need help from a parent or caregiver to punch in the numbers next to birds they'd like to hear, such as the horned grebe and the barred owl. Songs and calls are drawn from the authoritative recordings of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The bottom line: A sweet sonic field guide for birders of all ages.

Chris Colin is the author of What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and writes the "On the Job" column for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as stories for the New York Times, Mother Jones, McSweeney’s Quarterly, and GOOD magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Comments from readers

"Whatever else you listen to with your children, don't miss the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They are narrated by Cherry Jones who takes the author's simple sentences and turns them into poetry. I often read for action and having to listen to the text being read to me makes a book that that I have read, even repeatedly (as I have the Little House books) sound like a new story. I also really loved Esperanza Rising. The narrator's pronunciation of Spanish names was so beautiful, I had no idea that 'Miquel' was such a nice word. My sons are 7 and 10 and they encouraged me to keep going with this one. I was going to pull it because of the violence in the beginning of the book. I am glad we listened to the whole thing. "
"I LOVE that you are encouraging children and their families to enjoy audiobooks together. My family is crazy about them. We particularly enjoy the Magic Treehouse series and Junie B. Jones. We do lots of long distance road travel and we all enjoy the stories together. Of course it doesn't hurt that I am a professional audiobook narrator, now does it???"
"this list is great but as a big audio book listener with my kids, you missed out some of the classics: Narnia (get the multi-actor one), Secret Garden, Black Beauty, The Goose Girl, the Little Princess. Listening to these books there were times my daughters did not want the drive to end."
"My family loves the HP series on CD! We have listened to them over and over and over, practically memorized them. You forget it's one man doing all the voices. Jim Dale is Excellent!!"