Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His dad just died, the share crops are dry, and Cap'n Buck - the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, South Carolina - has come to collect a debt. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal with Cap'n Buck and agrees to track down some thieves. It's not too bad of a bargain for Charlie...until he comes face to face with the fugitives and discovers that they escaped slavery years ago and have been living free in Detroit. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move - and soon.
One of my all-time favorites, Christopher Paul Curtis, can make me laugh and cry in the same sentence. Twelve-year-old Charlie, son of a white sharecropper, gets swindled into joining an evil plantation overseer on a journey to capture escaped slaves. Charlie is a product of his environment, yet bravely struggles to do right in the face of the evil he sees. Based on an actual incident, this story is sometimes brutal, but redemptive and even funny in a way that only Curtis can manage. It begs to be listened to so kids can hear Charlie’s dialect as it was meant to sound.
When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B. B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on. After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches.
Neil Patrick Harris’s first book is full of the usual Dickensian clichés so common in children’s books--a poor orphan and crooked, greedy adults trying to exploit him—but Harris makes it his own by adding legit magic tricks and endearing personal asides to the audience. The story is light and fun, and fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events will love it. But the best part is Harris’s narration. His charm and charisma come through in full force, making you feel like you are his best friend and he is telling the story just for you.
Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House, where 13-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler's lost haul. This exciting sequel to a beloved book is sure to thrill both fans and newcomers.
The sequel to the Edgar Award-winning Greenglass House picks up one year later, and now 13-year-old Milo has a new mystery to solve over winter break. What I love most about this series is the coziness of the house itself: stately and elegant, with hidden reading nooks by the fireplace, frost glistening in the woods outside, and an attic full of old treasures. Unlike so many child characters, Milo has loving and supportive parents to talk to and bring him hot chocolate, so even while he is struggling to puzzle together clues, he is always safe in the embrace of his family. It is possible to listen to this without knowing the first book, but it will reveal a major plot spoiler if you listen out of order.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is a 1902 children's book, written by L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book is the origin story of Santa Claus and persuasively explains how he began to deliver toys to children, why he arrives via chimney at night, and how he came to travel by a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
This story includes all the adventure and magic you would expect from L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: an enchanted forest ruled by the Master Woodsman of the World, a foundling baby adopted by wood nymphs, a war with dragons and giants, and of course, the toys, the reindeer, and the sleigh. This is the perfect audiobook to get the whole family in the Christmas spirit, but it’s especially wonderful for kids with questions about the whys and hows of Santa Claus.
With all of the pluck and charm of its eponymous young hero, Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Spotlight, Midnight in Paris) delivers a spectacular reading of Montgomery's beloved bildungsroman. In moments both funny and bittersweet, McAdams' voice is imbued with the spark that has made Anne a much-loved symbol of individualism and cheer for over a century.
I was an Anne of Green Gables groupie in the late 80s after the original CBC mini-series came out. A young bookish orphan with a fierce love of drama and endless spirit, Anne was the poster child for nerdy, slightly precocious girls everywhere and I WAS IN. I read all the books in the series, memorized Noyes' poem The Highwayman, and let my best friend know that she was my "bosom friend" (for the record she thought I was weird). So it was with the very best kind of nostalgia that I revisited my favorite childhood book with the Canadian Rachel McAdams providing the perfect happy, nuanced, and lovely voice for the tale. I know what my family will be listening to on our six-hour drive south for Thanksgiving.
Arianwyn has flunked her witch's assessment. She knows she's doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, Arianwyn may never become a real witch like everyone else - much to the glee of her archrival, Gimma. But the remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are being sighted in the woods, and a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town. Then the worst thing Arianwyn can imagine arrives in Lull: Gimma turns up on vacation determined to make her life miserable.
I spent my childhood looking for a closet to enter into another world the way kids now hope for Hogwarts letters. So I love kids like Arianwyn Gribble, an apprentice witch who fails her witch’s examination. Wyn’s grandmother uses her influence to get the disgraced girl a position in the remote outpost of Lull, where everything goes wrong for poor Wyn, even her spells against harmless snotlings. But Wyn faces a tougher trial when dark magic enters Lull. Even non-fantasy fans will enjoy the themes of friendship, bullying, and self-esteem, and magical types will eat this up as Wyn proves her worth as the town witch.
Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Girl with a Pearl Earring) brings a palpable sense of joy and exuberance to her performance of Lewis Carroll's enduring classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The young and imaginative Alice grows weary of her storybook, one "without pictures or conversations", and follows a hasty hare underground - to come face to face with a host of strange and fantastic characters.
I've loved Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. As a child I adored the magic, the adventure, and the kooky characters. As an adult, I grew to love Carroll's imagery, symbolism (perhaps unintentional), and his ability to turn what seems like nonsense into an enduring children's tale. No matter how many times I've read this story and watched the movies, I feel like I can always return to the familiar and colorful place that is Wonderland. Scarlett Johansson brings such incredible depth and wonderment to this timeless tale, that this just may be my new favorite interpretation. Did I mention that her sister, veteran narrator Vanessa Johansson directed this performance? I guess talent runs in the family.