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The Best Audiobooks of 2017 for Kids and Families

We are delighted to share highlights from our Children and Family Best of the Year list with Brightly readers! Audiobooks have the power to bring stories of children to life, which can inspire listeners to try new things, go on adventures, develop courage and confidence, and learn to be empathetic members of their community. Which is quite impressive, if you ask us! This year’s top audiobooks range from a whole-family, dance-worthy autobiography to an out-of-this-world adventure, and everything in between. You’ll find something for every child to love in this list, and for even more fantastic audiobooks, hop on over to AudioFile Magazine for the full list of favorites.

  • Trombone Shorty

    by Troy Andrews, read by Dion Graham

    Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews picked up his first trombone when he was four and hasn’t stopped playing since! His autobiography is delightful, with Dion Graham’s dynamic narration and Andrews’s lively music combining into a “musical gumbo” that will have your whole family dancing along. Combined with the picture book’s beautiful illustrations, the narration brings the vibrant New Orleans neighborhoods to life.
    (Ages 4 - 8)

    Listen to a clip:

  • I’m New Here

    by Anne Sibley O’Brien, read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon de Ocampo, and Ruth Livier

    Fatima, Maria, and Jin are all new students, each with their own challenges in adjusting to their new school where the language and classrooms are strange and they feel alone. The trio of narrators brings the kids’ joy to life as their confidence grows, each making friends and finding that they are welcome in their classroom and their community. Your kids may connect with the nervousness of being a newcomer, or the rewards of helping welcome others, and it is a beautiful book and recording to listen to time and again.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

    Listen to a clip:

    Hear from the narrator

  • Freedom Over Me

    by Ashley Bryan, read by Patricia R. Floyd, Kevin R. Free, and Jenny Sterlin

    Ashley Bryan based this collection of stories on historical documents from an 1828 estate appraisal, which included records of 11 enslaved men, women, and children. Patricia R. Floyd and Kevin R. Free read the emotional passages from the point of view of the slaves, with notations read by Jenny Sterlin in the voice of the haughty plantation owner. The audiobook and picture book paired together make for an intense reading experience and highlight the importance of understanding history from the points of view of those not often heard. These stories are essential reading for families studying the history and impact of American slavery together.
    (Ages 6 - 10)

    Listen to a clip:

  • The War I Finally Won

    by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle

    In The War That Saved My Life, Ada survived living with a clubfoot and her mother’s cruelty, along with the evacuation of London at the start of WWII. This sequel finds Ada in the countryside healing after a surgery to mend her clubfoot, and highlights her emotional growth as she learns to trust. Jayne Entwistle eloquently narrates Ada’s journey as she discovers courage and compassion for others who are also suffering from fear and anxiety caused by living during a world war.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Listen to a clip:

  • Hello, Universe

    by Erin Entrada Kelly, read by Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera

    Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera bring the story of four middle schoolers and their courage and friendship to life. The story is centered on shy Virgil, a Filipino-American boy who is trying to work up the nerve to talk to Valencia, a confident, deaf classmate; we also hear from Chet, a neighborhood bully who torments Virgil and Kaori, Virgil’s best friend and a budding psychic. Perspective shifts between the four characters as they are brought together on one fateful summer day that leaves Virgil discovering he can be the hero of his own story.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Listen to a clip:

    Hear from the narrator

  • The Ethan I Was Before

    by Ali Standish, read by Kirby Heyborne

    Narrator Kirby Heyborne inhabits the character of 12-year-old Ethan, who has moved with his family from Boston to Pine Knot, Georgia, where his grandfather lives. As the story unfolds we learn that Ethan’s family hasn’t moved only to be closer to his grandfather, but also because of the “incident,” when Ethan dared his best friend to climb a tree and she fell, and now is in a coma. Ethan explores his town with a new friend, Coralee, and with her help, finds his way back to the Ethan he was before.
    (Ages 8 - 12)

    Listen to a clip:

    Hear from the narrator

  • Writing Radar

    by Jack Gantos, read by Jack Gantos

    Jack Gantos reads his writer’s guide for kids with conspiratorial enthusiasm — the secret to writing great stories is to be a good listener, he says, and turning all of the interesting things around you into fodder for your stories. This nonfiction guide is funny, with Gantos acting as a supportive, inspiring, and confiding teacher whose passion for writing and journaling is infectious. His audiobook, paired with a new journal, will encourage any budding young writer.
    (Ages 9 - 12)

    Listen to a clip:

  • The Ship of the Dead

    by Rick Riordan, read by Michael Crouch

    The third book in the Magnus Chase series from Rick Riordan is full of adventure, Norse gods, giants, and plenty to laugh about. Michael Crouch gives distinct voices to the diverse cast of characters, even Magnus’s talking sword! This Stonewall Award-winning series includes the genderfluid hero Alex, along with black, white, deaf, Muslim, homeless, and formerly homeless characters that listeners can identify with and learn from — all while they get caught up in the thrilling adventure to prevent Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world.
    (Ages 10 - 14)

    Listen to a clip:

  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

    by Pablo Cartaya, read by Pablo Cartaya

    Pablo Cartaya reads his lively and lyrical book with humor and poignancy to create a story of courage, family, food, and community. Thirteen-year-old Arturo and his Cuban-American family have to fight to protect their restaurant and their Miami neighborhood from greedy land developers — and Arturo is also dealing with new, awkward feelings and worries when he discovers a crush on a friend visiting from Spain. Listeners will be swept up in Arturo’s story while also learning the importance of family and community.
    (Ages 10 - 14)

    Listen to a clip:

See more favorite audiobooks of the year over at AudioFile Magazine.

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