Road trips are the best/worst/best right?
Taking our kids to see new places and visit old friends is awesome. But since teleportation is not yet a thing, we have to do the drives. And they can be LONG. With little kids, they feel LONGER.
We’ve always loved audio books. Unfortunately, each of our audio book formats has its problems. CDs and tapes from the library often have skips and scratches at the crucial point (and I’ve probably returned incomplete sets because one disc/tape was still in the stereo more often than not over the years). LibriVox is a great resource, but the narration and recording quality is uneven at best, and the material is … let’s go with dated. Not that that’s a problem, but sometimes we’re not in the mood for the classics. And Audible is expensive, as well as being unwilling to play with my Ubuntu system.
BUT this winter, we discovered RB Digital Audiobooks, which our library has a subscription to (link to our library’s page for it… but if you’re not in our area, ask your local library if they have something like it). It’s awesome. You browse the catalog, check out books, and download them to your smart phone. After 14 days, it vanishes–but if you check it back out, it remembers exactly where you were. So easy. One caveat–some of the books included are picture books. We checked out one called Big Al, which is the story of a fish…and it was literally five minutes long. So check the run time on them.
And as a stroke of luck, nearly every one we’ve listened to from this service has been a home-run. Here are our winners so far. I would say that all of these qualify as “fun for the whole family.” JC and I enjoyed them as much as the kids did. They do have adult books, too, but we have pretty much only used it for juvenile fiction so far.
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins. This adorable book about squirrels on an adventure to save a friend completely captivated Petra’s attention. It’s exactly the kind of book she loves best, the sort I call “fiction-ish,” meaning that what happens is pretend, but the facts about animal behavior are all real. In many ways, it reminded me of Charlotte’s Web (another family favorite, particularly in the audio version recorded by EB White himself). We followed a rollicking adventure from the animals’ perspective, but also learned many things about their habits and homes.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford. If there was ever a more perfect book for my family, I don’t know what it is. This mystery (but not like… a scary mystery) is set in an old hotel and the game is to figure out what all the mystery guests are doing there. It’s also sort of about D&D and China. Crazy. I will say, the last chapter takes a surprising and kind of dark turn, which I think Petra didn’t understand and Silas handled just fine–but it caught me off guard. I’d say Silas was on the young end of the range for this book. And there’s a sequel coming out in the fall! We can’t wait.
The Bamboo Sword by Margi Preus. We just finished this one and LOVED it. It’s the story of Commodore Perry’s encounter with Japan, told from the perspectives of his cabin boy and a Japanese servant boy. Such a brilliant piece of historical fiction, and wonderful examination of how two different cultures can view the same events through very different lenses. Highly recommend.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. This is sort of a cheat, because we listened to it on CD before we discovered RB, but I was delighted to find it on their catalog. This literary escape the room game features a bunch of middle school kids who will win fantastic prizes…if they can manage to solve the puzzles and escape from the library designed by gonzo gamer Mr. Lemoncello. This book also has a sequel, which I thought was not as good.