Thursday, August 16, 2012

Around the Campfire

A great audiobook makes a car ride go from “Are we there yet?” to “I hope we drive long enough to finish this.” If you have a long drive planned before Labor Day, you will want On the Day I Died by Candace Fleming, read by a full cast, with you to make the hours sail by.

The 10 stories, threaded together by the main character, Mike Kowalski, a high school junior who’s drawn to a cemetery by a mysterious passenger he picks up late one night, will keep the whole family enthralled. The voices create the feeling of sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories (which, actually, they are—though without the campfire).

The mix of boy and girl narrators will hold the attention of both brothers and sisters, and the stories roots in folklore and history make them interesting for Mom and Dad, aunts, uncles and grandparents, too. There’s plenty of humor mixed in with the haunting, too. It’s a nice change from everyone watching his or her individual DVDs, to have a common listening and literature experience.

Listening is an underrated skill. We’re all accustomed to so many distractions—iTunes, cell phone rings, text messages—that it’s nice to sit back and let the words of a spellbinding story wash over you. If you like that one, try Jack Gantos reading his Newbery-winning Dead End in Norvelt. That’s another great one for the entire family, set in the actual town of Norvelt, Penn., created as a model community during the Roosevelt years (and named for Eleanor Roosevelt – Nor-velt) when the coal mines closed during the Great Depression. Young Jack’s caught between a mother who loves the it-takes-a-village motto of the town, and a father who sees it as a dead end.

And of course, perhaps the greatest listening experience in recent history is the Harry Potter audiobooks, read by Jim Dale. You can start at the beginning and go through all seven titles and have enough for a cross-country road trip. So here’s to traveling in style over the miles.

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