Sunday, June 14, 2015

Family Audio books - With an On-Going List of Recommendations!

  • How we select audio books
  • When we listen to them
  • Why we listen to them
  • Where we've purchased them from
  • Our current library titles - which I will be updating periodically as I find new books!  *smile*
  • How we store library books, individually & collectively
Are you setting out this summer on any adventures that involve long car rides or air plane travel? Have no fear for occupying children's time! And for great listening together as a family, laughing together, learning together - enjoying listening to a book together.  In our opinion this is such an excellent occupation of travel time, home time, or a gift idea for any occasion, so I thought I would share a list of audio book ideas with you in case you are desiring some for your own family.  

HOW we select audio books

We have put out a great deal of effort to acquire the audio book library that we now have, selecting every book carefully.  We have searched for books that are of the highest quality in every way:  plot, theme, creativity, culture, history, dramatization, both fictional and non-fictional, and which are always family friendly for all ages.  Books that are educational in some way, and which help us grow.  We have books on survival, relationships, coming of age, historical events, varieties of time periods, and fantasy (in moderation).

We do not choose too much fantasy, however, because it has a few drawbacks.  Fantasy can guide people's thinking in to believing that life should be magical - which can develop unrealistic expectations.  This can lead to avoidable disappointment in the long run when children find that life doesn't magically turn out the way they think it should; and they don't have the self-power they desire (rather than Christ's strength).  Also, it can seriously deter children (and adults for that matter) from reading scripture when they are used to the vividness of fantasy.  Real life cannot compare to fantasy.  If our children start saying that they do not want to listen to or read the Bible because the Bible seems boring in comparison, then we will be removing the fantasy from our listening library (or book shelf).  Scripture is beautiful, rich, adventurous, morally educational, and crucial for our lives.  We do not want to ever deter our selves from reading it.

We're also very guarded about not reading or listening to magic or sorcery.  We personally do not choose evil as entertainment.  Not that most stories stories don't have protagonists which are not good, but that is not the same as witchcraft.  Witchcraft is a real tool of the enemy of our souls, and not a joke.  So we do not own anything or listen to stories involving it.  There is plenty of great material available without compromising morally.  *smile*

All of the audio books we have purchased have been first previewed either in print or in audio format.  Our local library is an excellent resource of audio books which we check out regularly, and we have purchased our favorite titles having checked them out from the library first several times.  Many of the audio books have listening samples, too, allowing you to hear the voice of the narrator and the quality of the production prior to purchasing.  But I never purchase an audio book that we have not either read or heard the entirety of in advance.  We cannot afford to waste money on poor choices or mediocrity, and we do not have room to store audio books that are not really excellent and which will not be listened to often.

The audio books that we choose for our family are always chapter books.  Very young children's books, such as Curious George, Blue Berries for Sal, or Madeline, are fine within themselves, but they do not grow our children's minds.  This is important to us.  They do not grow children's vocabulary, ability to follow a complex plot, they do not have complex sentences and paragraphs.  We used to own these types of stories on cassette tape when our first two were very young, until I learned that these are really not quality literature for children.  Since then as the tapes have "died" we have not replaced them.  Now, all of our children down to the 2-year-old who has some play alone time every day, love listening to the chapter books we own on audio CD.  Of course they cannot follow a book that is between 2-15 discs in length, but they grow to be able to do this, and in the mean time they are exposed to excellence.  The narrator's voices of the books we choose are wonderful to listen to and they all love them.

We also only purchase unabridged versions of the stories, which is the original printed version put to audio CD.  We desire the whole book in it's entirety, which the abridged versions do not provide.  Even for books such as Pilgrims Progress, which has a complex vocabulary in old-style English, is very valuable for children and adults alike.

To search for the audio book on websites such as Amazon, for example, you can type, "[title] audio CD unabridged" and you should get the right thing every time.  Be careful not to purchase downloadable versions which are a few dollars less money, unless that's what you want.  We did this once and it did not work out well.  The book downloaded in one huge single track on to our CD's at home, so unless we listen to the entire book in one car ride, we cannot find our place by returning to track 14 (or wherever we left off) later, because there are no tracks.  We now always purchase the entire book on CD's.

WHEN we listen to audio books - And when we don't

Audio books allow us to listen to a story together as a family when we may not be able to read a book aloud personally.  We listen to audio books at a variety of times.

We listen as a family sometimes during our weekday lunch time at home while we're preparing food, eating together, and cleaning up the kitchen.

Also, when our youngest 4 children still had nap times then the oldest children and myself all had quiet, alone times separate from one another for those 2 hours.  We still do this having quiet alone time even though we do not have nappers currently. Sometimes this means in separate play or work spaces, but when we need to have more than one person in a room then we allow them to listen to a personal disc player ($20 from Wal-Mart) which helps people remain "alone" for a little while even when technically together.  The children listen to an audio book often while they're doing a cleaning job, while baking, sewing or mending clothes, playing with toys on the floor, crocheting, building with Legos, doing a puzzle, any number of things that they're supposed to be doing independently for that 2 hours.

We also bring audio books in the car for the children to listen to on long car trips (and Bob and I thoroughly enjoy them, too, when we're not talking with one another).  With audio books in the car children still relate to one another, laughing, discussing, and feeling emotion together.  Children still develop character in the car with an audio book on as well.  They practice self-control with their hands and mouths, as well as delayed gratification before arrival, and patience.  The children also view the outside world passing by as we drive - the scenery, the historical landmarks, the weather, the farm lands...Unlike when children are allowed to watch videos while traveling (a mind-numbing, waste of time, and with videos the children develop zero character, and do not benefit in any way - in our humble opinion *smile*).

Now if a family is making a really long driving trip, such as to another state for example, there may be justification to watch a video once a day in the course of those 12-hour driving days.  Or if a mom is traveling as the sole care giver on an air plane with a bunch of little ones - then tools like videos can be very useful especially considering other passengers whom you're stuck with for hours. And the video in those cases could even be an excellent documentary instead of just a movie.  But other than that we personally feel that video players for the car are very unwise.

We allow the children to use their personal disc players only when it's a time that they are supposed to be alone.  Really, all of the time outside of "play-alone time" is family time, and they are not encouraged or allowed to disappear in to their own world with headphones (or an iPod for that matter).  The children play together, relate together, include one another, and Bob and I can talk to them whenever we desire to.  Personal disc players or iPods can be an excellent tool; but they can also be abused, so I encourage you to guard against that.

WHY we listen to audio books

We listen for many reasons.  We thoroughly enjoy books.  One of the ways we learn and grow by reading or listening to books, which is a valuable use of time.  Books build our knowledge of people, places, and things around the world.  They growing our vocabulary, our thinking processes through complex story lines or information, and can demonstrate examples of excellent character.  (For more information on character you can read my post on character training for children.)

WHERE we purchase audio books from
We use almost exclusively online resources for practicality and selection.

** Which I will update for you periodically as I find more great titles **

The Kingdom Series, by Chuck Black - 12 audio books in all ($7-10 each from Amazon, 3-5 CD's each, unabridged).  - Synopsis: These stories are incredibly well done and are full of knights and dragons and adventure, yet they are Christian-based and without witch craft, magic, or sorcery.  They are full of excellent theological teachings about “the King” and “the Prince.”  They teach of honor, courage, truth, trust, and glorious victory, self-sacrifice,  and they tie in to Bible stories which the children can recognize but which are told in this time period setting.  If you go online you can listen to sample audio clips to get a taste of the story quality.  

Mistmantle, by M.I. McAllister, read by Andrew Sachs ($22 from Amazon, 6 CD's, unabridged)  - Only one of the 6-book set is available on audio so far.  Synopsis:  "On a night of riding stars, a tiny squirrel is found abandoned and close to death on a distant beach. Adopted and raised by a kindly squirrel, Urchin has no idea of his powerful destiny or of the way he will influence the island of Mistmantle.  The rule of the good King Brushen and Queen Spindle is threatened by an evil plot from within the court. When their young son is found murdered, the isle is thrown into turmoil. Behind the scenes, the wicked Lord Husk and Lady Aspen are determined to take control. But to underestimate the power of the islanders and the ancient prophecies is a big mistake….Triumphant heroes and brilliantly wicked villains do battle in this heart-stopping adventure in the great tradition of Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows.

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, read by the author himself  ($17.82 from Amazon, 3 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "This is the story of a kindhearted girl named Fern who saves the life of a very small and very lucky pig named Wilbur.  It is also the story of Charlotte A. Cavatica, the beautiful, resourceful gray spider who lives with Wilbur in the barn and who becomes his best friend.  Surrounded by his barnyard pals and cheered by Fern's visits, Wilbur enjoys each new day - until the old sheep tells him that farmers do to pigs at Christmas.  Suddenly wilbur is terribly afraid, but faithful Charlotte promises to spin a clever plan to save her humble friend.  And with the help of Templeton the rat, she does just that."  A Newbery Honor Book, and winner of a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.

The Secret Garden, read by Frances Hodgson Burnett, read by Wanda McCaddon ($16.95, from Audible, 6 CD's, unabridged) - First published 100 years ago.  -  Synopsis:  "Hear the inspiring story of how Mary, unloved and selfish, finds friendship and happiness helping her neurotic, invalid cousin become strong and healthy.  Nature's powerful magic touches both children as they toil to revive their secret garden.  As families listen together, adults may be surprised at some of the modern themes: the mind's ability to create health, the strength of group optimism, and the restorative power of nature...Mary calls it 'magic' [periodically], meaning the mystery of life itself, birth and renewal, love and joy."  This reference could also mean God as she refers to an unknown something she does know what else to call it.  Note:  Some of the versions we have heard (or seen in movie format) portray this aspect as chanting a spell (for about 1 min.) which we personally do not like, so we have specifically chosen this version which does not do that.

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes, read by Grace Conlin ($15.56 from Amazon, 7 CD's, unabridged) - Historical fiction, Newbery Honor award winner.  Synopsis:  "A story filled with danger and excitement, Johnny Tremain tells of the turbulent, passionate times in Boston just before the Revolutionary War.  Johnny, a young apprentice silversmith, is caught with Otis, Hancock, and John and Samuel Adams in the exciting operations find subterfuges leading up to the Boston Tea Party and the Battle of Lexington.  As Johnny is forced in to the roll of a full-grown man in the face of his new country's independence, he finds that his relations with those he loves changes for the better as well."

Sarah, Plain & Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan, read by Glenn Close ($19.93, from Audible, 4 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Their mother died the day after Caleb was born.  Their house on the prairie is quiet now, and Papa doesn't sing anymore.  Then Papa puts an add in the paper, asking for a wife, and he receives a letter from one Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton, of Maine.  Papa, Anna, and Caleb write back.  Caleb asks if she sings.  Sarah decides to some for a month.  She writes Papa: I will come by train.  I will wear a yellow bonnet.  I am plain and tall, and tell them I sing.  Anna and Caleb wait and wonder.  Will Sarah be nice?  Will she like them?  Will she stay?"  Newbery Medal award winner.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, read by Barbara Caruso ($15.59 from Amazon, 9 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Anne Shirley, the orphan child who brings happiness and love in to the lives of her foster family, is one of the most beloved heroines in all literature.  The wildly imaginative, red-headed chatterbox tries to fit in to the narrow confines of Victorian expectations, but her exuberant spirit keeps leaping delightfully beyond the bounds.  
          "When Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew find that they are getting too old to work on the fame by themselves, they decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out.  To their dismay, they are sent a girl by mistake - an awkward, impetuous girl with a hopeless lack of manners.  Pragmatic Marilla is determined to return her, but warm-hearted Matthew urges that she be given a chance to prove herself.  Beset by a large helping of the mishaps of childhood, Anne must earn by her character the only family she has ever known."

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare, read by Mary Beth Hurt ($18.19 from Audible, 5 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean islands she left behind. In her relatives' stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit's friendship with the 'witch' is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear and anger. She herself is accused of witchcraft."  Newbery Medal award winner.   (Note:  This book contains no witchcraft at all.)

Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, read by Tim Curry ($29.95 from Amazon, 5 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "And so begins the story of one of hte most beloved characters in children's literature...A classic tale which features a boy who refuses to grow up, Tinker Bell the fairy, and the Darling children - Wendy, John, and Michael.  Their great adventure begins on the night that Peter flies in to the Darling home looking for his shadow and teaches Wendy, John, and Michael how to fly with him back to the Neverland, where adventures happen every day."

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, read by Barbara Caruso ($11.95 from Audible, 17 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "A priceless treasure and true American classic, Little Women has been adored by every generation since it's original publication.  with it's enduring value s of spirit, loyalty, and love, it is one of the best-loved books in American literature.  
          "As the Civil War rages, the March sisters - tomboy Jo, beautiful Meg, shy Beth, and romantic Amy - share the joys, hardships and adventures of life in their relatively serene New England town.  Separated from their beloved mother and father, the sisters mature in to women as they struggle to find their place in a war-torn world."

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor, read by Lynne Thigpen ($22.44 from Amazon, 6 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Set in Mississippi at the height of the 1930's Depression, [this book] is the unforgettable story of one family's struggle to maintain their independence, integrity, and pride, in the face of racism and social injustice.  And, too, it is Cassie's story - Cassie Logan, an independent girl who has grown up protected by a loving family, unaware that any white person could consider her inferior and treat her accordingly.  During the events of one turbulent year, a year when the night men threatened Cassie's community, Cassie and her three brothers come to see why the land means so much to their family, why having a place of their own permits the Logans the luxuries of pride and courage and their sharecropper neighbors can't afford and their white neighbors can't allow."  Newbery Medal award winner.

The Basket of Flowers, by Lamplighter Theatre ($30 from Amazon, 2 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Home just isn't the same for Jessica since her family moved to Abington Falls.  A tangled web has left her feeling like she has no friends at all.  And to make matters worse, Finnian Jones has just diagnosed her with a curable yet highly contagious condition that requires special treatment:  a major shift in focus.  For the first time Jessica is about to experience the legendary wonder of the Exploratorium as Finnian hands her a tattered edition of The Basket of Flowers.  
          "Inside the pages of this rare and aged book, Mary is falsely accused of stealing, and the penalty is death.  She had always abeen taught that it is better to die for the truth than to live for a lie - for the worst pillow to sleep on is the pillow of a guilty conscience.  Will the darkets and most dreadful night help Mary find God for herself, or will she live in the shadow of a faith that is not her own?"

The Hedge of Thorns by Lamplighter Theater ($20 from Lamplighter, 2 CD's unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Inside Finnian's cafe . . . Martin lost his job. Now he has to make a choice. The door before him holds the key to his future, but when he turns the knob, he finds nothing but another locked door. From a piercing experience Martin learns that locked doors are not lost opportunities, but new possibilities. Inside the pages of this rare and aged book . . . John is determined to find out what is on the other side. And that which is forbidden makes his quest all the more irresistible! Desperate to break through the hedge, he devises a plan that unknowingly places his little sister in perilous danger. In a moment of passion and disregard for his parents' warnings, John does the unthinkable-and learns the hard lesson that there are grave consequences to crossing the boundaries that God has set for him. This unforgettable lesson has left an indelible mark on his life and will leave the same upon those who hear this story"

Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, read by Nadia May ($14.95 from Audio, 9 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "John Bunyan was a simple maker and mender of pots and kettles who received very little education.  In spite of that, he penned the most successful allegory ever written.  He lost his first wife and was imprisoned for twelve years for his compelling - but unlicensed - preaching.  Nevertheless, his preaching about the gravity of sin, salvation by grace, the cost of discipleship, perseverance, and the glory of eternal life lives on in the signs and symbols of The Pilgrims Progress.  Embark on a perilous journey with christian, the lead character, from the City of Destruction to the luminous safe haven of the Celestial City.  The journey will encourage you to 'set your hope fully on the grace to be given you' amidst the obstacles of life."

Cracker!:  The Best Dog in Vietnam, by Cynthia Kadohata, read by Kimberly Farr ($39.00 from Amazon, 6 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Cracker is one of the united States Army's most valuable weapons: a German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy.  The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell.  She's a Big Deal, and she likes it that way.  Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed.  That was nice, too.
          "Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam.  There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant - and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out fro war - wrong.  But sometimes Rick can't help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right.  Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad's hardware store.
          "When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't to sure about this new owner.  He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him.  They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive.
          "Told in part through the uncanny point of view of a German shepherd, Cracker! is an action-packed glimpse in to the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a dog and her handler."  (Note:  this book does contain the curse words *d_ _ n* and *h_ ll*; we have felt the educational quality of this book surpasses our concern to avoid these few words, and the words have not been an issue for our children at all.)

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, read by Peter Coyote ($13.59 from Recorded Books, 3 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis (based on a true story):  "Angry and depressed by his parents' divorce, 13-year-old Brian Robeson is in a single engine plane on his way to visit his father in Canada.  When the pilot has a heart attack and dies, the plane crashes into a lake.  Brian manages to swim to safety, but his he's is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothes, a windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present.  It will take all his intelligence, determination, and courage to survive."  (Note:  Contains some references to "the secret", which Brian explains once is the time he saw his mother give a man other than his father a "real" kiss, revealing her affair.)  Newbery Medal award winner.

Brian's Winter (sequel to Hatchet), by Gary Paulsen, read by Richard Thomas ($17.82 from Amazon, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer.  Brian's Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy--a northern winter." 

Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann David Wyss, read by Fredrick Davidson ($17.95 from Audible, about 9 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Swept off course by a raging storm, a Swiss pastor, his wife, and their four young sons are shipwrecked on a strange, uncharted tropical island. This timeless classic story of survival and adventure has fired the imaginations of readers since it first appeared in 1812, and it sounds just as fresh as if it were written today. The natural wonders of the lush, exotic land make for an unforgettable setting, and the family itself will find a place in the listener's heart.          "As they struggle to survive in the wilderness, the Robinsons discover their own amazing ingenuity and courage, each of the sons utilizing his own unique nature as their adventures lead to difficult challenges and fantastic discoveries. Although they have lost almost everything in the shipwreck, they are so resourceful that, when rescue finally comes, they decline to leave the happy life they have constructed for themselves in their exotic haven."

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, read by Tantoo Cardinal ($13.57 from Amazon, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea.  Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound.  Once, Indians also lived on the island.  And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind.
          "This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins.  Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away.  But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building a shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs.  It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery."

Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech, read by Suzanne Toren ($33.50 from Amazon, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "'Trouble Twins' Dallas and Florida have been shuffled between foster families and the orphanage all their lives. All they want is a loving place to call home, but they are mistrustful that one exists for the likes of them.           "Tiller and Sairy are a sweet couple who are each restless for one more big adventure while their bodies are still spry enough to paddle a canoe or climb a mountain. Their own children have grownup and moved away, so they're each looking for someone to help them and keep them company on their last exciting journey.
           "And Ruby Holler is the beautiful, mysterious place that changes all of their lives forever. When Tiller and Sairy invite Dallas and Florida to stay with them and keep them company on their adventures, the magic of the Holler takes over, and the two kids begin to think that maybe, just maybe, the old folks aren't that bad.
           "Filled with humor, poignancy, cookies and treasure maps, Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech's Ruby Holler is a delightful book about a special place where it's never to late to love, or be loved"

A Time of Angels, by Karen Hesse, read by Suzanne Toren ($20.99 from Audible, about 7 CD's, unabridged). - Synopsis:  "Late at night, while her sisters and Tanta Rose sleep, Hannah Gold sees angels. She sees them soaring over the Boston streets in their shimmering robes, with eyes shining and wings outstretched. The angels inspire Hanna, for it is 1918, and her mother and father are fighting the Great War in Europe. But Boston is fighting a war of its own. A devastating epidemic of influenza is sweeping through the town, killing nearly everyone in its path. Overwhelmed, Hannah aimlessly wanders the streets until a mysterious girl leads her onto a train. When Hannah awakens much later, she is ill, in a strange place, and the girl is gone. It will take the remarkable kindness of a stranger to help Hannah fight her sickness and somehow find her family again--if they're alive.  Newbery Award-winner Karen Hesse weaves a wondrous, sensitive tale of one girl's involvement with both earthly and heavenly angels. Suzanne Toren's lyrical narration captures both the desperation and hopefulness of a family's fight to survive."

My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara, read by ($23.07 from Amazon, unabridged). - Synopsis:  "It seems Ken can't do anything right. He loses saddle blankets and breaks reins . . . but then comes the worst news yet: a report card so bad that he has to repeat a grade. How can you tame the dreamy mind of a boy who stares out of the window instead of taking an exam? Enter Flicka, the chestnut filly with a wild spirit.            "Over the course of one magical summer, both will learn the meaning of responsibility, courage, and, ultimately, friendship."  (Note: This book does contain the curse words *d_ _n* and *h_ll* a few times.)

Number the Stars, Lois Lowry, read by Blair Brown ($14.60 from Audible, 3 CD's, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It's now 1943, and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are "relocated," Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen's life. Number the Stars is the 1990 Newbery Medal winner for most distinguished American children's book."

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by Fredrick Davidson ($12.97 from Amazon, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Treasure Island is a story of good and evil. From the moment narrator Jim Hawkins meets the blind pirate Pew until the battle for hidden treasure on a tropical island, the novel evokes unforgettable scenes and characters and "a vision," said G. K. Chesterton, "of green palm trees and sapphire seas."

The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, read by Greg Schaffert ($10.94 from Amazon, unabridged)  Synopsis:  "Twelve-year-old Matt is left on his own in the Maine wilderness while his father leaves to bring the rest of the family to their new settlement. When he befriends Attean, an Indian chief’s grandson, he is invited to join the Beaver tribe and move north. Should Matt abandon his hopes of ever seeing his family again and go on to a new life?"

The Cay, by Theodore Taylor, read by Michael Boatman ($21.37 from Amazon, unabridged)  Synopsis:  "Phillip is excited when the Germans invade the small island of Curacao. Was has always been a game to him, and he's eager to glimpse it firsthand, until the freighter he and his mother are traveling to the United States on is torpedoed.
          When Phillip comes to, he is on a small raft in the middle of the sea. Besides Stew Cat, his only companion is an old West Indian, Timothy. Phillip remembers his mother's warning about black people: 'They are different, and they live differently.'
          But by the time the castaways arrive on a small island, Phillip's head injury has made him blind and dependent on Timothy."  A survival story.

Crispin and the Cross of Lead, by Avi, read by Ron Keith ($37.00 from Amazon, unabridged)  Synopsis:  "In the small, 14th-century English village where he has lived his entire life, the boy has grown up with no name of his own, known only as 'Asta's son'.  But when his mother dies, the boy receives both his rightful name, Crispin, and the lead cross, inscribed with a secret that soon has him fleeing for his life.  Best-selling, aware-winning Avi delights children and adults with historically accurate tale of high adventure."

Sing Down the Moon, by Scott O'Dell (author of Island of the Blue Dolphins), read by Jessica Almasy ($11.69 from Amazon, 3 CD's, unabridged).  Synopsis:  "On a beautiful spring morning while grazing their sheep, Bright Morning and her friend Running Bird see two men coming toward them. Right away, Bright Morning knows who the men are: slavers come to the Navaho country to steal girls and sell them to families in town. In minutes, both girls are caught and taken away. But Bright Morning does not give up trying to escape and eventually finds her way back home. What Bright Morning can’t know, though, is that the entire Navaho way of life is about to change forever."
          (Note:  This book does contain small references to nature gods, as the Indian culture would have lived by.  But they are not frequent or extensive, only very brief (i.e. "The son god would not have liked it.") and in our opinion the educational quality far surpasses these references.)

Brian's Return (the 3rd in a series, sequel to Hatchet, and then Brian's Winter), by Gary Paulsen, read by Peter Coyote ($10.88 from Amazon, unabridged) - Synopsis:  "Brian Robeson is the ultimate survivor.  Alone in the wilderness, he faced the elements and lived on the edge of death.  Now that he's back in civilization, he can't make sense of ordinary life.  High school leaves him feeling more isolated than when he was by himself in the wild.  He misses the woods so much that he'd go crazy if he couldn't dream of getting ready to go back in.  But going back is no dream; for Brian, it's the answer.  In Gary Paulsen's gripping conclusion to an extraordinary story, Brian discovers his true path in life, and where he really belongs."  

House of Tailors, by Patricia Reilly Giff (two-time Newbery Honor-winning author), read by Blair Brown ($ 4.23 from Amazon, 3 CD's, unabridged).  Synopsis - "Endless stitches, buttonholes, darts.  Since Dina was tiny she has worked in the Kirk's dressmaking business, where the sewing machine is a cranky member of the family.  When Dina, thirteen years old in 1870, leaves her small town in Germany to join her uncle's family in Brooklyn, she turns her back on dressmaking.  Never again!  But her search for work leads her right back to the sewing machine.  Why did she ever leave home?  Here she is, still with a needle and thread and home-sick to boot.  Dina didn't know she could be so homesick, but she didn't know she could be so brave, either.  In her new country, she finds herself standing up to an epidemic, then to a fire.  She didn't know she could grow so close to her new family, or to Johann, the young man from the tailor's shop.  And she didn't know that sewing would reveal her own wonderful talent, and her future.  
          "In Dina, the beloved author Patricia Reilly Giff  has created onf of her most engaging and vital heroines.  Readers will see 1870's Brooklyn through Dina's eyes and will share her excitement as she discovers a new world."

The Strange Case of Baby H:  An American Girl History Mystery, by Kathryn Reiss, read by Suzanne Toren ($15.95 from Amazon, audio CD, unabridged).  Synopsis - "In the immediate aftermath of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, 12-year-old Clara and her family find an abandoned baby, apparently orphaned in the quake, on the steps of their boarding house home. But Clara suspects that something about the baby is not as it seems. Following her suspicions through a city consumed with fire and devastation, Clara discovers that while the earthquake has brought out the best in some people, it has brought out the worst in others"

Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson, read by Kirsten Potter ($16.oo for a used copy. 7 audio CD's, unabridged).  (Side note:  I don't think this description comes close to giving the audio book justice; it doesn't make the story seem very interesting I don't think, but actually is beautifully written and told and we all really enjoy it.)  *smile*  Synopsis - "For most of her life Hattie has been shuttled from one distant relative to another.  Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim.  Under the big sky, Hattie braves hard weather, hard times, a cantankerous cow, and her own hopeless hand at the cook stove.  Her quest to make a home is championed by her new neighbors and their children.  For the firs time in her life, Hattie feels part of a family, finding the strength to stand up against Taft Martin's schemes to buy her out and against increasing pressure to be a 'loyal' American at a time when anything - or anyone - German is suspect.  Despite daily trials, Hattie continues to work her uncle's claim until an unforeseen tragedy causes her to search her soul for the real meaning of home."  

The Word of Promise: Complete Audio Bible
($100.55 from Amazon)  "This faithful rendering of the New King James Version® presents the Bible in more than 90 hours of compelling, dramatic audio theater format.
This world-class audio production immerses listeners in the dramatic reality of the Scriptures as never before with an original music score by composer Stefano Mainetti (Abba Pater), feature film quality sound effects, and compelling narration by Michael York and the work of over 600 actors.
Each beloved book of the Bible comes to life with outstanding performances by Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Richard Dreyfuss as Moses, Gary Sinise as David, Jason Alexander as Joseph, Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene, Stacy Keach as Paul, Louis Gossett, Jr. as John, Jon Voight as Abraham, Marcia Gay Harden as Esther, Joan Allen as Deborah, Max von Sydow as Noah, and Malcolm McDowell as Solomon.
The 79-CD set includes a separate carrying case and an interactive Bonus Features DVD that includes actor interviews, worship resources, and a fascinating look at how dramatic audio theater is produced."

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle ($22.06 from Amazon, 6 audio CD's, unabridged). - Synopsis, "An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the StarsNine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother? This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making."

(** I will periodically add additional books to the end of this list as I find them - so keep checking back if you desire ideas! **)

How we STORE our audio books, individually and collectively

Some audio books come in a nice, protective plastic album with sleeves; but most of them come in a cardboard box which is not durable and is soon ripping or not closing securely and allowing CD's to fall out, get left around, or get lost - which of course ruins part of the book.  So we found an excellent source for purchasing white (or black) plastic CD albums and sleeves, very inexpensively, and we have put all of our audio books that were sold in cardboard in to these albums.  Here are the albums ($1.99 each), and here are the sleeves ($.20 each), both from CCI Solutions.  We simply cut open the cardboard box it comes in so that it lays flat, cut off the top, bottom, and right sides so that we only have the front, binding side, and back side, and slip that in to the plastic CD album.  Then we transfer that book's CD's in to the plastic sleeves we purchased, and insert those in to the album. 

Using these albums also creates a uniformity for the audio book shelf, enabling the title to be clearly visible, and the audio book to be stable on the shelf, not falling off the shelf or back behind the rest of the books then seeming to be lost.

We keep all of our audio books on a single shelf, up high and out of reach by the young children (although our collection is now twice this size).  When children desire to listen to a book they need to ask someone older to get it down for them.  This serves to keep the CD's protected so that they do not get scratched or broken by young children, and enables some accountability as to who has which book.

We also choose to have one child use one book, rather than having the CD's divided up among different people who all desire to listen to the same story.  From our experience, allowing the CD's to be spread around the house results in them getting lost or broken when they're set down anywhere but inside their protective album.

There are many other high quality audio books available that we have not yet purchased or listened to, but these are the only ones I will recommend because these are the ones we have listened to personally and therefore will endorse. 

However please, please do share with us additional titles you know of that we can explore!  *smile*  I am always on the look out for excellent books! 

Blessings on your family,

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