13 adventure-filled audiobooks for your next family road trip

13 adventure-filled audiobooks for your next family road trip

‘Tis the season for holiday travel. If you’re anything like us, putting two adults, four children, and a rambunctious dog in the car for a road trip can be challenging—and that’s before you factor in holiday traffic. Reading tastes vary widely in my family, but we all agree on this: a good audiobook can be a lifesaver on a long drive. If you’re looking for a book to keep the whole family entertained during holiday travel this year, this list of middle grade titles is for you.

Middle grade books usually cater to an audience in the 8-12 year old range, but can be universally appealing for readers who appreciate quirky characters, adventure stories, and (mostly) happy endings. The books on this list not only have broad appeal, but are fantastic on audio. 

13 Adventure-Filled Audiobooks for Your Next Family Road Trip
The Secret Keepers

The Secret Keepers

From the author of the well-loved Mysterious Benedict Society series, this story will appeal to readers who love a good adventure with unexpected magic. Eleven-year-old Reuben likes to roam in the abandoned part of town, where he stumbles upon an antique pocket watch that grants the ability to become invisible. With his new power in hand and a villain called The Smoke on his tail, Reuben must decide whether or not to play the hero and keep this dangerous secret to himself. Bonus: The audio version is nearly 16 hours long, making it perfect for a long ride. 15 hours 45 minutes More info →
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

Author:
The first novel in The Land of Stories series, this adventurous tale follows twins Alex and Conner as they (literally) fall into a favorite book from childhood and find themselves face-to-face with classic fairy tale characters. In The Land of Stories, happily-ever-after is not as peaceful as it seems: Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, and the Evil Queen has escaped from her prison. Desperate to get back to reality, the twins set out on a quest, collecting magical items for a special spell to send them home. With six books in the series, these are great for families who love a twist on classic fairy tales. 8 hours 59 minutes. More info →
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Author:
Jim Dale's magnificent narration transports listeners to the magical world of Harry Potter. His ability to apply a unique voice each of the (many) characters makes this an especially immersive listening experience. For those who have already read and loved the books, the audio provides a new way to experience a family favorite. 8 hours 33 minutes More info →
The Magic Misfits

The Magic Misfits

NPH narrates The Magic Misfits himself, with many Lemony Snicket-esque asides to the audience. The story follows a street magician named Carter, who runs away from his arrogant and dishonest uncle. Carter then teams up with five of his fellow kid magicians to battle a crew of crooked and greedy carnival workers. Families love this because it's not just a story -- its supplementary reference material teaches readers (and listeners) the secrets behind popular magic tricks, so you'll have something to do when you arrive at your destination. 4 hours 14 minutes More info →
Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger

This clever tale is perfect for bibliophilic families. Twelve-year-old Emily is eager to explore her new city when her family moves to San Francisco. The city is home to her literary idol, Garrison Griswold, an iconic publisher and puzzle-creator. Garrison is scheduled to release a new version of his popular online creation, Book Scavenger, when he falls mysteriously into a coma. Emily teams up with a new friend to uncover the secrets of Griswold's new game. As with many middle grade novels, there's a group of nefarious adults chasing after the young adventurers. This novel will appeal to anyone who would eagerly partake in a literary scavenger hunt in which players must solve puzzles to find hidden books. 8 hours 17 minutes. More info →
Time Stops for No Mouse: A Hermux Tantamoq Adventure

Time Stops for No Mouse: A Hermux Tantamoq Adventure

Author:
A heartwarming adventure for families who love animal characters. Hermux Tantamoq is a well-mannered, shy mouse who works as a watchmaker. He’s comfortably settled in his routines and enjoys his quiet life until a beautiful, bold aviatrix named Linka Perflinger bursts into his shop. As Hermux repairs Linka’s watch, he can’t help but daydream about what he'll say when she returns. When she doesn’t come back, Hermux flings himself headfirst into danger and adventure in the name of love and gallantry. Narrator Campbell Scott is a charming storyteller, and there are two additional books in this series available on audio. 5 hours 23 minutes More info →
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire

Author:
For families that love the outdoors, this adventurous tale combines nature and magical realism. Arlo Finch wants desperately to become a Ranger, trained in wilderness and survival skills. When he arrives in Pine Mountain, Colorado, he discovers that the mountains are also home to dark and ancient magical forces. Arlo and his mountain scouting team take the Ranger’s vows to uphold loyalty, kindness, bravery, and truth, and soon find that they'll need all of those things to survive in a wilderness that’s far more dangerous than they could have imagined. Teamwork is one of the bigger themes in the book, and the story will have you itching to get outside and imagine something fantastic. Author John August was a guest on What Should I Read Next Episode 115: Books that bridge two worlds. 6 hours 51 minutes. More info →
Liesl & Po

Liesl & Po

Author:
For fans of Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, this story about unlikely friendship is on the gloomier side, but features unforgettable characters and a heartwarming ending. Liesl is a lonely little girl who befriends a ghost named Po and an alchemist's apprentice named Will. The trio set off on a quest to deliver the ashes of Liesl's deceased father to his final resting place, encountering trouble and villainous grown-ups along the way. Jim Dale, the narrator of the Harry Potter series, does a wonderful job bringing the story to life. 5 hours 55 minutes More info →
The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows

Author:
A. A. Milne said that while the merits of most books are debatable, "one does not argue about The Wind in the Willows." There are at least ten different versions of this classic, including some that have been dramatized to include sound effects, music, and the full cast of the National Theater production. My favorite version is linked, but whichever you choose, this story of the four friends Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Toad will have the grown-ups feeling nostalgic for childhood while keeping the whole family thoroughly entertained. 6 hours 46 minutes. More info →
See You in the Cosmos

See You in the Cosmos

Author:
This full-cast narration brings an alternative format to the audiobook experience. Listeners hear 11-year-old Alex narrate his journey from his Colorado home to the site of a conference for fellow astronomy-nerds in L.A. There, he’s hoping to fulfill his dream of launching his recordings into space (and hopefully, into the hands of aliens). Alex is quirky and determined to see his plans through, making him endearing to his audience. With a far-from-perfect home life and a penchant for making friends with unusual people, readers will root for Alex every step of the way. 6 hours and 10 minutes More info →
The Green Ember

The Green Ember

Author:
Another animal fantasy, The Green Ember follows rabbits Heather and Picket as they encounter extraordinary adventures. Many readers who love this series compare it to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, for its slower lead into action and gentle lessons in morals. The world of The Green Ember contains all of the classic fantasy elements: heirs battling for the throne, pernicious enemies, and a resistance effort to restore peace to the tumultuous kingdom. Three books in the series (and two companion novellas) complete the saga. 7 hours 55 minutes More info →
One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer

In the summer of 1968, Delphine and her younger sisters journey to Oakland, California. They plan to spend the summer vacation with their mother, who abandoned their family years earlier. When the girls arrive, they find a mother who is radically different from the one they’ve imagined. Seemingly annoyed by their presence, Delphine's mother wants to send them off to a Black Panthers summer camp. With historical context for young audiences and a rich, atmospheric narration that puts listeners right into the heat and heart of the story, this is one book that will have you sitting in the driveway to listen to "one more chapter." 5 hours 6 minutes. More info →
The War That Saved My Life

The War That Saved My Life

This WW2 adventure will appeal to fans of historical fiction and underdog stories. Nine-year-old Ada has never been allowed to leave her family’s small apartment. Her foot is twisted and her mother is too ashamed of the physical impairment to let Ada out in public. When the war arrives in London, Ada's little brother is put on a train to safety and Ada makes a daring escape to join him. Out in the countryside, a woman named Susan begrudgingly takes the children into her home. There, Ada learns to read, ride a horse, wiggle her way into Susan’s heart. Listeners will be riveted by the danger, daring, and risks that both Ada and Susan take to discover true belonging and a place to call home. 7 hours 38 minutes More info →

P.S. 15 audiobooks that enhance your reading experience40 favorite audiobooks for kids, and 10 audiobooks so good you’ll want to fold another load of laundry, finish washing the dishes, or just sit in the driveway for 5 more minutes. Plus you can click here to see all audiobook posts.

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42 comments

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  1. Sarah says:

    Good list! My number one audiobook recommendation for families is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book I: The Mysterious Howling. A young governess in Victorian England is called in to care for a group of siblings who were, quite literally, raised by wolves. It is hysterically funny – my husband and I were sobbing with laughter in the car. The reader is the best audiobook reader I’ve ever heard. The first book in the series is the strongest. After that the books are still ok and the reader is still wonderful but the first book is hard to match.

    • Melanie says:

      I agree! I’ve listened to all these books and loved them. I gave a friend’s daughter the first book earlier this year, and she loved it so much that she went as Cassiopeia for Halloween.

    • Sybil says:

      Yes, fantastic books and so well written that it’s hard to believe she’s a modern author! And as Agatha Swanburne says, “All books are judged by their covers until they are read.”

    • Sara S. says:

      Yes!! My girls love The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place! Earlier today they were quoting one of the poems talked about in the books. “Tiger, tiger, burning bright”

  2. Jana says:

    I LOVED the audio of The War That Saved My Life. The narrator was amazing. Another one that is awesome is Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. I’ve listened to that a couple of times because I love the audio version so much!

  3. Regis says:

    When I was growing up, my family frequently listened to James Herriot stories on road trips (or whenever). There is occasionally a bit of cussing in them, but they’re a great mixture of fascinating and sweet and sad and gut-bustingly funny.

  4. Meghan says:

    Oh, I LOVED See You in the Cosmos!! I wish I could get my fantasy-obsessed 8yo to read it, but no luck so far.
    We’ve enjoyed the Apothecary series by Maile Meloy on audio, and the audio of Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke was a big hit. They also loved the Wildwood books by Maile’s brother Colin Meloy, but I really did not enjoy them. (I have two boys, 8 and 5.)
    I can’t vouch for the audio, but Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool is gorgeous, and great for fans of Wonder and Kate DiCamillo, and so is The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Both are journey books, so thematically fitting for road trips.

  5. Melanie Steimle says:

    I second the James Herriot stories; they are my favorite for road trips!

    Anne, do you know where the photo in this post was taken? It looks just like Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. I’ve taken numerous photos there that look almost exactly like this.

  6. Jen says:

    Great list! I’ll just throw in some Holiday-themed suggestions that my son (9) and I have enjoyed on road trips.
    The Girl Who Saved Christmas, by Matt Haig, 5 hrs 22 min
    When Santa Fell to Earth, by Cornelia Funke (author of the Inkheart series), 3 hrs
    Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, 8 hrs 35 min

  7. Jocelyn says:

    I’m going to flag this for future reference! But in the meantime, I’d love some suggestions for younger ages as well (I have a six-year-old).

    • Stephanie says:

      I’ve been thinking with fondness lately of the stories we used to listen to on road trips when the kids were little! (My boys are now 11 and 14, and we still listen to audiobooks in the car–just not these usually.) Some favorites:
      Stuart Little, E.B. White
      The “Laura” books (Laura Ingalls Wilder) narrated by Cherry Jones
      A Cricket in Times Square, George Selden
      A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond (also More about Paddington)
      The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Beverly Cleary

      Our all-time favorite, to which we still sometimes return: Four-Story Mistake, Elizabeth Enright (#2 of Melendy Quartet; #1 and #3-4 are also good, but in #1, The Saturdays, a little girl is abducted briefly [happy ending] and a little boy is lost [happy ending]; in #3 there is a mean alcoholic uncle of a friend; #4, Spiderweb for Two, is “safe” but the clues might be over his/her head).

    • Katherine says:

      My boys (5 and 3) have loved Arnold Lobel’s books, Beverly Cleary, and Mercy Watson (by Kate DiCamillo) on audio. EB White narrates his own work and does a fantastic job (we haven’t listened to those yet, but I’m planning to introduce them to my 5 year old soon). Also, while I haven’t listened to this on audio, Robert McCloskey’s “Homer Price” is one my oldest and I found silly and fun.

  8. Simone Henry-Price says:

    ‘My family would like to add Brandon Mull’s “Beyonders: A World Without Heroes. Everyone loved it. It might be a bit scary for really young kids, but it’s filled with adventure and themes from “Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia”. I think the main character, Jason, is 13 years old and his adventure begins when he falls into the mouth of a hippopotamus. There are three books in the series and we sincerely hope Brandon Mull will change his mind and add more books. It’s been a family fave (Dad included) for years.

  9. Lizzie says:

    I was glad to see The Green Ember on there… It’s a good one! I would also recommend On the Edge if the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson, and Swallows and Amazon’s, by Arthur Ransome. Both of those have wonderful Audible readers. Our most recent car listen has been The Ark, The Reef and The Fire Cloud, by Jenny Cote

  10. Lewellyn says:

    We used audio books to get our daughters to listen to classics that they would otherwise disdain…
    The Saturdays
    From the Mixed up Files…
    A Wrinkle in Time
    Holes
    The Moffats
    Just So Stories
    Anne of Green Gables
    Little Women
    The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
    Roald Dahl
    And our very favorite, The Wednesday Wars!

  11. Melanie says:

    We loved the Focus on the Family version of The Chronicles of Narnia. (it may be old but our library had it) It’s a full cast production. Also, my boys tend to like anything funny so right now we’re listening to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (wonderfully narrated by the author, Judy Blume) and also Super Fudge and Fudge-O-Mania! Mine love these, and I think they’re pretty funny too!
    For older boys — Bud, Not Buddy, (mine is 8 and we really enjoyed this) and Tree Castle Island.

    • Dawn says:

      Focus on the Family offers several Radio Theater Productions of classic books and their own Odyssey series. Their version of A Christmas Carol is on my list this year!

  12. BarbN says:

    Our kids are in their twenties now, but we went on many family road trips where I remember the audiobook as well as I remember the trip itself. Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books were favorites (first one is The Wee Free Men), they have Pratchett’s trademark snarky humor toned down a bit for kids. The Gregor the Overlander series was a favorite of the kids and my husband (not so much for me since there are giant bugs), by Suzanne Collins, the same author as The Hunger Games but written before that and for a grade school audience. And there was an Andrew Clements book called No Talking that led to a very interesting discussion about gender typing. Also, that one is short– 2 1/2 hours– if that works better for you.

  13. Heather says:

    I just picked up, only moments before reading this, “Wildwood” by Colin Meloy. I am trusting that the audio (read by Amanda Plummer) will be worthwhile. We do have Harry Potter and The half-Blood Prince as backup since we are already in the midst of reading that one.

  14. Sarah says:

    What a great list! Others that the whole family will enjoy are: Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (amazing full cast audio!), The One and Only Ivan, and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Such fun!

  15. Randi says:

    The His Dark Materials trilogy was a favorite of our family. And with older kids Eleanor & Park is great (mine are now 16 and 14, but we listened to this a year or two ago).

  16. Jane Batley says:

    The Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband series are terrific on audio as well as print. The reader keeps the voices consistent through ALL the books. I’ve listened and read both series more than once.

  17. Jen says:

    Best middle grade audio books that my kids and I have listened to multiple times… (great stories and wonderful narrators)
    Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (read by Brendan Fraser–AMAZING!!!)
    Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby (read by Jenna Lamia)
    Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (Full Cast Audio)
    The Penderwicks 1-3 by Jeanne Birdsall (read by Susan Denaker)
    Pie by Sarah Weeks (read by Kate Rudd)

  18. RuthAnn says:

    Nit sure if this is even a audio book but on a road trip I read to the family : the adventures of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Such a good book!

  19. Suzay says:

    Our family unequivocably and unanimously recommends the Bloody Jack series by L A Meyer!! Read by Katherine Kellgren with a wonderful cockney accent, it’s about little orphaned Mary Faber, who lives by her wits on the streets of 19th century London, telling the story in her inimitable and spunky voice. One day she reads that a ship is looking for ship’s boys and has room for two—and incredibly, they FEED them every day! She decides on the spot to dress as a boy and get the job, which naturally she does, as “Jack Faber”, and it sets off an incredibly fun and historical and heartwarming story, which goes on for about 12 more books. No magic here, unlike most in your 13, just true to life action and great storytelling in the tradition of Dickens, and loved by 8 year olds, cynical teens, mothers, grandfathers, inmates in prison, college professors……sooooo good! Needs more publicity.

  20. Sandra Mosolgo says:

    My grandchildren love, Hank the cow dog series, goofy & fun. When our son was younger we all enjoyed the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Long, exciting tales of conflict between the good, mice, moles & rabbits & the evil rats& stoats. We sometimes reached our destination, sat in the car to finish an exciting chapter.

  21. Deborah Hubbert says:

    I don’t know if these are only supposed to be “family” audio books, but I just listened to one of my all-time faves, The Little Book by Seldon Edwards. I read it when it first came out and loved it so much (it’s almost impossible to describe but I’ll try: it’s part world adventure, part time-travel, part family saga, part social commentary both on 1898 Vienna and upper-crust Boston as well as current day . . . and of course, we can never forget part amazing love story.) When I was ready to read his follow-up book, The Lost Prince, it had been too many years, so I bought The Little Book on audio . . . and, WOW! It’s so well done, so many voices, personas, etc. I recommend this book in ANY format!

  22. Sybil says:

    I highly recommend the Jim Weiss narration of The Wind in the Willows. He has done many other books and stories, but they may not be on Audible. His narration is fantastic!

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