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Best Children and Family Listening Audiobooks 2023
“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.” – Philip Pullman

AudioFile's selections of the year's best audiobooks for children are sure to inspire and entertain young listeners aged 6 to 12. This collection of titles features an intoxicating blend of magic and mystery and includes biography, historical fiction, fantasy, and fairy tale. These audiobooks encourage reflection on and discovery of history, science, and even oneself. Each of the narrators adds their own flavor to the stories. Their stellar performances (sometimes aided by music and sound effects) are certain to make the listening experience all the more enticing and immersive for children (and their adults). Play, enjoy, repeat.

by M.T. Anderson, read by Pete Cross
Dreamscape, Ages 8+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Pete Cross’s youthful voice adds wonder to the story of a teen named Clay during the time of a pandemic. His newly adopted elf-hound, Elphinore, teaches him how to enter a magical world of dukes, ladies, owl men, and wyrms. Cross portrays each character with a unique and engaging voice. This heartfelt story, made all the more powerful through  Cross’s performance, may be especially appealing to 8-12 year olds.

by Angie Thomas, read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Harper Audio, Ages 8+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Joniece Abbott-Pratt’s rich narration captures the frustration of 12-year-old Nic Blake, who must hide her magical ability in a world of Unremarkables. Nic’s love for her father is also clear, especially when she, her brother, and her friend must prove her father's innocence for a crime she's certain he didn't commit. Abbott-Pratt skillfully portrays real and supernatural characters throughout. Middle schoolers who enjoy contemporary fantasy may particularly enjoy this first of a fantasy trilogy inspired by African American history and folklore. 

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, June Jo Lee, read by Lori Prince, Sandor Katz
Live Oak Media, Ages 6+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Fermentation expert Sandor Katz's hearty voice provides playful accents to Lori Prince's overall narration of this picture book. This biography of Katz tells of his journey to a "community of queer folk" in Tennessee in search of a healthy life after his HIV diagnosis. There’s plenty of amusing talk about the “tiny wild”—the microbes that turn raw food into “zingy” food. Prince and Katz have fun with the text's occasional alliteration and onomatopoeia just as much as Katz's friends who savor his "kraut-chi." Both narrators make this delicious discussion about ecology, food, and community-building a zesty and educational listening experience for 7-10-year-olds.

THE SKULLTHE SKULL: A Tyrolean Folktale
by Jon Klassen, read by Fairuza Balk, Jon Klassen [Afterword] 
Dreamscape, Ages 6+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Fairuza Balk’s soft voice and whispers add to the lightly spooky vibe of this Tyrolean folktale. Balk expertly differentiates the characters in this retelling and captures the quirkiness and curiosity of the young protagonist, Otilla. Balk's tone and accent fit the skull; a typically scary icon which she transforms into a friend. The use of music and the sound of the wind and crackling fire further add to the atmosphere of the story. Children aged 4 and up, especially those fond of the Addams Family, may be partial to Otilla. 

by Jason Reynolds, read by Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, Angel Pean, James Fouhey, and a Full Cast
Simon & Schuster Audio, Ages 8+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Guy Lockard’s performance is the enthusiastic heart of this hilarious and heartfelt story narrated by an energetic full cast. Portico Reeves has to navigate in-between different floors to spend time with his parents, who are divorced but living in the same building. Nile Bullock’s sensitive portrayal of Portico and all his sweet perceptions of the world and roiling worries is spot-on. Humorous and warm, this story about managing changes in the family is an exhilarating listen for middle-schoolers.

by Jacqueline Woodson, read by Jacqueline Woodson
Listening Library, Ages 10+
AudioFile Earphones Award

Jacqueline Woodson performs her audiobook with rhythm and skill that allow listeners to luxuriate in her poetic words and linger in powerful details. Twelve-year-old Sage’s father, a firefighter, died in a fire. Sage is surrounded by friends, community, a loving mother, and continuous basketball games. But the fires in her neighborhood are unsettling. Woodson’s resonant voice powerfully delivers the somber state of affairs as Sage searches for meaning and to understand her true self. Woodson’s narration and characters are memorable and significant.


AudioFile Magazine is your #1 audiobook review source. 

Photo of Jacqueline Woodson © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation - used with permission. Pete Cross photo by Paul Gagne.

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