Raise your hand if you’re traveling for the holidays! Road trips to Pennsylvania are a regular part of the holidays for my family, and good listening material is the key to keeping everyone in the car happy and sane (or as sane as you can be, when traffic stops for no apparent reason). In situations like this, I often turn to fantasy, adventure, and sci-fi audiobooks. The plots move fast enough to keep my attention engaged for long periods, and they’re usually hefty books that will keep me occupied for a while. Plus, otherworldly settings mean that not only can I disconnect from my everyday worries, but it makes it easier for multiple generations to enjoy the same story. You don’t necessarily get that with realistic fiction, which is a popular genre here in the Children’s department, but it’s much more targeted to its specific age group. Four straight hours of fictionalized minutiae of elementary school? Most adults I know would rather spend that time listening to politics podcasts. But four straight hours of a kid who’s raised by ghosts in a graveyard? Tell us more. No, please – make it eight hours.
The following titles have various runtimes to get you to wherever your holiday destination might be – and we’ll even give you some ideas of cities whose travel time from Cheshire is about the same as the book’s runtime. As a bonus, almost all of them are available in our Playaway format, which is a self-contained audiobook player. All you provide is an auxiliary cord with a 3.5mm jack to connect to your car’s stereo, or a regular set of headphones for solo listening. For those of you lucky enough to have Bluetooth connectivity in your car, look for downloadable audiobooks that you can play through your phone.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Runtime: 2.5 hours
Listen while you drive to: Boston, Massachusetts
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Runtime: 4 hours
Listen while you drive to: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Roz the robot discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island with no memory of where she is from or why she is there, and her only hope of survival is to try to learn about her new environment from the island’s hostile inhabitants.
Star Wars, The Force Awakens: A Junior Novel by Michael Kogge
Runtime: 5.5 hours
Listen while you drive to: Montreal, Canada
Many years have passed since the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance were victorious over the evil Empire, and the galaxy has been at peace. But now a darkness is rising. The brave men and women of the Resistance must stand against Kylo Ren and the villainous First Order.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Runtime: 7 hours
Listen while you drive to: Bar Harbor, Maine
The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!
Spaced Out by Stuart Gibbs
Runtime: 7 hours
Listen while you drive to: Richmond, Virginia
In 2041 twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is a resident of Moon Base Alpha, and at the moment he is faced with a number of problems: coping with the nasty Sjoberg twins, finding out how the commander of the base has managed to disappear from a facility no bigger than a soccer field, and dealing with the alien Zan who communicates with him telepathically from afar–and who is hiding a secret which may threaten the whole Earth.
One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu
Runtime: 8 hours
Listen while you drive to: Pittsburgh, Pennsyvlania
Joining her family in her community’s annual New Year’s Day magic-capturing ceremony, a 12-year-old girl who has always been lucky captures just one tiny jar of magic, revealing the true nature and beliefs of her loved ones.
The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Runtime: 8.5 hours
Listen while you drive to: Toronto, Canada
Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, twins Alex and Conner leave their modern world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Runtime: 9 hours
Listen while you drive to: Cleveland, Ohio
Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge—with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch.
A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
Runtime: 9.5 hours
Listen while you drive to: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
All light in Chattana is created by one man – the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, this twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables explores the difference between law and justice.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Runtime: 11 hours
Listen while you drive to: Detroit, Michigan
Born on the unluckiest day of the year and blamed for all misfortunes that occur in her community, Morrigan Crow is doomed to die at midnight on her 11th birthday. That is, until she is unexpectedly whisked away by a stranger on horseback who brings her to the magical city of Nevermoor, where she learns she has been chosen to compete for a position with an organization comprised of highly talented individuals. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
Runtime: 11 hours
Listen while you drive to: Charlotte, North Carolina
Haunted by the bus accident that ended his best friend’s life, seventh grader Tristan Strong dreads a visit to his grandparents’ Alabama farm before a bizarre living doll snatches away his friend’s notebook and draws him into a world of burning seas, iron monsters and Black folk heroes exhausted from battle. In order to get back home, Tristan and his new allies will need help from the god Anansi – but bartering with the trickster always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Runtime: 13 hours
Listen while you drive to: Chicago, Illinois
At age 12, Sophie learns that the remarkable abilities that have always made her different from others actually identify her as an elf. After being brought to Eternalia to hone her skills, she discovers that she has secrets buried in her memory for which some would kill.