5 Exciting and Fantastical New Audiobooks for Kids

The Best New Audiobooks for Middle-Grade Readers
AudioFile for The Children’s Book Review

AudioFile’s Editors have five excellent new middle-grade audiobooks for young listeners and their families that may help with any end-of-summer, back-to-school blues. Fantastical fantasies with entrancing narrations await, while stunning historical fiction audiobooks make for thoughtful—and tense—family listening. Listeners who are already excited for all that Halloween brings will be delighted by an adventurous romp starring a group of regular, average kids from the suburbs—of hell—exploring Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night.

Freewater Audiobook Cover

Story by Amina Luqman-Dawson

Read by Cary Hite and Sisi Aisha Johnson

Ages 10+ | Hachette Audio | 9.75 hrs. | Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Cary Hite and Sisi Aisha Johnson create an astonishing number of distinct characters in this historical fiction based on true stories of escaped enslaved people. Hite voices 12-year-old Homer, who escapes from the Southerland plantation with his sister. Hite conveys their childish naïveté and wonder when they are rescued and brought to Freewater, a secret community of escaped enslaved people. Hite is just as convincing as the plantation overseer who is hunting for the pair. Johnson is engaging as she voices Homer’s friend, Anna, at the plantation; the headstrong, freeborn Sanzi in Freewater, and various members of the plantation owner’s family. The two narrators bring the historical setting vividly to life. Review »

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Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods

Story by Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Heath Miller

Ages 8+ | Simon & Schuster Audio | 12.5 hrs. | Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Heath Miller is entrancing in this fantasy featuring 13-year-old Osmo, who longs for an adventurous life—and then gets one under unfortunate circumstances. Now Osmo must enter the forest to save his community. His initially unwilling companions are Bonk the Cross, a skadgebat (skunk-badger-wombat), and Nevermore, a pangirlin. Miller creates a fantastical array of character voices for these and other denizens of the woods, where everything has multiple natures. Bonk is a standout, portrayed with a Scottish brogue and a melodramatic crustiness that is improbably endearing. Miller’s droll English accent expresses authority yet invites trust; the listener is willingly carried off to the fabled Eightpenny Woods. Review »

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Story by M.T. Khan

Read by Shiromi Arserio

Ages 8+ | Hachette Audio | 6 hrs.

Shiromi Arserio transports listeners to a magical world of jinn in this entrancing audiobook. Young Nura mines mica to earn extra money for her impoverished family. But when the mine collapses, she desperately shovels through the rubble and discovers a portal to a luxurious jinn hotel on the other side. Arserio’s skillful performance introduces listeners to headstrong and confident Nura, cautious and stuttering Faisal, and a variety of sinister jinn who are scheming to trick the humans that fall into their clutches. Arserio’s youthful tone, distinct voices, and intensifying pace will keep young listeners hooked. Review »

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We Own the Sky Audiobook Cover

Story by Rodman Philbrick

Read by Kirby Heyborne and Rodman Philbrick [Note]

Ages 8+ | Scholastic Audiobooks | 4 hrs. | AudioFile Earphones Award

Philbrick’s latest historical fiction, set in 1920s Maine, is brought to life by the amazing Kirby Heyborne. Davy and his sister, Jo, orphaned by their mother’s death, are rescued for the summer by cousin Ruthie Reynard, a famous aviatrix who gives them jobs and a home in her flying circus. As delivered by Heyborne, 12-year-old Davy’s voice is nervous as he worries about their future. The flying circus’s announcer bellows enthusiastically, building suspense for the amazing feats performed high in the sky. The voices of the KKK are hate-filled as they attack immigrants. Philbrick narrates his author’s note, giving important historical context to the story. Review »

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Story by Darcy Marks

Read by Kevin R. Free

Ages 8+ | Simon & Schuster Audio | 8.25 hrs.

Narrator Kevin R. Free delivers a spectacular performance. He voices Mal and his squad-mates with a youthful tone and sense of curiosity as they explore earth for the first time on Halloween night in Salem, Massachusetts. But the pressure is on because they have to get themselves, and an escaped soul, back to hell before their parents find out where they are. Mal’s snark and sarcasm belie his frustration at the high expectations placed on him, and Free’s depiction puts his arrogance on full display. Free fully embodies antagonists, both hellish and heavenly, with high drama that hooks listeners on this romp full of adventure and high stakes, perfect for Halloween listening. Review »

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The article The Best New Audiobooks for Middle-Grade Readers was curated by AudioFile. AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. To learn more, visit audiofilemagazine.com, Twitter @AudioFileMag, Facebook @audiofile-magazine.

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September 12, 2022 at 10:56PM AudioFile