The Best Children and Family Listening Audiobooks of 2021

AudioFile for The Children’s Book Review

AudioFile’s 2021 Best Children and Family Listening Audiobooks include delightful
works for all ages, from the very youngest excited for their first encounter with a
hungry caterpillar to older listeners looking for stories bursting with joy. Each has
been brought to life with narrations that will captivate.

Best Audiobooks of 2021
Always: Audiobook Cover

Story by Morris Gleitzman

Read by Morris Gleitzman

Ages 9+ | Length: 5.75 hrs. | Publisher: Bolinda Audio

Author Morris Gleitzman returns to narrate a well-paced, heartfelt final adventure featuring Felix Salinger. Wassim, a biracial 10-year-old living with his uncle in Eastern Europe, turns to Felix, a man his grandfather knew who is now in his 80s, for help in dealing with a group that is terrorizing his family. Alternating between Wassim’s and Felix’s points of view, Gleitzman’s comforting voice bolsters listeners as they encounter virulent injustice, racism, and other challenging subject matter. Review »

Black Boy Joy: Audiobook Cover

Story by Kwame Mbalia

Read by Amir Abdullah and Taj Leahy

Ages 9+ | Length: 5 hrs. | Publisher: Listening Library | AudioFile Earphones Award

Author and editor Kwame Mbalia brings an outstanding ensemble of Black male and non-binary writers together in this timely audio anthology. Seventeen works portray the power of joy in Black boys’ lives, while the storytelling skills of narrators Amir Abdullah and Taj Leahy shine as they employ an astonishing array of voices to enhance dozens of characters. Review »

KALEIDOSCOPE Audiobook Cover

Story by Brian Selznick

Read by Gwendoline Christie and Brian Selznick

Ages 10+ | Length: 3 hrs. | Publisher: Scholastic Audiobooks | AudioFile Earphones Award

Gwendoline Christie is positively spellbinding as the first-person narrator of this dreamlike story of love and grief, which is experienced like a vision through a kaleidoscope—in randomly assembled bits and pieces tinged with color. Original music for each loosely connected story sets a distinct mood and includes string music, piano, discordant orchestral arrangements, muffled voices, wordless singing. The effect is mesmerizing, and KALEIDOSCOPE is utterly unique.  Review »

Stuntboy, in the Meantime: Book Cover

Story by Jason Reynolds

Read by Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, Angel Pean, James Fouhey, Soneela Nankani, Leon Nixon, Chanté McCormick, Lamarr Gulley, and DePre Owens

Ages 7+ | Length: 2.75 hrs. | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio | AudioFile Earphones Award

With endless energy, verve, and style, Guy Lockard is a total superstar narrating this middle-grade novel about Portico Reeves, aka Stuntboy. Supported by a lively cast and a dynamic production, Lockard tells Stuntboy’s origin story—Portico loves life in his apartment building, but every time he catches his mom and dad arguing, he feels “the frets” (cue the red-alert sound effect!). So he and his best friend invent superhero alter egos. This adaptation is a special and unique audio experience guaranteed to catch and keep the attention of even the most reluctant reader or listener.  Review »

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Audiobook

Story by Eric Carle

Read by Kevin R. Free and Eric Carle

Ages 2+ | Listening Library | 8 mins | Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

This audiobook includes two versions of the late Eric Carle’s classic story, both equally delightful in different ways. The first version is brought joyfully to life by narrator Kevin R. Free with vivid sound effects and music. The second version is a special read-along track of Carle narrating slowly and simply in a gruff, friendly voice with a slight German accent. Listeners will definitely want to view the iconic illustrations as they hear the story. Review »

We Are Still Here Audiobook

Story by Traci Sorell

Read by Garrett Abel, Jacob Cummings, Mary Kay Henderson, Lauren Hummingbird, Don McClellan, Ella Mounce, Kaitlyn Pinkerton, Isobel Shults, Oliver Shults, Carlos Sorell, Tonia Hogner-Weavel, and Traci Sorell

Ages 7+ | Live Oak Media | 15 mins

A full cast of Cherokee, Navajo, Choctaw, and Chickasaw narrators deliver a moving audiobook companion to an informative picture book. Listeners hear an introductory history of Native Nations in North America, and then a bustling classroom preparing for their Indigenous Peoples’ Day assembly. Twelve students recite brief presentations as sound effects and music evoke the bright illustrations. Each ends with a chorus of voices proudly declaring: “We are still here.” Review »

For the full list of 2021 Best Audiobooks, visit AudioFile’s website:

The Best Children and Family Listening Audiobooks of 2021 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, Twitter @AudioFileMag, and Facebook @audiofilemagazine.

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November 29, 2021 at 06:31PM AudioFile