When a celebrity reads to you …

Let James van der Beek read this one to you!James van der Beek’s voice took over my head long after the four-hour audio book had finished. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I first started listening to Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, all I could think was: “Wait, Dawson is reading this! Dawson is reading this? Dawson from Dawson’s Creek, really? It’s Dawson!”

That lasted only about five minutes. That’s what a good narrator can do for an audio book. His voice was in my head, but the story consumed my thoughts and imagination.

Middle-grade audio books get a lot of attention during the summer and holiday periods when families are going on road trips or loading up iPods for plane rides. The rest of the year, it’s easy to overlook these gems. No matter which season, though, middle-grade audio books can be a powerful medium during family time preparing dinner or cleaning up after dinner, as a transition between homework and bed, or just a way to make the daily commute or errand-runs more enjoyable.

Listening to a middle-grade audio book avoids the ageism that can occur when a book is “labeled” for a certain age. Since it’s in the CD player or on an MP3 player, family members won’t necessarily know if it’s intended for ages 8 and up or ages 12 and up. Again, the story takes over and adults, teens and children can get caught up in it.

But back to James van der Beek: Can actors – big-name actors — let the book star? What do you think? Are there middle-grade books where the narrator has made the listening experience particularly memorable? Do you ever seek audio books based on the narrator? I can tell you at the public library where I work, we often get readers asking for more audio books by narrators they’ve enjoyed. (Note: You can search for audio book narrators in the “author” field in most library catalogs.)

Who are some of your favorite narrators – famous or not-quite-as-famous? Or if not a narrator, is there a middle-grade audio book that’s been a great experience for you or readers you know


Linda Johns
  1. The audio books for the Harry Potter series are some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever listened to–either adult or children’s. The narrator’s ability to provide unique voices to such a massive cast of characters is truly amazing.

    Also, the audio books for the Origami Yoda series of MG books is thoroughly enjoyable, with each book using multiple narrators.

  2. Love this! Great for reluctant readers!

  3. Interesting post. I recently requested some audio books at my library (motivational type ones) to see if I can sleep better at night (and turn off the worry in my head 🙂 ).

    I think the idea of the star/narrator lending to the audio…well, that’s interesting idea. I guess if you look at animated movies even….like are kids drawn in by the fact that the giraffe in some cartoon is narrated by “x” star? I wouldn’t think the name would stand out, but the actual voice that lends to the character makes a big difference.
    Like Morgan Freeman has a voice suited to certain things. Chris Rock. etc…

    I should look into requesting MG audios to listen to while I’m prepping meals. It’s probably better than listening about the latest tragedies on then news 🙂

  4. The Railway Children and the Star of Kazan are two of my favorite audio books.