Do you want to get your kids ages 8 – 12 off screen time and reading more? Try audiobooks! This list gives you ideas of the best audiobooks for kids (tweens) that are also perfect for families with kids of different ages.
That’s right. These best audiobooks appeal to both boys and girls with different interests.
Listen to middle grade audiobooks at home, on family road trips, in the car, or at any time. If only one child wants to listen, use headphones.
For us, we NEED audiobooks right now. My kids have been spending way too much time on their screens. Part of it, I’m okay with because of some ongoing medical complications from the mold toxicity; the pain is making it hard for my kids to function, and they want a distraction. But it is getting out of hand.
So back to audiobooks we go.
For families with many kids, audiobooks are a viable alternative choice to reading a physical book. Listening increases the volume of text consumed, which improves reading comprehension and vocabulary. Listening also gets kids involved in a story where the scenes aren’t shown, and they must use their imaginations. Plus, it’s so fun to have a shared story experience!
Remember, audiobooks build important reading skills such as:
- background knowledge
- listening skills
Audiobooks make reading more manageable for children with learning disabilities. Listening to books has helped my oldest get through the texts, even in her high school English class.
We recommend using Overdrive with your public library to save money. Other options for audiobooks include Amazon, iTunes, and Audible (which is also linked to Amazon). If you’re wondering about the narrator or story, the books all have short audio previews which can help you decide.
And don’t forget to get kid-friendly headphones with volume control if your kids are listening to the books by themselves.
Also, I’ve included WHO narrates these good middle grade audiobooks because you’ll find that you have favorite narrators. My family loves Bahni Turpin SO MUCH, and the Harry Potter narrator, Jim Daly, among other favorite narrators.
How will you know if you like the narrator? You can preview the narrator on Amazon or Audible. I highly recommend using this feature. You’ll find out if the narrator can do different voices for different characters and if you like their style. (Or if they put you to sleep.)
Who are your favorite audiobook narrators?
ALSO READ: Recommended audiobooks for TEENS.
Best Audiobooks for Kids
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, narrated by Paul Boehmer
An excellent performance by Paul Boehmer hooked me on this exciting audiobook fantasy adventure. One minute Gregor and his little sister are in New York City, and the next, they’re in the Underland — where insects and Rats are as large as humans. But all Gregor wants to do is return home…until he learns that his missing father might be in the Underland as a captive of the Rats. He’s a very good big brother, so he makes sure his (darling) toddler sister can go with him before he leaves with a group of human and animal allies to search for his dad. Oh, and he’s meant to fulfill a prophecy, too. Tweens LOVE this audiobook series.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, narrated by Imani Parks
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few reasons you’ll love this audiobook. Amari is an exciting, action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari, whose beloved older brother has vanished. But, she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician like him and, at his bequest, gets to attend a secret school. There, she discovers she’s a dark magic magician (which is outlawed), but she’s determined to prove she isn’t evil, stay in the school, and find her brother.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang, narrated by Sunny Lu
Mia’s Chinese immigrant parents take a live-in job at a motel, working around the clock for very little pay. Mia works at the front desk and befriends the weekly tenants, using her growing English skills to write letters advocating for other people in tough spots. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity. The author writes in a note at the end, “what happens when you include [others]…despite all your suffering and heartache…” I loved this story— the writing, the characters, the plot, and the messages of inclusion and determination.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, narrated by Michael York or Sir Michael Hordern
We got hooked on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because it’s an incredible fantasy story with heroic and flawed children on a hero’s journey and British narrator. Four siblings are transported into a magical world where an evil queen is terrorizing the land.
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty, narrated by Emily Rankin
Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story of love about a night spirit who is still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors but flees from her clan who is keeping human captives and forbidden technology. Willa bonds with a solitary human man and helps him find his captured children. The author deftly explores the meaning of family, as well as the themes of prejudice and caring for the natural world. Magical and memorable.
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman, narrated by Sarah Beth Goer, Oliver Wyman, Josh Hurley and others
Funny, sensitive, well-written, brilliantly paced, relatable, and poignant. The middle school assigns Mr. Kermit, the worst teacher, to the worst kids in the whole school. Mr. Kermit has no interest in teaching. Or disciplining. Or anything. As we get to know the different kids in this small class, something surprising happens–Mr. Kermit starts to care just a little. And that opens the gates to even more caring and a big life change. So when the school decides to fire Mr. Kermit, the students make a plan for saving their teacher’s job.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly Baptist, narrated by Adam Lazarre-White
With themes of grief, family, poverty, poetry, the power of writing, and friendship — this is one of my best audiobooks because the story captures your heart, as does the struggling, heroic main character. After Isaiah’s dad dies, his mother stops working and starts drinking too much. The family of three now lives in a smokey motel where Isaiah watches his 4-year-old sister when his mom is passed out. He finds strength and inspiration in his father’s journaled stories about Isaiah Dunn Superhero and eventually, begins to write poems again in his own journal.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, narrated by Jesse Bernstein
Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the town’s newly created library by game creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together, or will it be every child for himself?
Stuntboy in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Raul the Third (Audie Award winner)
Portico wants to be a superhero, and he dubs himself Stuntboy, which means doing cool things to help other people in his community, including other superheroes like his best friend Zola. But his parents are separating and fighting all the time and it makes Portico anxious. Not to mention, his neighbor kid Herbert is the worst. Relatable, funny, and adventurous, this is an amazing audiobook with amazing sound effects and an expressive voice that tackles big issues with humor and heart.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
If you’re looking for a modern children’s book classic, this is one of the best audiobook choices. Bod lives in the graveyard with an assortment of ghosts and other cemetery creatures who raise him after his parents are killed when Bod is only a baby. Bod’s primary guardian is Silas, who cares for him, feeds him, and teaches him about the human world. The ending is bittersweet (my daughter yelled at me for making her read a sad story) but perfect. Despite the scary-sounding title, the scariest part is in the first chapter when Bod’s parents get murdered, but that’s it.
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Tara Sands
Quirky and delightful, this is the tale of a girl named Flora who rescues a squirrel and keeps it as a friend. Together they experience the world in a unique, funny, and wonderful ways —and straighten it out, too. I think the audio version’s narrator is pitch-perfect!
The Giver by Lois Lowry, narrated by Ro Rifkin
Set in a dystopian society, this Newbery medal winner grabs your attention and keeps it until the end. What is going on in this community? When Jonas is assigned his job as “Receiver of Memory” he learns just how much is hidden and controlled. Now he’ll have to decide what to do with this horrifying information. This is one of the best books for tweens, but I feel mixed about the audiobook quality.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, narrated by Julie Roundtree
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. And Sophie has a secret—she’s a Telepathic elf. In danger, she leaves her adopted family in the human world for the Elvin world where she’ll find more dangers and adventure. Her only hope of survival is to regain the memories of her past. Mesmerizing!
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, narrated by Chris Colfer
Fairy tales come alive when Alex and Conner (brother and sister) find themselves in the fairy tale book given to them by their grandmother. Their only way home is to find the ingredients for a Wishing Spell. Finding them will be dangerous, mysterious, and life-changing. Would your kids love audiobooks like this one, narrated by a professional actor about a wonderful adventure?
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, narrated by Christina Moore
Wonderfully crafted and imagined, this is a fairy tale about a good witch who rescues a town’s abandoned babies and gives them to another town to love. Except for one baby who she adopts for her own; a special baby named Luna, who is accidentally infused with moon magic. It’s also the story of the baby’s magical, bereaved mother, a wicked witch who feeds off sorrow, a woodcarver who wants justice, and most of all, Luna.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
The best-selling children’s book of all time, this is a MUST READ (LISTEN) for many reasons: brilliant storytelling, a complex and entertaining plot, relatable characters, rich language, essential life lessons about friendship and bravery, and more.
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo, narrated by Giordan Diaz
In an exciting adventure filled with Latin American and Spanish mythology, Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life, he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush), helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents — and what it has to do with La Mano Peluda and the prophesied Morphling, who is meant to save the world. Incredible writing makes this magical adventure come to life.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, narrated by Bahni Turpin (*One of the BEST narrators EVER!)
On her 12th birthday, Zoe discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, narrated by Jesse Bernstein
This mythology series is amazing! Basically, there are really still Greek gods and sometimes they have kids with humans, and those kids are half-bloods with unique powers. Unfortunately for these kids, monsters are out to kill them, and they are the only ones who can save the world from a war between the gods and, in a later book, between the Titans and the gods. Once you get hooked on this book, you’ll appreciate that there are many more books in this series.
The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, narrated by Jill Clayburgh
This is a wonderful adventure for families to listen to about two siblings who run away from home to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. There, they discover a mystery. While unraveling the clues about who created the angel statue, they’re helped by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler who might just help them with growing up and going home, too.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, narrated by David Baker and Cynthia Bishop
Sudan’s reality, past and present, collide in this beautifully written true audiobook story narrated by two distinct voices. In 1985, we follow the harrowing journey of a young boy who, after his village was attacked, walks miles and miles to a refugee camp. In 2008, we learn about a girl who must walk two hours morning and night to get fresh water. Their stories are compelling; families will have a lot to discuss with this audiobook.
Allies by Alan Gatz, narrated by many narrators + sound effects
Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning, and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) We hear from an American teenage soldier born in Germany, a French Algerian girl whose mom is a recently captured spy, a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent and disheartening, yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies.
Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny, narrated by Jason Segel
Charlie’s dad has remarried and moved Charlie and his younger brother into the stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. There, Charlie begins to have the most horrible nightmares — nightmares that blur between reality and dream. When witches steal Charlie’s brother into the nightmare world, Charlie and his friends must learn to face their fears to save his little brother and our world. Don’t worry, it’s not too scary, but it is compelling. Your kids won’t want to stop listening. Another example of the best audiobooks being read by the author (who is also an actor.)
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson
Hands down, this is one of the best audiobooks you’ll ever read. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like for her, trapped in a body with cerebral palsy that doesn’t allow her to speak or take care of herself. Then one day, she gets a chance to prove she’s smart with a talking keyboard. Her school journey is inspiring and heartbreaking. Your family will have a lot to discuss with this exceptional audiobook for kids narrated by a spunky girl whom you’ll come to love…
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, narrated by Adam Grupper
Ivan is kept in a small cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla, only the stray dog, Bob, who sleeps with him, Stella the Elephant, and Ruby, a newly purchased baby elephant. Before she dies, Stella begs Ivan to find Ruby a better home with other elephants – and Ivan agrees, but it isn’t easy. Moving and powerful, this best audiobook of all time is (sadly) based on a true story.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
If your child hasn’t learned about Norse mythology, this will be a great intro! To end the long winter, Odd must journey to find Asgard, a city under siege from the Frost Giants. It’s one of my favorite nail-biting hero’s journeys and a good audiobook choice to play when you’re looking for a shorter book. Often the best audiobooks are also read by the authors — and in this case, it’s 100% true.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, narrated by Karissa Vacker
Aven Green is used to making up creative stories about why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona, where her parents are the new managers of a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school named Connor, who has Tourette Syndrome. With another new friend named Zion, they investigate a mysterious storage shed at the theme park, which leads them to a mystery involving Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true (not insignificant) potential.
Refugee by Alan Gratz, narrated by Michael Goldstrom and cast
A best audiobook for kids about what it’s like to be an immigrant refugee shares three three kids’ stories. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, narrated by Miranda Raison
In old-time London, we learn that dangerous ghosts and spirits appear everywhere with evil intent, BUT only kids can see them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost agency, so they take a perilous job that may just be their last. (I love audiobooks for kids like this one that has a British narrator. Also, this book has a Netflix series adaptation which is really good.)
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows, and all three regain something lost – hope and love. We all loved this as a read aloud and highly recommended listening on audiobook.
Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
Housecat, Rusty, enters the world of warrior clan cats living in the wild. He’s adopted into the ThunderClan where he begins to train as a warrior just in time to help with a dangerous rival clan attack and betrayal. Brilliantly written, this is an epic adventure perfect for audiobooks. If you like drama and adventure, play this audiobook next.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, narrated by Hope Davis
A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written science fiction adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin set off to space to find her scientist father, who disappeared while researching Tesseracts. Families will enjoy this audiobook for kids; it’s mesmerizing.
How can you find free audiobooks?
We think the best free audiobooks are at the library on the Overdrive website or Libby app. In fact, we are total library afficianados!
Check out your audiobook for free using your library card. Download it to your device and you’re reading to start listening.
Audible offers some free audiobooks as does Spotify, BBC Sounds, and LibriVox.
What audiobooks are on Spotify?
If you didn’t already know, Spotify has over 300,000 books with prices ranging from $3 to $40 as one-time purchases. You don’ thave to be a premium member to buy an audiobook.
What are the Audie Awards?
If you want to listen to any Audie award winner, visit the list at the Audio Publishers Association, which recognizes distinction in audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. In other words, you can find the book choices voted to be the great audiobooks of each year.
What is the best audiobook app?
I love Libby and Overdrive but Audible, Spotify, and Google Play Books are top picks.