Driving guides

Audio books for the road

Planning a long car journey? June is Audiobook Month, so it's the perfect time to explore the wide range of children's audio books on offer.

I’ve always loved travelling across Europe with my family, and as my children have started to grow up I’ve realised just how much freedom you can find from taking your car on holiday. Whether we’re visiting my family in France or heading on a long summer break, we don’t have to worry about weighing our luggage or keeping an eye on the kids - everything goes in the car (including my boys’ surfboards!) and we can head straight across the Channel with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. I wouldn’t pass up the flexibility of having my own transport for anything.

An impressive Parisian library - lots of choice, but hard to fit in your car!
An impressive Parisian library - lots of choice, but hard to fit in your car!

The only downside of taking a long car journey is that it can be hard to keep everyone entertained. We’ve always found that an exciting audiobook is the best way to keep the whole family amused - there’s none of the travel sickness risks of reading in the car, and it can be a great way to introduce your kids to new authors. Even my sons can usually be persuaded to put down their phones and listen to a new story! Since June is Audiobook month, I thought I’d share a few of the audiobooks that have enthralled us on our travels across Europe.

The Story of the Amulet (Naxos)

E. Nesbit’s classic fantasy tale comes to life in this enchanting recording by Anna Bentinck, who also narrated Naxos’ versions of Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet. The adventures of Robert, Anthea, Cyril and Jane as they travel through time with their magical friend the Psammead are just as exciting now as they ever were, and the story is enhanced with snippets of classical music from the Naxos library.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Scholastic)

My daughter recently found her brothers’ copies of Lemony Snicket’s creepy series, which runs to thirteen novels - in audiobook terms, enough to get you to China and back! We’ve got several of Tim Curry’s wonderfully ghoulish recordings, although I recently saw that you can buy the entire series on CD in a handy travel tin. Great for adults as well as kids, these stories make the hours fly by.

Audio books are a great way to keep kids entertained on long car journeys.
Audio books are a great way to keep kids entertained on long car journeys.

His Dark Materials (BBC Audio)

Philip Pullman’s engrossing tales of magic and monsters in an alternate dimension are fantastic reading at any age, and this sumptuous full-cast recording is just as enjoyable. There’s science, intrigue, romance, a plucky heroine and baddies of all shapes and sizes - but if you’re planning a trip to Scandinavia, be sure to tell your kids that giant armoured bears don’t really exist!

How to Train your Dragon (Hachette)

If your younger ones have seen the brilliant Dreamworks film of How to Train Your Dragon (I can’t wait to take my daughter to see the sequel this summer!), Cressida Cowell’s books are a perfect way to get them reading. And Doctor Who fans will love this recording by David Tennant, who tells the story of notorious Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his amazing relationship with dragons.

Just William’s Greatest Hits (BBC Audio)

Ideal for getting the whole family into the holiday mood, this recording contains seventeen of William Brown’s timeless adventures. I didn’t grow up with Just William in France, but my husband has fond memories of Richmal Crompton’s books and now my children love them too. Martin Jarvis has been recording the exploits of William, Ginger, Hubert and the rest for decades - these stories are guaranteed to get your kids excited about all the adventures they’ll have on holiday.

Look out for audio books in your nearest literary retailer.
Look out for audio books in your nearest literary retailer.

I hope these suggestions help you come up with a great list of audiobooks to take on your next trip. You could even start listening on your way to the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal - it’s a lovely way to pass the time when you’re travelling under the Channel, although with a crossing time of just 35 minutes, you may not notice the journey at all! And when you’ve got your own car there’s no need for everyone to be shut off with headphones - you can all enjoy a great story together.