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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And now for something completely different...

No rants about business and saving the world today, friends!

Today's topic near and dear to the heart of any parent looking for ways to distract your child during that critical application of sunscreen prior to a school day...the AUDIO BOOK.

We have an agreement now. My son will not complain about the sunscreen application as long as I leave the audio book on. So, I stop the car, roll down my window (in case I accidentally lock the doors somehow!), keep the audio book playing, walk around to his side of the car and apply the sunscreen. No whining or the book is turned off! Finish application, unbuckle son, walk back around to driver's side, roll up window and THEN turn off the audio book. Whew! A whine-free sunscreen application!

If your kids are into the listening library, I have a few great ones to recommend. My son is 4 and would sit listening to anyone read to him all day long if he could, so you will have to judge your own child's preferences and choose what books are OK for his/her age.

You can get all of these audio books from the Marin Library.

#1 - First and foremost, the MOST popular series is "The Magic Tree House" by Mary Pope Osborne. There are somewhere between 35-45 of these books. My son loves them. Each story is about 45 minutes and contains magic and adventure. They feature a brother (Jack, around 10 years old) and sister (Annie, around 8 years old), each with personal strengths that help them excel at their adventures while helping one another.

When we recently visited an exhibit with photos of the 1906 earthquake survivor camps, I said, "Look at the tents people lived in after the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco..." and he said, "No, mommy, the fire destroyed the city." Helllloooo Magic Tree House book about the 1906 eathquake!

#2 - "Mary Poppins" read by Sophie Thompson.

Sophie Thompson is the actress who plays the "spinster" Miss Burns in the 1996 version of "Emma" (starring Gwenyth Paltrow). She brings this lovely story full of magic and wonder to life! And if you have not read the book, you will be surprised at the differences between the literary Mary Poppins and the film version played by Julie Andrews.

#3 - Any of the books in the series "Stink" by Megan Mcdonald and Peter H. Reynolds. Be sure to get the version read by Nancy Cartwright. You might recognize her as the voice of Bart Simpson. These books are funny! Read with hilarious voices, for those of you with kids over 4, you will all be laughing in the car.

I should probably mention that the "Stink" books are written for kids probably over 6, and do refer to icky kid stuff like boogers. Don't listen to them if you don't want your kids to be exposed to such unseemly things :-)

#4 - Ramona (remember her?!) by Beverly Cleary read by the fabulous Stockard Channing (yes, you read that right!)

A favorite of mine long before they invented these newfangled audio things, I read all the Beverly Cleary books when I was a youngster.

We've listened to "Ramona the Pest" which takes place when Ramona is in Kindergarten, followed by "Ramona the Brave" which is her 1st grade adventure. Stockard Channing is a great reader, her Ramona is so lovable and Beezus so wise as the older sister. We now say, "Ramona, nobody likes a tattletale" exactly like Stockard Channing (you'll just have to listen to it to get the joke).

#5 - OK, from here on, I'm going to recommend a few audio books that I loved for YOU, the adult in your life.

The entire "Harry Potter" series, read by Jim Dale. FABULOUS! Jim Dale brings these books to life in a totally different way. Start at book 1 and enjoy the next 1,500 hours of your life.

#6 - The "His Dark Materials" trilogy ("The Golden Compass" book 1, "His Dark Materials" book 2, and "The Amber Spyglass" book 3) by Phillip Pullman, read by the author and a full cast of accomplished British actors.

This trilogy is a cult classic that I did not read. I listened to the audio books (twice over the years) and loved them. They are captivating and the story is compelling (albeit a bit far-fetched). DO NOT judge these books by that awful movie that came out a couple of years ago. It did not tell the story well. Uck!

#7 - (I promise this is the last one) If you are too tired to read a book and want to be lulled into a lovely dreamy sleep, listen to the audio books by Alexander McCall Smith about the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." These books are read by Lisette Lecat. I have never read these bestsellers in the traditional book form, but the audio versions are like listening to a perfectly read poem. I'll wimp out on my own review because Publisher's Weekly said it better than I could:

"It was a shrewd idea to get the veteran actress and audiobook prize winner Lecat to perform this version of Smith's latest mystery starring the unforgettable Botswana detective Precious Ramotswe. Lecat is a native South African who grew up hearing the authentic accents of women just like Ramotswe, and she gives the character the perfect notes of a real person rather than slipping into caricature. Indeed, Lecat has as good an ear for the ethnic turf covered as the author does. She is also adept at making other female characters, such as assistant detective Grace Makutsi, different but immediately believable. It's Grace who has the title's passion for fancy footwear—in spite of her being a secret feminist afraid of letting her boyfriend know about her politics. Smith does mix in small measures of danger and mystery, but the overall feeling is one of a pleasant dream, of gentle wonder that such people can exist in a conflicted world. And Lecat is the perfect choice to read the story."

I could go on....seriously...but I won't.

If you are still reading this long long post, you are probably wondering how in the world I have time to listen to so many audio books, hmmm? Especially if you happen to know me...then you also know that I am a voracious reader.

I guess that's my little secret, huh!?

Post your favorite audio books here, I love recommendations!