Reading in the car


Do you read in the car? Does it make you feel queasy? I have to admit it’s been so long since I was a good old fashioned passenger I’m not sure I’d be able to read in the car these days. But back when I was a wee sprout and we took long car journeys during holidays having a book for the ride was a must. I remember squinting as the sunset faded or trying to concentrate as we drove over bumps and the words jumped up and down, pushing on till the end of the chapter because it absolutely must be read.


These days the remedy for my need-for-story whilst driving is the audio book. Add to that: total control over the stereo. No way my Dad could have withstood my voracious need-for-story during those loooooong car journeys. “Story Time” got a good run, but the stories were interspersed with horse race commentaries on the radio, or a rugby games, or the slotting in of worn Dire Straits cassettes. {Side note: Dire Straits rock. Fist pump.}


My kids, on the other hand, get practically saturated in story, no exceptions. We read at home, we listen to audio books in the car. B2 actually prefers music, she’s quite the groover, but B1 screams bloody murder till “THE STORY!!!” is put back on. {I think I may have created a monster.} But there are good audio books and then there are great audio books. I consider myself, ahem, something of a connoisseur. The critical elements, of course, just like reading books at home are: a good variety of voices, undulations, sound effects and pauses for laughter or gasps. I’ve listened to a stack of audio books these past three years and here are some of our favourites, in case you too want to enjoy a story next time you are road-trip bound…



1.) The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton (read by Kate Winslet)

In our family’s audio book history, The Magic Faraway Tree read by Kate Winslet was ‘love at first sound’. This was the first audio book B1 really “got” and became attached to. Thank goodness there are several discs in the set because I was popping those bad boys into the stereo one after the other, with B1 yodelling (euphemism) from the back seat “FAR-WAY TREE, MUMMY!” any time there was a short pause. Perhaps it was Kate Winslet’s delightful British accent, perhaps it was the magic of the ever-rotating lands at the top of the tree, perhaps it was treats like “toffee shocks” or “google buns” but we were hooked. I may have listened to the discs when the kids weren’t in the car with me. I’m not telling.



2.) Bad Jelly the Witch by Spike Milligan (read by Spike Milligan)

Okay, I’ll admit it, this story is a little scary for my girls. The witch’s laughter frightens me a fair bit and there is mention of making soup out of small children. But B1 adores it! I get asked approximately thirty times a day: “Mummy, why does the witch go into ‘moke?”. It’s a good, old-fashioned scary / silly story. Rescuing itself just in time, from getting too dark or bleak, with lines like “Stinky poo, stinky poo! Knickers, knickers, knickers!” and sending giants off to “Bare bottom land”. That it is read by Spike Milligan himself, well, that just adds an extra dose of awesome.



3.) Bonnie and Sam by Alison Lester (read by Miranda Nation) 

This audio book is a “bind up” of the entire “Horse Crazy!” or “Bonnie and Sam” series by Alison Lester. Never heard of it before? Neither had I. I had read lots of Alison Lester picture books, including Clive eats Alligators but didn’t quite realize what an “Aussie Legend” she is. Author and illustrator, thankyouverymuch. I stumbled across this pack of three CD’s at my local library and loved the stories about two horse-mad country girls and their wild adventures. Miranda Nation has the perfect voice for these stories, listening to these discs is like being transported back to Australia.  I swear I could smell the Australian dust, hear the whinnying of horses and feel the longing of Bonnie and Sam for horses of their own and freedom to ride wherever and whenever they please.


4.) Mog’s Bad Thing by Judith Kerr (read by Susan Sheridan)

We’re going with animals (no.3) and poo (no.2) elements in this list! I could have chosen any Mog story, they’re all big hits in our household, but this one does have great sound effects and lots of different accents and miaows, of course. It’s short, it’s charming, it doesn’t require too many explanations (B1 is big on “why?”.) Besides, I adore Judith Kerr – The Tiger who Came to Tea is the personal favourite and My Henry leaves me in tears every time. Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, based on Kerr’s early life during WWII is on my list of must-stop-being-so-slack-and-actually-read-that-book booklist.



5.) Violet and the Mean and Rotten Pirates by Richard Hamilton (read by Bill Wallis)

This was another surprise find at the library, much like the story of Violet herself. Violet, the baby, is discovered abandoned during a pirate’s raid and grows up to become Violet (“Vile” for short!) the pirate. Bill Wallis does such a stellar job with all the gravelly, mean, insecure-at-heart pirate voices and the story is perfectly balanced: both funny and sweet. Another great, strong, girl protagonist who does really cool things like swing from masts and wield a sword, rather than brush her hair and wear pretty dresses. In fact, I think Violet the Pirate would probably be a little unwashed and smelly, if you met her in real life. And she would probably say “Arrrrrr….”


So that’s our list – The audio books we listen to again and again! I’m sure we’ll have a new list in another year, as both girls grow and we discover new treasures in our local library. And if you don’t trust my top picks, Apple has listed their bestselling young adult & kids audio books by countries here. But either way, listen to an audio book during your next car trip and enjoy the peace of quiet children listening keenly and memories of being read to.


Do you read in the car? Do you have a favourite audio book?

HUGS, Hannah x