I recently returned from a road trip with my two small children. Fifteen hours in the car (one way) makes for looo-oong driving days with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. To pass the time in the car, I brought along some books on CD. We have tried books on CD before with only mild success. Last time we traveled, we brought along Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes by Kate DiCamillo. My kids were already very familiar with Mercy Watson books but seemed only half-heartedly interested in hearing the familiar story read by somebody new.
For this trip (one year later), I decided to try a couple of books that are new to my kiddos. We started with Horrible Harry and the Green Slime by Suzy Kline which is read by Johnny Heller. I chose this one because it is a short chapter book with lots of pictures and I had a copy for my son to follow along with. Since it is a series, I also hoped that he might take a liking to it and want to try reading more Horrible Harry books after the trip. I know Horrible Harry books are written to have short, simple sentences that are easy to read but I was still disappointed with the way this book was read out loud on the CD. While my son listened dutifully (and even laughed occasionally as he listened), Heller read the book with such a staccato, abrupt voice that I found the story to be slightly jarring and uncomfortable to listen to. The best thing about this book on CD was that it was over in less than an hour. When I asked him about it later, my son did say that he liked the book though so that’s something.
The second book on CD that accompanied us on our road trip was an absolute delight! I took along Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. I am a huge Kate DiCamillo fan and purchased this book at an author event where I was able to meet DiCamillo just before the book won the Newbery. This book was read by Tara Sands and she did a phenomenal job! Her tone was perfect and the subtle voice changes helped to distinguish each of the characters as they spoke. The idea of a “superhero” squirrel who writes poetry and the temporarily blind neighbor boy were humorous enough components to the storyline to delight my 5-year-old. What was most impressive to me, though, was the way Tara Sands handled “reading” the graphic novel portions of the book. She described each scene with simple, straightforward and clear explanations that enhanced the story and (had you not had a copy of the book in front of you like we did) would have made the reader completely oblivious that they were missing any pictures. It was beautifully done, and I imagine I may have enjoyed the book even more for having listened to it. My 35-year-old husband, my 5-year-old son, and I each enjoyed the story immensely, which was most evident when my son would ask to hold the book in order to follow along with the words and pictures, and also when he would ask to listen! When I talked to my son after the trip about which book he liked listening to better, there was no hesitation when he said Flora and Ulysses. I would highly recommend picking up Flora and Ulysses on CD for your next road trip (with or without kids)! -Marika