This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library librarians to celebrate our favorite recently published children's audiobooks. Enjoy!
The Wall In The Middle Of The Book
Preschool-3rd grade. On the left side of this self-aware picture book, a small knight confidently climbs a ladder to repair the eponymous wall in the middle of the book. The knight describes dangers on the other side of the wall (and the page gutter), including a big green ogre. Yet, when unforeseen threats emerge on the knight’s side, the other side of the wall suddenly becomes more appealing. In the audio of this bookpack, two narrators provide contrast, with a cheerful, young voice for the knight and a deep, jolly voice for the ogre. Sound effects like underwater echoes and a mouse running across the page draw the reader's attention to everything happening behind the initially oblivious knight's back. The pacing of the narration allows the reader to spend time with the dynamic watercolor illustrations, which tell the story on many wordless pages. Agee's sly humor will appeal to young readers while highlighting an important topic.
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
Preschool-4th grade. The sounds of singing fill the lively town of La Paz, and it has just gotten too noisy. When the mayor outlaws singing, the townsfolk at first are relieved. Eventually, though, the mayor's quest for silence becomes too much. It takes a cheerful, implacable rooster (or gallito) to remind all the townsfolk of the inspirational power of a song. For the bookpack, Carmen Agra Deedy herself provides the narration, with options to listen in both English and Spanish. Dramatic pauses and pitch modulation bring to life the tension between two vivid personalities--the gallito and the mayor--who represent an archetypal conflict, while being fully realized, complex characters. Aided by Yelchin's expressive illustrations, Deedy's strong Cuban accent and jaunty verbal flourishes help ground this fable in a vivid setting. The audio and picture book come together in a playful exploration of oppression and resistance with plenty of humor to draw in young listeners.
Sal & Gabi Break The Universe
4th-8th grade. Science Fiction. What if you had the power to reach into another universe and bring something (or someone) back? Sal Vidón's mother has passed away, and Sal keeps finding versions of her in alternate universes and pulling them into his own. Unfortunately, this causes small rips in time and space that could mean the end of all existence as Sal knows it. He will have to team up with his new friend Gabi to mend what he broke. Narrator Anthony Rey Perez captures Sal's sarcasm and rule-breaking attitude, as well as Gabi's irrepressibility. Switching seamlessly between English and Spanish, Perez communicates the love that connects the diverse, multi-faceted characters in Sal's world. Readers looking for action-packed science fiction will love to listen along as Sal's universe gets ever more complicated.
Preschool-3rd grade. What does a well-dressed potato wear? Potato pants, of course! Potato is determined to buy some potato pants during the one-day-only potato pants sale at Lance Vance's Fancy Pants Store. Will he make it to the store before they all sell out? In the audio, an enthusiastic potato and a narrator with a booming voice share most of the story. A full cast rounds out this zippy universe of vegetables. The narration is measured to allow readers to take in the whimsical illustrations. Lively music heightens tension and helps the listener connect to Potato's high emotions as he tries to get the potato pants of his dreams. Listeners will follow right along with Potato's efforts in this off-the-wall bookpack.
4th-8th grade. Science Fiction. In this Star Wars meets Korean mythology adventure, Min is a 13-year-old fox spirit impersonating a human on the dusty planet of Jinju. Min's brother, Jun, is accused of abandoning his post in the Space Force to seek the coveted Dragon Pearl, but Min knows he is innocent. Min rashly runs away to find her brother and clear his name. She uses her fox spirit magic to sneak onto a Space Force ship where Jun was a cadet and begins a dangerous quest. Narrator Kim Mai Guest skillfully brings a large cast of characters to life with distinct voices and pacing for each. Guest’s deft changes between characters, her timing and dramatic pauses, and her ability to capture the turmoil of Min's inner life shine in this riveting adventure. Richly developed characters, including a gender non-binary friend, sophisticated world-building and a fast-paced plot make this tale from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint a must listen.
Because Of The Rabbit
3rd-6th grade. Realistic Fiction. Emma, who has been homeschooled her entire life, is starting public school for the first time, and she has high hopes for the friends she will make. The first person she gets close to is a kid in her class named Jack. Jack does not communicate the way Emma expects, and he does not seem to have many friends himself. Throughout the book, Emma, who is white with Franco-American heritage, recalls the Quebecois stories her late grandfather told her. These stories help guide her as she faces the complicated tangle of school relationships. Author Cynthia Lord's text perceptively illuminates the challenge of trying to find your way in a new community. Narrator Kate Reinders performs Emma as a sensitive fifth-grader with an eager, expressive voice. Jack is narrated with a flatter, lower voice, highlighting the contrasts between the two. This empathetic audiobook will speak to anyone starting a new endeavor.
Max & The Midknights
2nd-6th grade. Adventure, Fantasy. A full cast of comical characters comes to life in this medieval fantasy. Max dreams of becoming a knight but is expected to follow Uncle Budrick's example as a traveling medieval troubadour. Plans change when Max and Uncle Budricks' travels lead them to the town of Byjovia, where the evil King Gastley has taken over the throne. Max and a group of new friends, who dub themselves the Midknights, find themselves fighting for their lives in this madcap, magical adventure. Strong voice actors invigorate Lincoln Pierce's hybrid of narrative prose and comic strip. Zany sound effects and smart directorial choices lend a radio drama feel to this audio rendition. Big Nate fans and listeners new to Pierce's humor will all find themselves rooting for brave Max. Listeners will laugh out loud at the incompetent magicians, absurd villains and silly voices.
Big Foot And Little Foot Collection
1st-3rd grade. Fantasy. Hugo is a sasquatch. Boone is a human. Most humans don't believe in sasquatches, and sasquatches think humans are stinky and dangerous. Hugo and Boone have a serendipitous meeting when Hugo ventures into the Big Wide World. Despite their differences, the two quickly become best friends who hunt monsters and seek adventure together. Nate Begle's narration of this collection of three books in the Big Foot and Little Foot series is clear, expressive and appropriately light-hearted, with consistent and distinct character voices. Author Ellen Potter's description of the sasquatches' hidden, underground world is full of charming details. For instance, human repellent smells like skunk. Also, Hugo's family lives in apartment 1G in "the very back of Widdershins Cavern," where Hugo's room has a little stream running through it. Meaningful issues of preconceived notions, acceptance of others and overcoming fears are wrapped up in warm stories of adventure, friendship and a robust community. This title is only available in eAudio format.
Look Both Ways: A Tale Told In Ten Blocks
5th-8th grade. Realistic Fiction. An all-star cast of narrators shine as they perform ten interrelated short stories that take place after school lets out, all within a few city blocks. Each story features a middle schooler dealing with poignant issues like a parent with cancer, a dog phobia, first love, bullying or a sibling in prison. Despite the hardships faced, Jason Reynolds writes with an optimistic, hopeful and sometimes funny tone that all the narrators embrace. The vivid characters and events weave in and out of each story, highlighting the connections that make a community. The protagonists default to Black and are voiced by Black narrators. Reynolds (author of the Track series) expertly reads the final vignette and the acknowledgments himself. This collection of lyrical stories draws the reader in from the start, with short chapters and characters full of heart.
To Night Owl From Dogfish
4th-6th grade. Realistic Fiction. This charming realistic fiction audiobook is a Parent Trap story for contemporary kids. Bett and Avery meet over email when their dads start a long-distance relationship. At first, they are reluctant to get to know each other, but after their dads send them to summer camp, they become fast friends. Performing Bett, Imani Parks embodies the character's boldness and impulsivity. As Avery, Cassandra Morris is more precise, speaking with care to portray Avery's cautious approach to life. The story unfolds over a flurry of emails, with sound effects like dings and typing sounds effectively demarcating one email from another. Bett is African American and was carried by a Brazillian surrogate, and Avery is white with Jewish heritage. A full cast voices the other diverse characters. This book drives home the point that families can be expansive and flexible, created more by love than by law.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Preschool-4th grade. The Cherokee word otsaliheliga “is a reminder to celebrate our blessings and reflect on our struggles.” In this bookpack, author Traci Sorell follows a contemporary Cherokee family throughout the year. As seasons pass, they say otsaliheliga for everyday activities like a dinner of bean bread and hominy soup, playing by a spring stream and planting strawberries. Four intergenerational narrators underscore the universality of the text and the importance of community. Rhythmic music immediately draws in the listener, while rich background sounds of woodpeckers drilling, children laughing and a river burbling highlight details in the folk-style illustrations. The pronunciation of Cherokee words is emphasized on each page. All of the narrators, including the author, are members of the Cherokee Nation. Back matter, including definitions, an author’s note and syllabary, provides more insight into Cherokee culture, holidays, literature and language. This cozy, quiet #ownvoices story is perfect for anyone looking for books about being thankful.
All The Greys On Greene Street
5th-8th grade. Historical Fiction. Olympia (Ollie to her friends) is a sixth-grade artist living among other artists in SoHo in 1981. Ollie is doing her best to carry on by herself after her father leaves on a mysterious trip to France, and her mother experiences a depressive crisis. Author Laura Tucker brings to life the world of New York in the 1980s, exploring themes of art, meaning-making and mental health with deft attention. Narrator Taylor Meskimen performs Ollie with a youthful voice and measured pace. As the intricate story evolves, and Ollie's plight becomes more dire, Meskimen brings strong emotion to her performance, voicing Ollie's confusion and fear. This audiobook is a sharply drawn exploration of a child growing up in the art world of New York City, confronting the many complexities of life.
Other Words For Home
4th-6th grade. Realistic Fiction. Jude, who dreams of someday becoming a movie star, lives a happy life on the coast of Syria. Then, political unrest overtakes her town, and Jude and her mother seek safety with Jude's uncle in the United States, leaving her father and brother behind. Author Jasmine Warga writes in free verse, capturing Jude's bittersweet observations of what it means to leave one culture behind and become an outsider in another. "I have learned Americans love to say you know and then / stop / talking," Jude says. "They force you to fill in the hard parts, / the things they are not brave enough to say." Narrator Vaneh Assadourian presents Jude's voice with a melodic lilt, perfectly capturing the lyricism of the text. Assadourian deftly switches among varied accents as Jude's world expands beyond her loving Muslim family to include friends and acquaintances from around the world. Listeners will find themselves looking at the world anew through Jude's hopeful eyes. This title is only available in eAudio format.