Top Picks: Essential family-friendly summer listens

23rd July 2017

The summer holidays are upon us – hooray!

A couple of months of blissful family fun in the sun, or six weeks of squabbling, predictably unpredictable weather, and endless car journeys?

If you’re in desperate need of ways to keep the kids entertained no matter what the weather (and maintain your own sanity in the process), we’re sure to have just the thing.

Here’s our run-down of some of the best children and young adult audiobooks – so good, we know you’ll love them too.

Dangerous Skies by Brian James, narrated by Liam Gerrard

Discover London during the Blitz, as seen through the eyes of schoolboy, Alan.

Gripping, brilliantly written, and intensely real, Dangerous Skies offers a different perspective on life during one of the most terrifying and deadly times in British history. Actor and narrator Liam Gerrard proves to be the perfect fit, bringing the loveable (and not-so-loveable) characters to life, and does justice to the gravity of the book’s subject matter, which, based on the author’s own experiences makes it even more poignant.

Such an absorbing storyline, combined with the historically accurate details mean that Dangerous Skies will capture the imaginations of both young and old.

Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes, narrated by Catherine O’Brien

Dubbed the ‘Father of History’, Herodotus chronicled his travels and experiences throughout the 5th Century BC. Lorna Oakes breathes new life into these ancient classics with her eloquent story-telling, and narrator Catherine O’Brien’s clear reading is easy on the ear and ensures that it’s digestible even for younger listeners. These tales may be more than 2500 years old, but they spark challenging philosophical questions on big issues that are pertinent to this day. Oakes doesn’t shy away from the gory bits either, and the whole family will be engrossed by tales of bloody battles, gruesome punishments, and weird and wonderful rituals.

Stories from Herodotus may be on the National Curriculum (added bonus!) but that won’t stop listeners of all ages enjoying it – if you’re a fan of the film 300, you’ll be in for a treat.

Stories from Herodotus

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, narrated by Pearl Hewitt

We think the five-star reviews Pearl Hewitt has been garnering for her interpretation of this heart-warming classic speak for themselves, but we’ll let you make your own decision.

Telling the tale of Mary Lennox, a young orphan who is sent from India to Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire, The Secret Garden has spanned generations to become one of the best-loved children’s stories of all time.

Listen as Mary grows, and transforms from spoilt, rude, and lonely, to loveable and loving. Both children and adults can take away valuable lessons on love, life, and possibility, without the story being trite or overtly moral, and whilst it may be uplifting, The Secret Garden comes with its fair share of mystery and Gothicism.

Even if you’re familiar with the book, Pearl Hewitt’s narration provides a freshness and vigour that allows you to experience it in a new and exciting light.

The Secret Garden

Blackout by Sam Grenfall, narrated by Liam Gerrard

Definitely one for the older kids; the first in the Sebastian Cleary series, Blackout introduces us to the new teen anti-hero on the block. He’s flawed, he’s misunderstood, and he’s experienced the joys of GCSEs, making him instantly relatable to young adult listeners, who will be hooked right from the explosive start in Unit 26 of Felton Young Offenders’ Institution.

This gritty urban thriller hurtles along, unflinching like a teen on their skateboard, with enough twists and turns to keep even the most streetwise of young adults on their toes.

Menacing, exhilarating, and effortlessly cool, it’s got substance as well as style, centring around the topical issue of eco-terrorism, with realistic characters who develop throughout the journey.

Hailed as ‘young James Bond meets Breaking Bad’, this novel is just the beginning of a series of sure-fire modern classics.


The Cracked Amulet by R.B. Watkinson, narrated by Anna Parker-Naples

Another young adult choice, and again, the first in a series, The Cracked Amulet is a fantasy novel like no other.

Thanks to the author’s intricate and compelling storytelling, and award-winning narrator, Anna Parker-Naples’ interpretation, listeners will be whisked off to a faraway land, that is at once mystical and otherworldly, yet filled with an unsettling realism that sets it clearly apart from other novels within the genre.

With nefarious, blood-thirsty villains, and magic and mystery oozing from its core, The Cracked Amulet’s chilling and unpredictable plot follows two characters on their own cleverly intertwining epic journeys.

If you’re after a strong female lead, meet Katleya. Ultra-smart, a dab-hand with a knife, and with magik flowing through her, she’s a force to be reckoned with.

It might have a run time of 13 hours and 24 minutes, but this audiobook will be so hard to put down, it’ll be over in a flash.

The Cracked Amulet Cover

So there you have it – our suggestions to make sure your kids step away from the TV, put down the game controller, and get their imaginations well and truly racing.

Which audiobook do you think you* will love the most? For even more choice, search for “Essential Audiobooks” on Audible or visit

Wishing you a wonderful summer!

*they – we mean they!

Written by Bryony Robertson

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