Friday, August 8, 2014

Need a Break From Family Movie Night? Give Audiobooks a Try! Here's One to Start With...

The entire family just finished listening to Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein which we downloaded using our Audible account, and I couldn't resist posting my review because we absolutely loved it. I figured, why reinvent the wheel when I (think I) already said nearly everything I had to say in the review I left on their website?

If you don't have an Audible account already and have any sort of device you can download audio books to, I highly recommend it as a valuable resource for home educating (and any) families. Audio books can be entertaining, educational, and excellent for keeping the kids (and parents) happy on road trips or during prolonged errand days.

Also, lately, Audible has been adding some awesome new content, such as many of courses from The Great Courses company...and they are all one credit each. Now that's an amazing deal for homeschoolers, especially high schoolers, and for the many dads (and/or moms) who have to commute to work each day, too.

They also have shorter books (as well as longer ones) which are on many of the commonly referenced homeschooling book lists, such as Paddle to the Sea, Tales from Shakespeare, and Parables from Nature.

If you are interested in giving Audible a try, why not try a fun and motivating book like Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein first? You can read on for my recent review of this enjoyable adventure...and please don't forget to check your favorite deal sites or do a Google search for free book or reduced cost promotions before signing up. It never hurts to save a bit of money. You can always turn around and invest it in buying more audio books!

*FYI: I am not trying to promote Audible for any personal gain. It simply happens to be the service we use. If you  know of any others that are good, please feel free to share in the comments below. Thank you!


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library | [Chris Grabenstein]
"The Most Fun We've Had Listening to an Audiobook in Ages"
What did you love best about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library?
The story line was riveting from the very beginning. The characters were varied and interesting. The plot was rollicking fun in the form of a mystery/game/scavenger hunt held in the most amazing library ever. It was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwieler wrapped up in a scavenger hunt and a game of Clue. Lots of fun all around. Most of my family, the children ages 3,5,8,10, and 16, plus my husband and I, all thoroughly enjoyed the story. In fact, the kids didn't want to get out of the car as we were running errands until we finished each chapter, and then we had to take the Kindle inside to finish off the story before bedtime.

What did you like best about this story?
I absolutely loved all of the literary and cultural references. The overriding message of the value and appeal of books and learning in general was well-integrated throughout the story in a way that drew my kids into wanting to read many of the titles that were mentioned. As a parent, I loved how it emphasized families and friends playing board games together, the pleasure derived from reading good books, the benefits of being friends with all types of different people, fair play, and teamwork. As a teacher, I can't wait to get a print copy for my older home educated kids to go through so they can highlight some of the books referenced that they have not already read and put them on their reading lists. I really hope that a few of the games mentioned in this book will actually be marketed. They sounded like a lot of fun!

Have you listened to any of Jesse Bernstein’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
No, I haven't listened to his other performances, but after hearing this one, I'd be glad to listen to another. The only performance I've heard that was better was Brendan Fraser's reading of Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. That's our family's other favorite audio book (because his voices are hilarious). I don't know. This one might top it because the story is so much fun and a bit faster paced.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?
Twelve children. Twenty-four hours. One huge, state-of-the-art library. Who will solve the mystery and win the amazing prize?

Any additional comments?
Don't miss this book. I am not sure why some folks called this formulaic or accused it of copying other works...sure, it references many works of literature and uses traditional literary devices, but it is it's own excellent work of children's fiction (yes, as an adult, I figured out some of the clues ahead of my kids, but they sure had a blast and it didn't bother me one bit to have caught on more quickly). Teachers would do well to incorporate this one into their curriculum, or at least, their recommended reading list. It is excellent as a read aloud/audio book, and would be perfect to pass time on a road trip. Enjoy!


On an additional note, other audio books we have greatly enjoyed together include: 
  • Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke read by Brendan Fraser (also InkHeart, but it is darker and I only listened to it with my oldest two years ago)
  • Urchin of the Riding Stars: Book One of the Mistmantle Chronicles (it is the only one available on audio, but it will get your kids jazzed to read the rest on their own) by Margaret McAllister. Great story.
  • Ella Enchanted, The Fairy's Mistake, The Princess Test, Two Princesses of Baumarre, and any other books by Gail Carson Levine. Most of them are VERY amusing. A few have serious lessons they teach with the same engaging storylines.
  • Eight Cousins by Lousia May Alcott...good classic with wonderful vocabulary. Even my boys liked it.
  • The Boxcar Children books (1-3 are available as a set on Audible)
  • The Magic Treehouse Books
  • The Henry Huggins Collection by Beverly Cleary
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • And, of course, any of the Adventures in Odyssey stories, the entire Jonathan Park series, My Own Stories (most of them), and the Uncle Rick stories from the Boyers (not technically all audio stories...some are retellings of scripture, and wonderful for nighttime listening)...check CBD or Library and Educational Services for the best prices, though the My Own Stories collections are now available on Audible. Adventures in Odyssey and MOS can also be found online for free in limited quantities if you want to try them first.
**Please let me know of any of your favorites in the comments below...especially ones you have found for free download or on Audible or another downloadable audio book service. 

And, of course, if your budget is limited, please don't forget one of my favorite sites, My Audio School (MAS), which for a VERY minimal yearly subscription rate provides links to quality stories and audio productions that are available online for free (and many lovely pictures to complement each selection). 

Quite a few of the selections MAS suggests are difficult to find on your own, plus they categorize them for you, which saves tons of time. Most of them are on homeschool (and some other schools') recommended reading lists. This excellent method of "reading" quality books works very well for children with special needs (such as reading delays or autism), as well as expanding the options for early readers to books which are good for them, but beyond their ability to read independently.


Lately I've noticed lately that Amazon is providing low cost narrations for many of the books you may choose to download to your Kindle (including free ones, which are numerous). This gives you a much nicer option to listen to than the text-to-speech voices. This feature has really been great for my one struggling reader who loves to read harder books, but benefits from following along as someone pronounces the more difficult words for her. The text-to-speech voice often mispronounces the same words she would (such as reading the word read the incorrect way), so having the option to purchase the narrated audio copy for a few dollars if I already own the book is something I find especially advantageous (and Audible keeps track of what you own on your Kindle and will make you offers based on your purchases). 

You are also able to sync your devices, so you can start listening on one device in the car (such as the cell phone), then pick up with reading and listening on the Kindle or computer later on at the same place. That's awesome. It's especially good when we've run out the battery on the phone listening to the book in the car, and the kids are insisting that we MUST finish the book before bedtime, so we pull up our Audible account on my computer, snuggle on the bed and chairs in my room, and have a bedtime story all together. 

I love family time. 
I love good books. 
Family time + good books = priceless.

Well, that's much more than I planned to say, but I am excited about all these new options for appreciating literature using technology (it can do so much more than be a tool for playing video games). 

I am not saying I will ever give up my many beloved REAL books (no way, not ever!), but I think I am finally ready to embrace the various new ways to get the content of those books into the hearts and minds of myself and my family (and it's not bad to be able to give your own voice a rest once in a while and just sit back and enjoy the experience of listening to a good book, either, is it?).

Have fun exploring the options!

Many blessings to you,


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