Friday, August 21, 2009

Trippin' It Old School

Call us old-fashioned. But despite having three children and--gag!--a minivan, we drew the line at the drop-down video screen option. We have our principles, after all. When Dudleys hit the road, they do it in the time-honored fashion, with hours of boredom looking out the windows at I-5 and a healthy dose of inter-sibling warfare. (Seriously, my two older kids, who both sit in the very back, once had what looked like a kickboxing tournament, and it was not in jest.)

What do we have for entertainment, all those fifteen hours to the Bay Area? Besides our limited imaginations, we listen to books on tape. And I mean tape because our CD player always conks out when it overheats, usually at an exciting part in the story. We have learned the hard way.

In the early days it was harder to choose books everyone in the family would enjoy listening to (everyone under 10, that is), and there was plenty of squabbling over whose book got to be in. I even used to check out those audio books that included the picture book, so kids could follow along, turning pages whenever they hit the "beep!" But those kinds of books only last a few minutes, and the kids fought over who got to hold the physical book, so I'm happy to have graduated out of them.

This trip? We'll be listening to HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, all 18+ hours, thank you very much. Even that won't cover the round trip, so I've also got THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, which I know nothing about and which also is unfortunately on CD. Which means we'll probably hear some of HP6 twice. Not a problem--even my youngest has seen all the movies multiple times and can talk knowledgeably about horcruxes.

Because everyone, including my husband, first heard the HP series read aloud by me, there is some general grumbling over the reader's voice(s) and style, but that's always the thing with audio books. We've heard wonderful productions and horrid ones. FYI:

The LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series, read by Cherry Lane. She's fabulous, and there's even fiddle music. Go, Pa!

The WINNIE-THE-POOH series, read by a constellation of British stars, including Judi Dench. Jane Horrocks as Piglet is our hands-down favorite. My kids spent much of the trip trying to imitate her.

The WINNIE-THE-POOH version read by Carol Channing. Seriously unpleasant, especially after hearing the other production.

Michael Chabon's SUMMERLAND. Who would think I would ever object to a Michael Chabon book? But this one, after some fun opening chapters, goes on FOREVER AND EVER. Even with all our hours and hours of driving we couldn't finish, and no one could follow the plot or stay interested enough to try. He reads it himself, so at least he doesn't ask anything of us that he isn't willing to go through.


Last summer we listened to JULIE OF THE WOLVES, which I'd never read, and we were all enjoying the story, but no one warned me about Why Julie Ran Away to the Wolves in the First Place. So there we are, listening contentedly, rooting for Julie to win over the Wolf Leader, when there's a flashback to how she got there. She got there because her creepy "husband" (whom she had to marry as a child, pretty much) tries to consummate their union. Ahem. Eek! Over choruses of protest, I went for the eject button, not knowing how detailed this encounter would be.

I hear Kindles can "read" books aloud. Has anyone tried this option? I imagine this would be about as fun as having Stephen Hawking read your books aloud, but I'd be happy to be mistaken.

And if you or your family have enjoyed a great audio book production, pass it on. There's always the next road trip.


  1. Listening to Jim Dale read the Harry Potter series has totally spoiled me, but I will have to try the Little House reader you mentioned. My hubby listens to the Enders' Game series but, having never read the books myself, I just can't get into them in audiobook format. The reader is SO DRY!

  2. Book on tape saved our sanity on many a road trip from Seattle to California. We liked the Narnia books (each is read by a different person, including Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Brannagh, Patrick Stewart, and Lynn Redgrave.) We also liked A Year Down Yonder -- available through King County Library.

    And as much as I love my Kindle and wouldn't part with it, I know Jim Dale. I've listened to Jim Dale. You sir, Mr Kindle, are no Jim Dale.

  3. In case you wondered what Kate Jackson did after CHARLIE'S ANGELS, you'll be thrilled to know she's the reader on THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS. Ha ha.