Best New Audiobooks for Middle-Grade Readers
AudioFile for The Children’s Book Review
Middle-grade readers looking for a new favorite audiobook will find a lot to love in this list. The five audiobooks below offer a range of listening experiences, from an impressive historical novel chronicling the lives of an African American family from the 1920s to the 1960s, to a Newbery Award-winning fantasy incorporating Korean mythology into a tale about family and facing your fears. And graphic novel fans will rejoice that the companion to NEW KID is out on audio. AudioFile Editors have chosen these audiobooks with outstanding narrations to entertain listeners and their families.
Loretta Little Looks Back
Story by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Read by Dashawn Barnes, Deborah Wilson, and Ralph Harris
Ages 8+ | Hachette Audio | Length: 5 hrs. | Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
Author Andrea Davis Pinkney creates something extraordinary in this monologue novel using the oral history tradition to explore the effects of racism and segregation through generations. The Littles of Ruleville, Mississippi—Loretta, Roly, and Aggie B.—know hardship and oppression in their bones, but they also know joy and love. Dashawn Barnes, Deborah Wilson, and Ralph Harris narrate this production with fire and spirit, inhabiting the characters like actors on a stage. The narrators offer both a stirring set of performances and a map to guide those who follow in their footsteps. Review »
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When You Trap a Tiger
Story by Tae Keller
Read by Greta Jung
Ages 8+ | Listening Library | Length: 7.5 hrs.
The Newbery Award-winning novel is a delight to listen to on audio. Narrator Greta Jung is outstanding at capturing both the youthful and adult voices in this chapter book for tweens. Listeners will empathize with the shy Korean-American girl who wants to disappear at the sign of any conflict. Lily’s quiet personality alternates with the sassiness of her older sister, Sam, who will entertain young listeners with her bristling retorts to adults. A lively, confident narrator is exactly what listeners need for a story that bends into Korean mythology as Lily realizes she is being followed by a tiger only she can see—and needs to find her courage to rescue her grandmother. Review »
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The Sea in Winter
Story by Christine Day
Read by Kimberly Woods
Ages 8+ | Harper Audio | Length: 4.5 hrs.
Narrator Kimberly Woods’s soft voice draws out the roiling emotions in an audiobook about recovery, loss, and hope. Maisie is a 12-year-old Makah and Piscataway girl whose identity has revolved around ballet for years, but now she’s injured and facing an uncertain future. Woods’s youthful voice embodies Maisie, whose anger and anxieties are beginning to overwhelm her despite the loving support of her family. Young listeners who are facing loss will find this quiet audiobook provides comfort and catharsis, as well as a role model for learning to express strong emotions and to ask for help. Review »
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Story by Jerry Craft
Read by Nile Bullock, Jesus Del Orden, Guy Lockard, Marc Thompson, Peyton Lusk, Rebecca Soler, Dan Bittner, January LaVoy, Phoebe Strole, Jordan Cobb, A.J Beckles, Robin Miles, Ron Butler, Miles Harvey, Kim Mai Guest, Kyla Garcia, Soneela Nankani
Ages 10+ | Harper Audio | Length: 2 hrs.
Listeners will delight in being back with their friends from the 2020 Newbery Award-winning graphic novel NEW KID. Jordan, narrated by Jesus Del Orden, is excited but nervous to be back in school. His friend Drew, narrated by Nile Bullock, has an easy time connecting with Jordan, but they both continue to feel uncomfortable about how they are treated by their mostly wealthy white classmates and teachers. Subtle sound effects and lively voices from a full cast help listeners imagine the bustling hallways as Drew and Jordan navigate the minefield of racist microaggressions, colorism, crushes, and rocky friendships. Review »
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Maya and the Rising Dark
Story by Rena Barron
Read by Soneela Nankani
Ages 8+ | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | Length: 7.5 hrs. | Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
Narrator Soneela Nankani delivers an animated performance in this audiobook about a girl’s search for her father, who is missing in the Dark world. Maya has just learned that her father is an Orisha tasked with maintaining the veil between the human world and the Dark. As a half-Orisha, Maya must figure out how to use her newfound powers and brave the Dark to rescue her father. Added sound effects of intense winds and Nankani’s emotional connection and pace will delight listeners of all ages. Review » https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/178800/
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