11 best audiobooks for kids to spark their imaginations

11 best audiobooks for kids to spark their imaginations

In Reading Lists by Emma Contreras

11 best audiobooks for kids to spark their imaginations

It’s never too early or too late to introduce children to the power of audiobooks. Whether you have a babbling baby or a middle schooler on the hunt for their next chapter book, the best audiobooks for kids have the same criteria as audiobooks for any other age group: They’re productions that can effortlessly capture the listener's attention and encourage them to use their imagination.

Whether you’re looking for a story that’s great to listen to from the cozy comfort of home or while passing the time in the car on a family road trip, kids’ audiobooks can quickly transport readers into the lives of the main characters. You’ll find that the audiobooks listed here are not only highly entertaining, but also reinforce the importance of family, friendship, and empathy. 

If you’re looking for a short audiobook for kids and babies, I highly recommend Where the Wild Things Are, which is one of my personal childhood favorites that I now get to read to my son. For middle grade readers looking for something more advanced, Jason Reynolds’ Ghost is sure to inspire. 

1. Corduroy by Don Freeman

Jump right in to our list of best audiobooks for kids with this lovely, sweet tale about a department store bear who’s missing a button and longing for a friend. 

A classic in children’s literature, Corduroy has had early readers rooting for the teddy bear to find a home for generations. Young Lisa saves up her money to buy Corduroy, missing button and all, proving that we all deserve to be loved exactly as we are. 

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2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

This is more than just the story of a naughty boy named Max who gets sent to bed without dinner, then decides to sail away and meet some monsters: It’s also one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. 

Little mischief makers of all ages can explore the wild rumpus, tame the wild things, and let their imaginations run free with Sendak’s 1963 classic. 

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3. The Skull by Jon Klassen

Klassen’s whimsical Tyrolean folktale retelling is a gorgeous feast of music, sound effects, and spooky but heartwarming vibes. 

Otilla, a young girl on the run, stumbles upon an old, abandoned house. However, it’s not totally abandoned, as there’s a skull that lives there and welcomes Otilla in. 

Narrated by Klassen and Fairuza Balk, this weirdly sweet, macabre story of friendship and bravery won the 2024 Audie Award for Young Listeners. 

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4. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Start at the beginning of Lobel’s beloved, award-winning series with this book. Frog and Toad Are Friends, first published in 1970, celebrates the power of friendship as the eponymous characters go swimming together, write letters, and make other mundane yet magical memories. 

Lobel himself brings his classic tales to life with a fantastic performance that’ll make listeners of all ages laugh out loud. Check out the animated series adaptation on Apple TV+.

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5. Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons

The importance of heritage and tradition shine in Lyons’ tale of a family reunion. Every year, all the children share something that celebrates their family roots. As Lil Alan, his parents, and his sister head down to Grandma’s farm, he ponders what he’ll do to honor his close-knit, multigenerational family. 

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6. Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes

Experience a day in the life of rambunctious brothers Charlie and Mouse as they wake their mom and dad up far too early (parents everywhere will groan in commiseration), go on outdoor adventures, and gather their neighbors for a party. 

A playful sense of humor is weaved throughout each of the short stories in Charlie & Mouse. Plus, there are jokes added in for parents’ benefit and an inclusive cast of characters that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds. 

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7. What Happened to Rachel Riley by Claire Swinarski

What Happened to Rachel Riley, winner of the 2024 Audie Award for Middle Grade, delivers extraordinarily important messages for young people about peer pressure, bullying, and consent, all in an age-appropriate manner. 

New girl Anna Hunt is determined to figure out why formerly popular Rachel Riley is now the social outcast of their 8th grade class. Following a trail of social media posts, passed notes, and emails, readers follow along as Anna’s detective-like sleuthing leads to complex (sometimes uncomfortable) truths about the reality of standing up for what you believe in, even when it’s not the cool thing to do. 

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8. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The dramatized adaptation of Gaiman’s spooktacular Audie Award winner is, hands down, one of the best audiobook performances for kids and adults alike. An enchanting tale filled with narrators that are perfectly cast, the adventure of Nobody Owens and his haunted family will leave you wanting more.

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9. The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

In The Last Cuentista, Halley’s Comet hurtles toward Earth in 2061, and Petra Peña’s family is one of the few chosen to escape to a new planet. But when she awakens centuries later, no one else remembers Earth. Petra must become a cuentista — a storyteller, just like her grandmother — to keep the past alive. 

Higuera’s Newbery Medal winner is a blend of speculative fiction and Mexican lore that takes its time, engrossing readers in every page and revealing how storytelling brings us together.

You can also listen to The Last Cuentista in Spanish

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10. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Skillfully navigating themes of resilience and redemption, Reynolds pens a deeply moving narrative of a young boy who discovers that no matter how talented he is on the track field, he can’t outrun his past. As he does in his other works, like Long Way Down and For Every One, Reynolds displays a deep understanding of the complex issues young people face. 

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11. Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Warga proves that home can be both a feeling and a place in her moving Newbery Honor Award winner. 

In lyrical verse that’s just as lovely to read as it is to listen when read by Vaneh Assadourian, middle grade readers can find inspiration in Jude, a Syrian refugee who must leave her father and brother behind and move to America with her mother. Insightful, brave, curious, and resilient, Jude is a standout main character who, despite facing Islamophobia and the heartbreak of separation from her family and friends back home, is determined to make the best of her situation. 

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About the Author: Emma Contreras

Emma is an Everand booklist curator and a freelance content marketing writer covering finance, business leadership, and B2B SaaS communications.