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Halloween Is For Hearing: Eerie Audio October 9, 2008

Halloween is the ultimate story time! There’s an abundance of fabulous spooky fare for all ages — from pop-ups for the very youngest (like Reading RoosterTM‘s pick from this week, which is Marcia Vaughn’s Five Pesky Pumpkins: A Counting Book with Flaps and Pop-Ups!), to Alvin Schwartz’ easy reader In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories to  just about anything by Edgar Allan Poe (try Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe).

Also, there’s free Poe to be found at, delivered in neat, creepy installments to your e-mail inbox. It’s scarier than spam!)

But as great as a scary book or story can be, hearing a yarn spun by an accomplished storyteller, with the requisite sound effects, can considerably enliven the experience. And as you’ll see about The Shadow, it doesn’t get any better than returning to the days of radio theater to get jumpy jollies for the whole family. Consider the picks below to help perk up your family’s Halloween.

  • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything Book and CD (Share a Story) – This is a great follow-along story by Linda Williams, perfectly narrated for preschoolers. Teachers, this is great to share at school.
  • Ghosthunters and the Muddy Monster of Doom!: Ghosthunters #4 (Ghosthunters) – Just one in Cornelia Funke’s extremely popular Ghosthunters series, and just right for the elementary school crowd. Unlike some spooky series, Funke’s books still seem original, humorous and not over-processed or objectionably scary or gory. And the narration by John Beach, “the voice of Nickelodeon,” will be funny and familiar to many kids.
  • The Shadow (3-Hour Collectors’ Editions) (3-Hour Collectors’ Editions) – “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…” Whether you’re of the age to recall these famous lines or not, you really must meet radio series suspense star Lamont Cranston, aka The Shadow. You can find different compilations, but this is a choice one: it features 18 of the original shows including The Tomb of Terror starring Orson Welles and Margot Stevenson, from 1938, and 1940’s The Oracle of Death. Definitely shivery fare but so much more fun while speeding down a dark two-lane highway than a flickering yellow Sponge Bob DVD, right?

And if your family really gets into the radio theater serials, you can try others like the many volumes of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas: Collection 1 (Twilight Zone). (But you may want to  screen them first — some episodes are pretty scary!) 

I’d love to hear your personal or family favorites!

posted by Janie McQueen for The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever



Listening together: Audio adventures September 19, 2008

Audiobooks are magical: when you pop in something riveting enough, on CD or tape, in the car, kids’ room, kitchen, or anywhere there’s a CD or tape player, a truce between quarreling siblings can be instantly struck; a troubled child may stop whimpering and grow quiet and listen; your own jumbled thoughts will calm and you begin to focus on what you’re hearing, not what your overworked mind is telling you.

I’ve always been resistant to TV/DVD players in the car — and none of my used cars ever came with one anyway, removing the tempation. I knew I’d never get around to installing one. And you know what, I’m glad. I’m not saying TV in the car is so terrible — but although it keeps the kids quiet, it segregates the family just as it does at home (not always a bad thing, this I know).

Audiobooks can also be musicals, operettas, radio broadcasts (the very best!) and the like. Among the finest we’ve heard are The Little Prince: A Magical Opera, based on the classic Antoine de Sainte-Exupery book; and a well-restored, eerie collection of The Shadow radio serial broadcasts from the 1930s — which made us shudder deliciously as we drove toward our beach vacation destination down dark two-lane roads at night.

A quick stop at a Books-A-Million in Augusta, Georgia halfway home from a trip to Beaufort, SC to visit my mother one weekend when I was on my own with the boys, then little more than toddlers, once netted a well-produced audio compilation of all the Beatrix Potter books from Peter Rabbit to the Tailor of Gloucestor. The family visit was typically wonderful, I’m sure, but what made that trip charmed for me was listening to the stories together on that long drive home, kids’ meals in small laps eaten sporadically between the exciting parts.

The country-themed restaurant Cracker Barrel has an audiobook lending program that lets you rent recent audiobooks for the cost of a DVD rental. This is very handy on long road trips when everyone begins to get bored and restless. 

These days, the boys are in 3rd and 5th grades, but we listen on the way to their new charter school to stay quiet and experience some calm and focus before the school day begins. This week it’s Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost by Cornelia Funke, procured from our local branch library (the very best, no-cost way to check out audiobooks). The boys beg to put it on the second we get in the car.

The New Magic Bookshelf includes much more about audiobooks, and the bookstore offers a selection.

Here are a few websites I recommend to get started browsing for some wonderful audio adventures for your family: (includes a rental option)

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever