Three weeks of The Tale of the Runaway Pancake—narrated  by a whiny John Lithgow— and Bob the Builder’s Pilchard Goes Fishing, an inane tale full of—boing!—loud sound effects threatened to destroy the very fabric of our family. But, since it was either listen to these books on CD during our three-week European vacation or endure three-year-old Jeremy’s tortured shrieks when we turned it off, we endured it.  It wasn’t pretty but nothing a couple of years of family counseling couldn’t fix.

Since then, we take as much time packing our books on CD as we do our clothes. We listen to them on long road trips and pack them for plane trips when we know we’ll be renting a car. We get most of them from the library, if possible, but they are available on Amazon either as CDs or downloadable on a Kindle or smart phone.

And since I can’t seem to write a word without sharing my parenting philosophy, I have to mention that I’m a big fan of literature that makes you scared, makes you weep, and makes you laugh hysterically. I think too many children’s books are so toned down that they produce no reaction at all. The beauty of listening to books on CD on family car rides is you can discuss the themes as a family.

Here are some of our very favorites:

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren: We love listening to the classic antics of this little red-headed Swedish girl and her pet horse, the ultimate outsider.

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl: This tells the story of a little boy who runs away from his horrible aunts to live in a giant peach with some colorful insects. Narrator Jeremy Irons does an incredible job bringing the story to life.

Flush, by Carl Hiaasen: A well-written and funny story about a cruise ship dumping waste into a Florida beach and the great lengths a family will go to stop them.

Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare: A suspenseful tale of a thirteen-year old boy who is left alone in the Maine wilderness in the 18th century. His friendship with a Native American boy and his grandfather teach him to live off the land and survive.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo. If you like powerful heartwarming stories like The Secret Garden and The Velveteen Rabbit, you’ll love this one. It’s about a beloved china bunny who gets lost and travels from the depths of the ocean to gritty city streets. There won’t be a dry eye in the car.

We’ve already picked out one of our books for our long drive to Maine in August:  Carl Hiaasen’s latest book, Chomp, about a boy whose father, a professional animal wrangler, gets a job working for a reality survivor show. We can’t wait to sit back and listen!

Read our other article for more tips for surviving long family car rides.