Mr Elwyn Brooks White, himself, read this to me and the kids while we were making all those carpool rides back and forth to the ballet studio in Idaho. His New England lilt puts you right into the middle of the lakes, forests, and hotels that Louis finds himself in. I learned a great deal about work ethic from this swan. He was born with a birth defect--he had no bird song but he didn't lie around drinking beer and living on welfare. He learned to play the trumpet as his voice and that gave him his livelihood and a lovely swan wife. White is such a delightful story teller. I'm so glad that a journalist for The New Yorker thought it was worth his time to write for kids. He only wrote three children's books but they are all on the must-read list for elementary age students. There is something so unapologetically confident about the way he writes. A mouse can drive a car, a spider can save a pig's life, and a trumpet swan can earn a living just like any man. We live on a military base where they play a trumpet recording of the "Retreat" at the closing of every day. I often say that must be Louis.
You haven't lived until you've had David Hyde Pierce read "The Phantom Tollbooth" to you. His comedic timing just ebbs through the car speakers. Remember, he voiced the stick bug in "A Bug's Life" which is what makes that movie awesome, in my opinion. This is one of my mom's favorite books and she was so delighted when I bought her this audiobook last winter. Funny enough, this book was not read to me as a child and I never picked it up on my own either. I can remember exactly where it sat on our massive bookshelf though. What was I thinking? This is such a treasure! I guess I was too busy reading the Mandie books. This was written by a math-brained, architect genius in the 1960's who just gathered together a bunch of his short stories into one hilarious adventure. I love books that just happen because someone thinks words are fun. It is themed around what I guess you might call "word nerd humor" and I can't get enough of it.
Of course, this list would not be complete without Narnia. I can't really pinpoint why "The Horse and His Boy" is my favorite one in the series. I think it has something to do with the utter depravity that the main character comes from which makes Aslan's redemption of him so much more meaningful. Maybe it's because I don't remember this book from my childhood compared to the others in this series so it is fresh and new and exciting. There is no way of listening to this series without weeping tears of joy that Christ touched the heart of an atheist, who then chose to turn his beliefs to the Savior of the Bible, and God then used him to write the most life-changing fantasy books of all time. The whole series was recorded by different British actors and Alex Jennings does not disappoint. I can't hear an American read Lewis' stories anymore than I could hear a Brit read Laura's stories. That would be ridiculous.
I love this story. Yes, it's sad. Yes, the little brother is unbelievably naughty. But think of what unfolds from the first page until the last--a boy becomes a man. A real man who faces problems and doesn't hide from them. The version we listened to was read by Jim Weiss, the reader of the "Story of the World" series by Susan Wise Bauer. My 9-year-old does a perfect Texas drawl of the line that Travis is always yelling at his little brother, "YOU GET THAT OLD YELLER DOG OUT OF OUR DRINKING WATER!" We often yell this at our own old yeller dog. Actually, our dog watched the movie with us and we have had to take him to dog therapy ever since.
I think I've given you a good starting point. Send me your recommendations for I certainly don't know everything about every book. I just try to be unapologetically confident like Mr White.