family, writing

Help me get my sister reading!

I am asking for help crowd-sourcing a very special book list. This one’s for my sister.

Background: my baby sister Juniper is severely handicapped. She’s autistic, with… complications. Funny, loving, but perpetually a child in need of constant care and attention. Developmentally she’s about 4, and Mom has tried to teach her how to read for most of her 39 years on this earth. She writes letters, sometimes, in her art, but she simply can’t make the mental connection between the shapes, and words. So she cannot read, however she can listen and follow stories! Mom recently discovered that Juniper loves audiobooks, and it saves Mom from reading aloud constantly to her. We all read out loud a lot when I was young. Every night, it was a chapter or two of the classics: Little Women, the Borrowers, Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, Swiss Family Robinson, and many others. Now that my other sister and I have been gone for many years, doing our own things, Juniper doesn’t get as much of that. Audiobooks are a blessing to keeping her entertained. However, Mom is having trouble finding suitable books, so she asked me to create one of my lists that could help Juniper have great stuff to listen to.

Criteria: audiobooks. Need to be ‘clean’ because like any toddler, Juniper arrows in on any bad word and uses it mischievously. Mom and I were talking through a list of books off the top of our heads, and although we think that, for instance, Huck Finn would be right up Juniper’s alley, the one word in that book she’d pick up would be a Very Bad Thing. So Mom has to be ultra-careful in what books she gets for her. Sex just confuses her. She sort of grasps romance, but we really don’t think bedroom scenes are at all appropriate for her.  Violence upsets her, with a caveat that it’s only some violence, because mild or lightly-described battles or fights don’t seem to be a problem, only gory, graphic stuff or when it gets all fraught with emotion.

 While she has loved listening to the Chronicles of Narnia, Mom thinks a lot of fantasy will confuse her as she doesn’t quite grasp the division of reality and make-believe. Science fiction may have the same problem, although I suspect she’d just let things like spaceships and such flow over her, it’s the people-interactions she enjoys of the books. We were debating whether she’d like the Pern books, for example, but I recall sex in at least some of the later books.

The books don’t need to be ‘children’s’ because she just enjoys stories and hearing about adventures. Most of what Mom has been doing with her have been children’s, mostly because we think she can follow simpler plots, may identify more with child main characters than adults with our complex lives she simply doesn’t have, and they can usually trusted to be ‘clean’. Non-fiction may be hard for her to follow unless it is narrative. She likes listening to the Bible, but I’m pretty sure anything science would go right over her head. She loves documentaries, so maybe an audio version of that? Mom currently doesn’t have a TV, so we’re hoping to find a lot of audiobooks to keep Juniper happy and mentally alert during the long winter.

In addition, if anyone has good sources for free/low-cost audiobooks? I pointed her at Librivox, and she is trying out Audible, plus her local library. But Mom has a limited income, so I’m trying to keep costs for her down.

My deepest thanks in advance.

42 thoughts on “Help me get my sister reading!

  1. Beatrix Potter was always a favourite, and Watership Down should be okay (its been a while since I’ve read it, but I don’t think it would be too disturbing). Enid Blyton might also be a suitable candidate for her reading list.

  2. My friend Jane Lebak has a couple of stories from her Father Jay series in Audible Audiobook on Amazon. I have both the stories in e-print form and would recommend them to anyone.

  3. What about H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy? Sci Fi elements, but relatively grounded, and fairly easy to explain.

    1. I love those books, but I recall things like dismembering a human to “plant” him that might be a bit inappropriate for her. Iread a ton of books as a kid that might work. The Black Stallion series? Dunno if they’re audiobooks yet.

      1. I’ve got the Black Stallion series on my list, and also Marguerite Henry’s books (Misty of Chincoteague and so on). Also Jim Kjelgard’s books (Irish Red and others).

  4. I presume the Suess stuff has been exhausted and is far too obvious.
    Perhaps the Oz (Baum) works, though fantasy…
    I wonder if there are audio versions of the Mad Scientists Club stuff – but that might be a bit much for a ‘4’ yro.
    Ox ancient, hard to think to far back now.

      1. Ox work with manyh much younger than ox. They surprised ox know of stuff before there was ox.
        “That’s before my time.” “Just Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, The Beatles, WWII, the atomic bomb….”

  5. There are some old series of books by Alice Turner Curtis. The most well known were the Little Maid books. Some of them are in an audio format but you have to look for them. I think all the books are Girl Adventure books. I loved them as a child even though the were written way before I was born. In looking for those I found out that you tube has audio books. That lead me to this site. My understanding is that these are from the public domain, read by volunteers, and free.

  6. you’re really have to stick with old books – but it’s not a bad idea because childrens books were longer then and adult books were cleaner.
    forgive the book babble below:
    your mom’s library may be able to borrow audiobooks from other libraries.
    there may also be a reading for the blind/old program where people record books so maybe they’ll take any disability?
    sherlock holmes short stories are on librivox – i listen on archive (no sex, some violence – not graphic and no profanity). (each story is about 40 min to an hour long )
    I wonder if raggedy ann/andy stories are on librivox. (tho it may cause issues because she may believe toys are real)
    audible has jane austen radio plays. (on second thought strike that – you don’t want to explain cousins marrying)
    I wonder if dark is rising would be too much for her. the audiobooks are great.
    Emily of New moon and other LLM books are on audible & they may be on librovox.
    bobbsey twins\boxcar children would be good – if there were audiobooks (the older ones are public domain of bobbsey twins but there are some language issues) – they’re short but it’s a series.
    betsy-tacy series is a think public domain – so librivox might have it
    enid blyton (if available in audio) – she has multiple genres – mystery, adventure, boarding school and elves
    audible has “escape to witch mountain” and perhaps the sequel.
    i’m certain librivox has little princess\secret garden etc.
    be careful of books with dogs on the cover – the dog always dies (there’s even a book about it “no more dead dogs”)
    gordon korman stories are great – but I don’t know if they’re available on audio.
    Pern is definitely a no-no – lot of adult situations. the riders mate when the dragons mate – willingly or not and it doesn’t matter if you’re straight man if your dragon mates with someone with a male rider. or something like that

    one thing to think about – she may have the love of listening to the same story over and over so you won’t need so many books.

    if I think of anymore – preferably authors or series i’ll let you know

    1. Thank you!

      She probably will want to read them over and over. Poor Mom – she has the patience of a saint! Part of the reason she’s not doing TV is that Juniper got obsessed with Barney the purple dinosaur. Mom was going mad!

  7. It sounds like my son Benj is quite a bit lower functioning but we have done a couple of read-a-loud Christmas presents. He can understand toddler books such as the Boynton books and his favorite book of all time: Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. One Christmas we tried an everybody-read-a-book and videotaped it. We bought 8-10 books he could listen to again and again and filmed his family members reading them. It’s a great Thanks-giving day project! We put the recordings on a thumb drive so we could download to computers every where and also gave copies of the books themselves so someone could help him interact and find the same pages.

    So perhaps your mother could read books just one more time for posterity! 🙂

    1. Juniper probably actually functions closer to three-year-old level, but she does understand a surprising amount — shocks me sometimes, when she comes out with something actually appropriate to whatever is being discussed around her.

      I like the idea of putting some of our audio books on thumb drives. We have some on CD’s (the Narnia Chronicles, and some of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. I’ll see what I can do with thumb drives.

      One of the upcoming projects is turning a large unfinished closet in the corner of my office (it’s about three feet deep, by seven feet long) into an audio recording booth, so I can make audio books. So I probably will do some of her stories. We are also going to see if my voice is at all suitable for any of Cedar’s books. (The recording booth will also do double duty as a storm shelter, with emergency supplies stored in one end of it.)

  8. Maranatha just mentioned an author she likes — Stephen W. Meader. In looking up his books (he was a prolific writer of books mostly for boys) we found that he was the author of a book I’ve been looking for, but without much luck because I couldn’t remember either the title or the author’s name! (Blueberry Mountain, if anyone is interested.) I’m going to have to find less expensive sources of his stories than Amazon, though!

      1. You know, Johann might possibly enjoy some of Stephen Meader’s books. I had found several at the Laconia library, and liked them a lot (including the Blueberry Mountain one I mentioned above), but then they were getting rid of the good old books in order to buy newer books, not all of which were worth reading, in my opinion. Something to do with funding, which was really too bad.

  9. Would Edward Eager’s books be too fantastic for her? Fantasy elements, but set in a very real world?

    What about E. Nesbit? At least some of the books (The Wouldbegoods, Treasure Seekers, Railway Children) don’t involve any fantasy – and some of the fantasy ones, like Five Children and It, are basically children’s stories with just one fantasy element.

  10. I used to like the Bobsey Twins, and have some of them noted in Librivox. There’s also at least one G.A. Henty book on Librivox. I’ve heard a lot of good reports about Henty over the years, but have somehow never managed to read one of his books, so I’m looking forward to that. And E.Nesbit is on my list! I’ve enjoyed some of (his or her?) books in the past, and I think Juniper will like them. She’s already listened to all of the Narnia Chronicles and likes them, so some fantasy is fine. I’m not familiar with Edward Eager — will have to look him up.

  11. I saw Dark is Rising mentioned – what about A Wrinkle in Time? Or would Prydain or the Hobbit be too deep into fantasy?

    I don’t know if there’s an audiobook, but Knee Deep in Thunder might be a good choice. And I will second Misty of Chincoteague, etc, the Black Stallion, and Nancy Drew. What about the Babysitter’s Club books?

  12. There seem to be a bunch of kipling audiobooks. I think a lot of them would probably work. The site below has a bunch but there are also some on youtube. I guess there may be some commercial ones too.

    If she can grasp the idea of historical fiction then Charlotte M Yonge and some other victorian authors might be good. When I was 6 or 7 I loved The little duke by Yonge and the White company by Conan Doyle. Also king arthur if you can find a good narrator or a childrens edition

  13. For book recommendations: Perhaps Treasure Island, Anne of Green Gables? These are all perfectly obvious, of course (and in the public domain, which means likelihood of LibriVox!)–but I find that there’s a lot of obvious books that slip through my fingers when I’m trying to come up with things. (Not in the Public Domain, the Little House books or the Prydain books–notes on affording in a minute.)

    For inexpensive–okay, I tend to see when I can find an add-on for less than five dollars. (For instance–this Complete Anne of Green Gables seems to be replete with awful typos. But it’s $1.99 and has a $.49 add-on audiobook that sounds reasonable from the sample. I also found a Treasure Island that has a $3.99 audiobook add-on.) But even at a few dollars a pop, that adds up.

    A trucker I know online turned me onto another option for cheap audio, depending on Juniper’s tolerances: Many books (depending, it seems, on whether there’s a paid audiobook option) have Text to Speech enabled. (I’m reminded of one time the voice actor for a book he’d bought *really* wasn’t working for him and he really wished he could just turn on the robot since he bought the audiobook already. Heh ^^; ) It is soulless and robotic, but… hey, worth a shot for the amount of content it opens up.

    The bit where your mom mentioned building a recording studio in her closet sounds pretty awesome. 🙂 And Susan’s idea made *me* want to tape myself reading books for whatever family. I’m glad I read this thread. ^^

    (Do you think she’d like Dragnet? I cycle in and out of listening to old episodes on Archive… I need to go through their radio selections again sometime.)

    (When I was going through LibriVox, I bounced off a *lot* of voice actors. But there was one man doing The Legend of Sleepy Hollow–Chip, I think–that just jumped off the mic at me. It was pretty awesome. Assuming it’s the same one, it’s the first Google result I get when I search legend of sleepy hollow librivox.)

    Anyway, good luck to you and your family!

    1. (I should probably specify I mean the old Dragnet radio show, which near as I can tell has all but an infinite number of episodes available on Archive. I *really* like them, and… well, I don’t recall much of anything in the way of cursewords or sex. Good stuff.)

  14. I’m trying to remember some of the books I enjoyed as a child, and failing miserably, but I wonder if she’d enjoy mythology. Here’s a link to the audio of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I loved it when I was a child and bought it for my own daughter. (

    I see someone mentioned Jim Kjelgaard. I checked Amazon and the only one I could find in audio was The Black Fawn. I enjoyed that one, but I only read it last year. Not sure how much Juniper would like it.

    I wish I could help more. Good luck!

  15. For the FREEBIES:
    There are 18,410 results for ‘audio books’ in the Internet Archive. I’ve only dipped a toe, briefly, in this great lake, because my lifestyle doesn’t accommodate listening to books over reading books.
    However, I DO use the Old Time Radio feature on Internet Archive for things to listen to that will allow me to get to sleep at night. (I don’t know if she might be interested in any of the old time radio shows, but they are a free option as well. Radio shows were pretty much over by my childhood (born in 1953), but I just checked, and Little Orphan Annie is among the radio shows archived.)
    A quick scan shows that Peter Pan, The Secret Garden, and Anne of Green Gables are all among the favorites in this collection, that might be suitable for Juniper.
    Here’s the link to the audio books:

    1. Juniper’s other sister brought her a set of James Herriot’s books on CD just this weekend! We are still listening to part of the Swallows and Amazon’s series, but the James Herriot stories will probably be next.

      1. Okay, this will, I believe, be FAR more delightful to me than it will be to Juniper, but Scott Huggins has written ONE that I have read and reviewed, and (I think) two in total, works which pay homage to Herriot. The one I read and reviewed is A Doctor to Dragons; Cedar read & reviewed it as well 8/3/17. I can’t find it on Amazon!
        However, it may have been swallowed, digested, and erupted as “All Things Huge and Hideous,: which IS on Amazon.
        mumble mumble it’s not audiobook, doesn’t meet any of yer criteria, beg yer most ‘umble pologies fer troublin’ yer ladyship wif it, thankee, missus, be goin’ now.

  16. This has really piqued my interest, because I’m thinking about doing something similar for my own sweet Mama, who is sadly declining at age 91.
    Can you, Cedar, or you, Kathleen, let us/me know what solution(s) work out for you? Or even if NOTHING works out, because negative results are results nonetheless?

    1. Absolutely. I will be putting a list with links on the blog. I suspect library, librivox, and some other free sources will be most helpful. Audible has good stuff, but is limited.

      1. Yes, Audible is VERY limited. I’ve got a half-price trial membership for three months and am going to make use of it, but it’s unlikely to net us more than three books (I got the Hobbit with the first month; next month I intend to get the complete set of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women/Little Men books — four stories in all, I think). The ones we’ve listened to so far have been very well done, but we are going to have to go to the free sources for most of our listening material. And it is *our* listening material, because the CD player and the computer are both on my desk. Juniper listens from her bedroom doorway a few feet away, but they are right in my face. So it has to be stuff I can enjoy, too!

  17. I just got linked a new resource, a children’s-book podcast called StoryNory:

    I know that Juniper isn’t limited to children’s books, but I figure hundreds of free stories would still probably not go amiss. 🙂 (Note, I haven’t tried any of them yet–my husband is watching TV next to me–so I don’t make promises, just… I’m looking forward to getting into it too.)

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