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Learn Something New While Listening to These Engaging Audios

August 17, 2012

Today’s post comes to us from our friend at Listening Library, Jodie. We run a post each month focused on audiobooks. You can read last month’s post here.

We have a number of outstanding non-fiction titles on our list that will entertain young listeners with amazing true details while helping them learn something new. Plus adults will love listening to these titles as they include fascinating little-known facts and gripping personal stories.

notorious benedict arnold

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin, read by Mark Bramhall

Most people know that Benedict Arnold was America’s first and most notorious traitor. Few know that he was also one of its greatest war heroes. This accessible biography introduces young listeners to the real Arnold: reckless, heroic, and driven. Packed with first-person accounts, astonishing battle scenes, and surprising twists, this is a gripping and true adventure tale. It’s had terrific reviews and awards including winning the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Non-Fiction, the YASLA Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction, it was named one of School Library Journal’s Best Children’s books of the year, and received multiple starred reviews.

It reads like a novel, according to the Horn Book, which described it as “a blend of political thriller, war story and action epic…like the man himself: aggressively charming and unflagging in energy.”

This audio fills the need for nonfiction, but is also the kind of audio teachers and parents can hand to boys who say they don’t like fiction and reluctant readers who need a fast-moving plot and gory details to keep them interested.

blizzard of halifax

Sally M. Walker’s Blizzard of Glass read by Paul Michael combines fascinating, edge-of-your-seat storytelling with original source material to convey a harrowing account of tragedy and recovery.

On December 6, 1917, two ships collided in Halifax Harbour. The resulting blast flattened two towns and killed nearly 2,000 people. As if that wasn’t devastating enough, a blizzard hit the next day, dumping more than a foot of snow on the area and paralyzing much-needed relief efforts.

Walker focuses on five families and through their eyes the listener experiences the explosion, the devastating aftermath, the outpouring of help, and the eventual rebuilding of the city and community.

Blizzard of Glass was chosen as a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book , and was named to the ALA 2012 Notable Children’s List.


In Titanic, critically acclaimed non-fiction author Deborah Hopkinson pieces together the story of the Titanic, drawing on the voices of survivors. It’s read by various narrators including Mark Bramhall and Peter Altschuler. Titanic is a topic that continues to haunt and thrill listeners 100 years later, and this audio weaves together the voices and stories of Titanic survivors and witnesses to the disaster. Packed with heart-stopping action, devastating drama, fascinating historical details, and quotes from primary sources, this gripping tale is sure to thrill and move listeners. It’s perfect for family listening as the writing is excellent and it’s full of fascinating facts that will interest both parents and young listeners.

Titanic has received 4 starred reviews; Kirkus raved that it was “well-researched and fascinating.”

flesh and blood

Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin, read by John H. Mayer was a National Book Award finalist and has received 3 starred reviews. School Library Journal raved, “The writing is compelling and detailed, and the author effectively manages to bridge the gap between detached expository writing and emotionally charged content…”

The 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory was one of the deadliest workplace disasters. The disaster killed 146 people. Of these, 130 were women. This fire came at a time when workers were fighting for better working conditions and women were organizing and fighting for their civil rights. The fallout from the disaster inspired radical new laws that finally changed working conditions for the entire nation. Al Marrin personalizes the stories of some of the brave men and many of the women who stood up to big businesses. And he points out that we haven’t eradicated similarly terrible working conditions from the rest of the world and that the fight is not over, making this a terrific conversation starter.

we've got a job

We’ve Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson, read by Ervin Ross is the inspiring story of one of the greatest moments in civil rights history, as seen through the eyes of four young protesters at the center of the action and others who participated in the 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. It tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail. The children succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America. Former teacher Cynthia Levinson spent four years researching and writing We’ve Got a Job. And her hard work as paid off as this debut has already received four starred reviews and it was an Editors’ Choice Book in the New York Times Book Review. Booklist raved it’s “A fascinating look at a rarely covered event for both curriculum and personal interest.”

This book comes alive on audio as it includes the original gospel song composed at the time of the march and bonus interviews the author conducted.

I highly recommend listening to all of these titles as everyone who listens to these audios will become engrossed in the story and come away with a better understanding of an historic event.

What are you listening to these days? We’d love to hear! Leave us a comment below.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    August 17, 2012 8:40 am

    On the way to and from camp we’ve been listening to the marvelous Levar Burton reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963. We all love it.

  2. August 17, 2012 10:07 am

    Oh I think I will download the audio for We’ve Got a Job. I have been meaning to read it. Thanks for the suggestion.

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