You've already watched two movies on DVD, eaten three bags of chips, done everything in the KidsPost Summer Activity Book and you're still four hours from the beach, or the mountains, or wherever this summer's vacation is taking you.

Don't elbow your brother in the ribs, don't ask your parents "Are we there yet?" and, whatever you do, don't starting singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." There's a better way to pass the time and have fun even before vacation really starts: Listen to a book on CD or cassette.

It's not the same as reading the words on the printed page (we're required by teachers to say that), but it's still a great way to discover books, and the actors who read them can really bring the words to life.

Bookstores sell audiobooks, but you can get them free at the library. You can put in your earbuds and listen to a CD of "Girls in Pants" while your brother listens to "Eragon" on his CD player. Better yet, pop Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord" in your car or van's cassette player and everyone can listen. It is a family vacation, after all.

Here are some good listening options:

* "The Report Card" by Andrew Clements (read by Dina Sherman; 3 hours 21 minutes).

This may sound too much like school for you to want to listen on vacation, but the story of a smart girl who acts dumb to prove a point is fun and exciting. Sherman really brings Clements's always-great dialogue to life.

* "Girls in Pants" by Ann Brashares (read by Angela Goethals; 7 hours 17 minutes).

You've read the books, you've seen the movie, but this recording of the sisterhood's third summer has just the right attitude. Goethals sounds just like you think Tibby should. Just remember: Never doublecuff!

* "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini (read by Gerard Doyle; 16 hours 23 minutes).

With the sequel to this amazing dragon tale coming out later this summer, you might want to spend the drive to the Outer Banks (and back) listening to Doyle's rich Irish accent as he recounts the tale of a boy, a beast and a magic stone.

* "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson" by Bette Bao Lord (read by Christina Moore; 3 hours 30 minutes).

This is a lovely story of a Chinese girl arriving in New York in 1947 and how baseball teaches her much about her new country.

* "The Incredible Journey" by Sheila Every Burnford (read by Megan Follows; 3 hours 10 minutes).

Talk about a cross-country trip! Follows gives lots of personality to the Labrador retriever, English bull terrier and Siamese cat that are the main characters.

* "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman (read by the author; 3 hours).

This creepy tale of a girl who goes through the wrong door and then must save herself, her parents and three other kids is not one to listen to at night. But it's really good.

* "Across Five Aprils" by Irene Hunt (read by Terry Bregy; 6 hours).

This story of a boy becoming a man during the Civil War is perfect if you're off to Gettysburg.

* "Bud, Not Buddy" by Christopher Paul Curtis (read by James Avery; 5 hours 16 minutes).

The story of 10-year-old Bud and his search for his father during the Depression could have been a bummer. Instead, it's uplifting, thanks to Avery's rich voice and the amazing characters Bud meets.

Others worth a listen:

All the Lemony Snicket books are on CD. They are read by Tim Curry and are just awful!

Cornelia Funke's "The Thief Lord" (only available on cassettes) also focuses on orphans. Reader Simon Jones is great with accents.

If you've listened to the Harry Potter books, you know how reader Jim Dale makes them seem new. Dale also makes "Peter and the Starcatchers" magical, but you may find yourself thinking that some of those characters sound a lot like Ron and Hermione.

"How to Eat Fried Worms" by Thomas Rockwell is worth a listen for the almost two hours of descriptions about how worms taste going down. Eeeeew!

-- Tracy Grant