JULY 16:

  • Happy birthday Paul Rogers (Jazz ABZ), Jennifer L. Holm (Turtle in Paradise), and Joyce Carol Oates (Big Mouth & Ugly Girl; After the Wreck, I picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away).
  • It’s the birth date of Zachary Ball (1897-1987), Bristle Face, and Isabelle Holland (1920-2002), The Man Without a Face.
  • For National Fudge Day, also read Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, and The Chocolate Fudge Mystery by David A. Adler.

July marks Audio Book Month, a perfect time to listen to a title that will entertain the entire family. I owe the audio of the day to Alison Morris of Scholastic Book Clubs, who raved about Simon Jones’s rendition of The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud for Listening Library. How right she was.

Now for those who have never met Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni, who provides the first-person narration for the story, you have missed one of the great bad boys of literature. Stroud alternates Bartimaeus’s highly entertaining rants with a third-person omniscient story about eleven-year-old Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice. Nathaniel lives in an alternate London where the parliament is ruled by magicians. But he has grown weary of his incompetent master, Arthur Underwood. So Nathaniel takes his education into his own hands, and summons Bartimaeus to do his bidding.

Bent on revenge Nathaniel sends the djinni to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, an ambitious man who once humiliated Nathaniel. Magical tricks, narrow escapes, espionage, evil magicians, murder, and the potential overthrow of the government all keep listeners of the audio enthralled.

As much as the young readers cheer Nathaniel on, I must admit that my heart belongs to Bartimaeus. He’s cheeky and irreverent, sarcastic and incredibly funny. In the book he provides extensive footnotes describing details about the magical world. In the audio these pieces have been seamlessly woven into the narrative. Whether he is relating his age-old struggle with djinnis Faquarl and Jabor, or commenting on the stupidity of his Utukku guards, Bartimaeus adds sass and wit to the saga.

“The best book I have ever read in my entire life,” one child stated on line about The Amulet of Samarkand. The unabridged audio is just as good; Jones captures the different characters and brings them to life. Even if you know the book well, you will love listening to the audio. After all, it allows you to hang around with Bartimaeus for thirteen and a half hours! The only bad part is when it comes to an end. Fortunately, if you find yourself falling under the spell of Bartimaeus, you can go on to the sequels—The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate. Happy listening.

Here’s a section from The Amulet of Samarkand:

The kid spoke. Very squeakily.

“I charge you . . . to . . . to . . .” Get on with it! “T-t-tell me your n-name.”

That’s usually how they start, the young ones. Meaningless waffle. He knew, and I knew that he knew, my name already; otherwise how could he have summoned me in the first place? You need the right words, the right actions, and most of all the right name. I mean, it’s not like hailing a cab—you don’t get just anybody when you call.

I chose a rich, deep, dark chocolaty sort of voice, the kind that resounds from everywhere and nowhere and makes the hairs stand up on the back of inexperienced necks.



Originally posted July 16, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, London, Magic
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Amulet of Samarkand
One year ago: My Friend Rabbit


  1. Matt says:

    It’s often so hard for me to stray away from Jim Dale’s incredible work with the Harry Potter series. As I continue to wear those CDs down, I love the opportunity to find out about other possible options for long car rides. I enjoyed Bartimaeus’ antics and transformations in print, can’t wait to listen to them and experience the thrill again. Thanks for the audio recommendation. Hopefully I draw my protective circles correctly before listening.

  2. Maureen Milton says:

    My children and I are currently thoroughly enjoying this recorded book–an outstanding rendition of an excellent book! I cannot wait until school starts again, and I can recommend the narrative and linguistic delights of Bartimaeus to my returning students.

  3. G. Perry says:

    Got this coming from the library. Never heard of it.

    Can’t wait!

  4. Julie says:

    I had heard parts of these as my daughter ws listening to them so I decided to make them my summer walk to work listening starting with Ring of Solomon. I’m enjoying them so much I hate it when it rains or the heat derails my walks.

  5. Anita says:

    Gordon: One of the great delights of my life is sending you to books like these!

  6. G. Perry says:

    What a very kind and happy thing to say Anita.

    Thank you.

  7. Star says:

    I shared your recommendation for this book with my sister and her 7th grade son. He’s so excited to read the book! Thanks for your help and, as always, thanks for the wonderful Almanac!

  8. Amanda Gazin says:

    Loved this series in print and audio. Well written, well read. For those who like fantasy, I also recommend Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men and sequels, Stephen Briggs is masterful at reading it–as much so as Jim Dale with the Harrys–and the story can work on several levels for kids of all ages for car trips.

  9. Suzanne says:

    I also loved listening to this one! Simon Jones does a terrific job bringing The Thief Lord to life too. Both are books I’m not sure I would have enjoyed reading as much as I did listening.

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