Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

The-True-Blue-Scouts-of-Sugar-Man-Swamp-2821158Jen was right–Kathi Appelt’s True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a book that should be read aloud, not read from the page. The cadence of the text drew me in from the first sentence of the audiobook, narrated by Lyle Lovett. It took me awhile to get used to Lovett’s voice, mostly because I’d always imagined a female narrator (my mind must be stuck on Keeper, narrated by Appelt herself). His narration initially sounded too detached for the humorous, warm atmosphere. But after awhile, Lovett won me over. Perhaps it’s because he relished the intrusive narrator moments (“You heard me. The DeSoto.”), and pulled them off so smoothly I barely noticed the intrusion.* I also appreciated the sly, matter-of-fact tone used for the raccoon brothers’ silly antics (“Blinkle,” Bingo’s dewberry guilt, their POUFing near Gertrude).

Speaking of Gertrude, Lovett has a particular talent for sound effects, including the all-important snip-snap-zip-zap! and the Farrow Gang’s ecstatic squeals. As for Coyote Jim’s howl, it was so loud I had to rip the headphones from my ears. Arrroooooooo, indeed.

*For a true test of Lovett’s skills, I suggest asking Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library if she can stomach the intrusive narrator when read by his voice.

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Now that we’ve paired authors and audiobooks, and actors and audiobooks, for one last bit of irreverent fun, we’ll let chance pair the narrator, the audiobook, and the circumstance under which it’s read. Click on our “Narrator Generator” to take it for a spin and share what you come up with!

narrator generator

A sample of some of the weirder combinations we got:

– Miss Piggy reads Chicka Chicka Boom Boom as a rousing speech to put fire into the hearts of men (a la Battle of Pelennor Fields)

– The Queen of England reads Are You My Mother? as a message to the American people

– Miss Jean Brodie reads Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Deadliest Weapon with a phony French accent

– Darth Vader reads What Came From the Stars to an enthusiastic KidLitCon audience

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In line with our Authors Doing Audiobooks post, we also brainstormed some actors we’d enjoy as narrators:

willowsJim Dale–Return to the Willows (Lisa: definitely Jim Dale. He’s awesome.)

The FitzOsbornes in Exile as a BBC radio play (also, Penelope Wilton aka Isobel Crawley aka Harriet Jones as Aunt Charlotte)

Michelle Fairley–A Greyhound of a Girl

Stephen Fry–The Cheshire Cheese Cat

ToysComeHomeAmy Poehler–Toys Come Home series

David Tennant–Warrior Sheep (because it would be fun to hear him rap)

Nathan Fillion–the Origami Yoda books

What are your actor/kid lit dream combinations?

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Without considering their oratory skills, we did some wishful thinking and compiled a (by no means comprehensive) list of authors we’d like to follow Neil Gaiman, Jack Gantos, and Lemony Snicket’s example…and narrate the books they wrote.

The Grande Dames:

waitingLois Lowry: Gossamer (sob) and The Giver quartet (double sob)

Susan Cooper: The Dark Is Rising sequence (gritty English accent and fantasy = win)

Katherine Paterson: everything (triple sob)

Patricia MacLachlan: Waiting for the Magic (because she was unexpectedly snarky at The Exquisite Corpse and that would work well for WftM)

The Great Uncles You Wish You Had

Richard Peck: everything but The River Between Us

Michael Morpurgo: War Horse

team human (more…)

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Code Name Verity UK coverAfter reading and re-reading Code Name Verity, and rooting for it in multiple prizes, I simply had to listen to the audiobook. I won’t bother summarizing the plot–if you’ve read it already, you certainly don’t need a rehash, and if you haven’t read it, you need to find a copy, stat (and avoid all spoilers, which means you should stop reading this post now).

So here’s what worked, and didn’t:

  • the tone was just right. Narrators Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell pulled off the tense balance of fear and nostalgia and black humor. When Julie’s reminiscing about her time in England, I was drawn in completely and forgot all about her dire situation. And during the final raid, I kept fearing for Maddie’s life despite knowing how it all ends.
  • the narrators sounded older than I’d imagined. That jarred me out of the story, but I eventually got used to it, because:
  • they were so brilliant with the languages and accents. How do they do it?! Julie’s French was perfect, and her German sounded impeccable too, though I’m not a reliable judge. Maddie’s terrible French accent rivals Georgia Penn’s cringe-worthy français. Best of all, Julie’s so Scottish–how could von Linden and his minions ever mistake her for being English?
  • Engel’s underlined text: there was no way to convey that in the audiobook, so if someone had listened to it before reading the book, they’d be very confused about the references to the red pen.
  • that sublime passage about Maddie’s flight over the Pennines? It’s even better read aloud than on the page.

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credit: Paul Bransom

credit: Paul Bransom

I love love love BBC radio plays (recently heard Copenhagen by Michael Frayn) and lo and behold: a grand, jubilant, and charming version of The Wind in the Willows, read by British actors and set to the BBC radio orchestra. Fantastic, a new take on an old classic!

Click here for the link. Enjoy!

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The British cover for Dead End in Norvelt (thanks to Fuse #8 for the tip): so much better than ours.

Um, wow. So Dead End in Norvelt got the Newbery! It was, as Jen predicted, a dark horse triumph. And while I’m still sad at the lack of recognition for Sir Gawain, Okay for Now and Amelia Lost, Gantos’ win makes me positively gleeful. We don’t often get laugh-out-loud funny Newbery winners: The Higher Power of Lucky often made me smile, as did The Tale of Despereaux. But I have to go back to Holes (1999) to find one that made me laugh. Norvelt packs enough humor to transform the most reluctant readers into bookworms (the title of this post references one of the more memorable scenes), and that may be the greatest prize of all.

As for the other award winners (full results from today’s ALA Youth Media Awards here), here are some scattered thoughts:

  • This seems to be the year where books won in unexpected categories. After all the Newbery/Caldecott agonizing over Wonderstruck, it was great (and so fitting!) to see it win a Schneider Family Book Award. Same with Drawing from Memorys Sibert Honor and I Want My Hat Back! in the Geisel category. It all seems so obvious in retrospect.
  • Breaking Stalin’s Nose (Newbery Honor book) reminds me of Moon Over Manifest from last year–something totally unexpected, which I’m now quite looking forward to.
  • I’m ecstatic to see the Printz Committee honor The Returning. This is one of those books that reels you in slowly and doesn’t let go, but the slow pacing means it could use an awards-push to generate publicity.
  • Okay for Now got recognition for the audio book. I’ve always wondered about Doug’s voice–I imagine it’s either quite deadpan or darkly sarcastic. Now’s a good time to find out.
  • Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King Award, though I’d hoped for Bird in a Box to get an award as well.
  • I haven’t read A Ball for Daisy or Blackout, but Me…Jane and Grandpa Green both deserve as much recognition as they can get.
  • Susan Cooper’s Margaret A. Edwards Award! I feel so lucky to have discovered her books this year (or rather re-discovered after a failed attempt to start the series years ago), and even had the chance to meet her during The Exquisite Conversation.

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Review: Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Aug 2010)

Twelve-year old Lanesha is special. She sees signs in numbers and rainbows and she can talk to ghosts. Her neighborhood, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, is full of them—the ghosts of children who died too young, the ghost of her mother in Lanesha’s house. But despite her abilities Lanesha leads a fairly normal life. She fights off bullies and makes friends, she dreams of becoming an engineer, and through it all she’s buoyed by the steady love of her guardian Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who attended her birth. One day, people begin to whisper about Hurricane Katrina, and soon enough the neighborhood becomes a ghost town as people head for the Superdome or drive off in cars. With nowhere to go and no means of getting there, Lanesha boards up the windows and prepares to ride out the storm with Mama Ya-Ya. It’s hardly the first hurricane they’ve faced. Why should this time be any different?


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Credit: Jake Bellucci, flickr

I’ve been meaning to read Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes for months now, and finally got the audiobook from the library.

Wow. The narration is hypnotic. I’ve only listened to the first 30 minutes and may be glued to my ipod for the next few hours. Sisi Aisha Johnson has the perfect voice to narrate this book, set, as the title suggests, in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She captures a whole range of voices–old and young, boys and girls, multiple accents–with such warmth I felt like they were walking next to me.

The novel follows Lanesha, a twelve-year-old orphan who lives with her guardian, Mama Ya-Ya, in New Orleans. From what I’ve heard so far, it seems that Lanesha can see ghosts. And according to online synopses, that will play a role later on when she has to survive Hurricane Katrina.


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Just how good is the latest Penderwick book?

Good enough that I’m ignoring its flaws. A big chunk of the book depends on an unbelievable coincidence, and the ending includes unabashed sentimentality—but I didn’t care. They didn’t detract from my enjoyment one bit.

As the story begins, the Penderwick family is being split apart. The parents and baby Ben are vacationing in England; Rosalind will spend two weeks in New Jersey with a friend and the rest of the family is driving to Maine with Aunt Claire. The book follows the Maine contingent as they’re joined by Jeffrey, a melancholy skateboarder and some very musical neighbors. I was sorry to see Rosalind go, but her absence sets up the central premise: namely, that Skye, as the OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick), finds herself in charge of keeping her sisters safe. We’re talking about someone who would rather deal with death by black hole than face crying children, so you can guess how that turns out… (more…)

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