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Reflections on an Odyssey (a guest post)

It’s been almost five months since the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced in Seattle. Excitement has died down for many people, and committees are already working on choosing next year’s winners. For me, the past months have been relatively easy compared to last year, when I was a member of the 2013 Odyssey Committee.
The Odyssey Award is Excellence in Audio Book Production presented by the American Library Association.  Find out more here.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I got on the committee, which chooses the best in audiobook production for children or teens. I first served on the ALSC Membership Committee, then applied to be on any of the media award committees. I didn’t have any specific audiobook “history” other than being a listener, as many of us librarians are. When I met my fellow committee members and learned of their backgrounds, I definitely felt like a newbie, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. I was prepared to do my share of the work, to listen to their comments, and to soak up as much of this experience as I could.

Things started off slowly for us. We didn’t get a lot of submissions until late summer, and when it rained, it poured. When all was said and done, our committee of nine received more than 500 audiobooks. Some were disqualified right away because they weren’t published in the correct timeframe or for the appropriate audience. Most of the committee work was done online; we only met in person at Annual and then at Midwinter, when we chose the winners.

One of the most difficult aspects of being on the Odyssey Committee (aside from the amount of listening time involved), in my opinion, was separating the story from the audiobook production. The Odyssey Award is not based on the book’s popularity or its content. More so, the committee is focused on “technical and aesthetic aspects, including the effective use of narration as well as music and sound effects when they are incorporated into the production.”* We listened closely to the narrator(s), of course, but we were also listening for mispronunciations, muffled sounds, coughs, throat sounds, as well as music and sound effects. If accents were used, were they authentic? How are characters distinguished from one another? Were narrators consistent? Did read-alongs follow the text presented in the book? These are just some of the questions we had to ask ourselves while listening and re-listening to audios. Had I just been listening as a non-committee member, my primary concern would probably be whether I liked the story and its narrators—quite a bit simpler than being on the committee. 

Rotters is the 2012 Odyssey Award Winner, which I recently reviewed.  You can win a copy of the audio book by entering the Rafflecopter drawing below.
Just to refresh your memories, the committee chose The Fault in Our Stars as the 2013 Odyssey award winner, with honors going to Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, Ghost Knight, and Monstrous Beauty.
If you’re going to ALA in Chicago, don’t miss the 2013 Odyssey Award and Presentation at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 1at McCormick Place Convention Center Room S106b. Last year, attendees received a free autographed audiobook of the winning titles and were treated to some awesome performances. I’ll be there, so please stop by and say hi!
Dana Folkerts, Youth Services Librarian, Thomas Ford Memorial Library, Western Springs, IL
June is Audio Book Month.  Enter to win some audio books!

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