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Recently in Audio Books

I’ve been on a bit of an audio book kick lately. My commute is about 25 minutes each way, which gives me a good period of time to listen to audio in the car. First up is the latest installment of Libba Bray’s Diviners series – Before the Devil Breaks You.

97803161260691Like the two that come before it, Before the Devil Breaks You is a tour de force. You can see our reviews of the two previous novels in the series here and here. Each book is so vast and detailed that it takes a number of years between each for them to be published; enough time, in fact, that each new novel has seen a revamp of the cover illustrations. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the excellent audio narration done by January LaVoy. The novels are peopled by a diverse ensemble cast of characters, and the narration does justice to each and every voice. If you’ve been following the series, this episode ramps up the stakes considerably and sets the stage for the final showdown I am assuming will come in book 4.

From the publisher:

New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.
With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.
51qqOVIguKL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Next I stepped into the fabulous world of Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious. The publisher says:

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

This is an excellent mystery that will leave you waiting for the next installment. Johnson moves back and forth between the time periods seamlessly and we really get inside of the head of the protagonist, Stevie Bell. The audio narration is performed by Kate Rudd, who managed to remind me quite a bit of Maureen Johnson herself. If you haven’t checked out Maureen’s podcast, Says Who, you should give it a try.

9780525555384Next up was an aborted attempt at John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, oddly enough also narrated by Kate Rudd. Unfortunately for me, the excellent quality of the narration combined with the insightful writing caused me a great deal of distress every time the main character describes one of her obsessive compulsive coping mechanisms that was just a little to real and graphic for me. I’ve decided to continue on with the book in print format so I can skim the parts that get under my skin (so to speak.)

From the publisher:

It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

So what’s up next? I’m currently a few chapters in to Kate Milford’s Ghosts of Greenglass House and am enjoying it immensely.

The Day The Teen Discovered Hoopla and Everything Changed

My library subscribes to Hoopla, a service that I can honestly admit I haven’t used very much – until recently.


This summer we traveled in the car a lot and after we got sick of listening to the same songs over and over again, I remembered Hoopla! So I introduced The Teen – and the family – to Hoopla.

Here’s my true confession: I am not a big audio book listener. I find that I personally tend to wander and lose what is happening in the story unless it is a really engaging story. I also really like music a lot so that’s my go to audio. It just doesn’t occur to me to listen to an audio book.


So as we were driving from Ohio to Texas, we began listening to The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy. In this book, every few years (I can’t remember the exact number but I think it is seven), something different disappears from the town. For example, no one in town can see their reflection (and no, they’re not vampires) and they’ve lost the sense of smell. It’s now almost time to find out what this year’s disappearance will be and everyone is understandably on edge. Different people in town have different theories about who – or what – is to blame for the disappearances. And one of the theories blames the mother of Aila, who has just came back to town after her mother has passed away. She is about to learn all of her mother’s deepest, darkest secrets – including about the disappearances, which she hasn’t experienced before.

The Disappearances is eerie and pretty edge of your seat, especially as you get closer and closer to figuring out what everyone will lose this time. And what they do lose is shocking! The Teen, Things 2 and even The Mr. were really into listening to this book as we traveled. In fact, when we got back before it was over everyone had to promise to everyone else that they wouldn’t finish it without them. I’m not saying I broke that promise, but I’m also not saying that I didn’t. We also had great conversations about what we would hate to lose as we tried to guess what the next disappearance would be. As conversation starters go, this book has some pretty interesting ones.


Then The Teen and I began listening to Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. To be honest, it will be hard for any book to ever compare to this excellent book and it’s excellent reading – by Libba Bray herself! Beauty Queens is the story of a group of teen dream beauty contestants whose plane crashes on a seemingly deserted island that holds a secret. It’s a dystopian tale about a world which is primarily run by the consumeristic corporation and money talks. It has a ton – and a do mean a ton – of powerful and important conversations about all kinds of issues surrounding what it means to identify as female in this world. It pulls no punches and we definitely made sure we didn’t listen to this one when Thing 2 was in the car, because she’s only 8. It’s a great story made even greater by the amazing reading by Libba (Libba and I are apparently on a first name basis now). Even if you have read the book, I highly highly highly recommend listening to the audio book version as well. It’s that good.

Listening with my teenage daughter has dramatically changed my experience of audio books. It’s fun to listen with her and see her reactions in real time. It also prompts a lot of conversations, funny, sweet, sometimes challenging, always bonding. She has enjoyed listening to audio books so much that she downloaded the app onto her phone and I set up an account for her. Bonus: she had to get her own library card to do it (she’s always just used mine because no fines) – yay for more statistics!

I know that many libraries use Overdrive, and we also subscribe to Overdrive. My library just happens to subscribe to both Overdrive and Hoopla. And I’ll be honest, I find Hoopla a little easier to use once you get it all set up. But either way, you can have the same fun experience listening to audio books as a family. And yes, 24 years as a librarian and I had never done this – even though I advocate for it ALL THE TIME. I feel your shame coming through the Internet. But look, I made it right!

Books Discussed

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

December Audio Book of the Month Giveaway: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The month of December brings us a new Audio Book of the Month Giveaway brought to you by Random House Books on Tape and Listening Library.  Each month you will have the chance to enter and win a new MG or YA audio book – because audio books are cool. 

The December Audio Book of the Month Pick is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My take: I haven’t heard or even read Fangirl, but Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is one of my top reads of 2013.  I have heard lots of good things and it is definitely on my TBR pile.  You can listen to an excerpt at Random House Listening Library.

So here’s how you can enter to win:

1.  The contest will run each month, roughly the first day of the month until the last.

2. You can enter via the Rafflecopter in multiple ways.  One way includes leaving a blog comment so tell us: 1) What’s your favorite time, place or way to listen to audio books? and/or 2)Who – or what – are you a huge fan of, or were as a teen?

3.  The contest is open to residents of the U.S. 

4.  Rafflecopter will pick a winner, I will email that winner to get their address, and Random House Books on Tape/Listening Library will email the winner’s audio book out to them.  

November Audio Book of the Month Giveaway from Books on Tape/Listening Library: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

This month we are kicking off a new monthly giveaway brought to you by Random House Books on Tape and Listening Library.  Each month you will have the chance to enter and win a new MG or YA audio book – because audio books are cool. 

Here are 5 times it is great to listen to an audio book:
1. When driving in the car.
2. When you are cleaning your room (or your house, or your car).
3. While exercising.
4. When cooking.  I mean, I hear some people do that.  Cook that is.
5. When you have a struggling reader, have them listen to the book and read along.

This month’s selection is MAN MADE BOY by Jon Skovron, read by the author.

Boy is the son Frankenstein and his Bride, but he is also just like any teenage boy – into technology, in love with a girl who may or may not love him back, and bullied by a centaur for being different.  Wait, perhaps that last part isn’t just like every other teen.  Because the world is not friendly to monsters, his family hides with other magical and mythical creatures like him by taking part in a Broadway show.  The audience doesn’t know that the acts they are seeing are real.  Boy is an expert hacker, and when he creates a sentient virus, who names herself VI, he finds himself on the run with the daughter of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – two girls in one body.  She’s on the run from her maniacal brother, who thinks he can get rid of the Hyde half of his sister, who doesn’t really want to go.  Along the way they meet a variety of magical and mythical creatures – and a ton of hijacked humans that VI is downloading herself into via cell phone technology to try and reach out to her creator.  It’s a road trip like no other.

This was a very interesting story that combined stories of old with a modern day world.  There are undertones and themes of modern day that teens will relate to: bullying, identity, falling in and out of love, rebelling against parents, technology, and even the ethics of science in some great discussions of creator responsibilities.  It was so fun to see which character would show up next and how they would be given a modern day twist.  It’s a combination of Hotel Transylvania updated for teens with great techno twists (and mature teen language).  The author did a really good job of giving each character a distinct voice. 

So here’s how you can enter to win:

1.  The contest will run each month, the first day of the month until the last.

2. You can enter via the Rafflecopter in multiple ways.  One way includes leaving a blog comment so tell us: 1) What’s your favorite time, place or way to listen to audio books? and/or 2) What monster would you like to see pop up in Man Made Boy?

3.  The contest is open to residents of the U.S. 

4.  Rafflecopter will pick a winner, I will email that winner to get their address, and Random House Books on Tape/Listening Library will email the winner’s audio book out to them.

Flashback 1969(ish): Twerp by Mark Goldblatt and If I Ever Get Out of Here Alive by Eric L. Gansworth

I just happened to read 2 books that are set in the 1960s and 1970s for the MG set and they were both really good.  Let me take a moment to tell you about them.  By the way, even though these books were not on my list, this officially puts me past the read 5 Historical Fiction books this year personal challenge I set for myself, right? I’m going with yes.

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

Technically, the tween and I listened to this book in the car as an audio book.  Here’s what you need to know: we laughed out loud in several places, at another the Tween *literally* (real literally, not that new fangled figuratively crap they say it means now) was sitting on the edge of her seat, and in the end – we were both gut-wrenched and sobbing. Again, literally. That ending packs a seriously powerful wallop to the gut.

Twerp is the story of Julian, who is writing in his journal for his English class.  He is supposed to be writing about that thing that happened with Danley (whose name is really Stanley).  But he goes so far out of his way to avoid talking about what happened that he writes about everything but that – until the last moment.  In it he tells the story of his 6th grade year . . . the triumphs (his first date), the tragedies (again, his first date), and everything in between.

This is such a super, amazing, really good book.  It has that element of suspense, because you want to know what happened to Danley.  But the stories building up to it are just your basic stories of childhood: funny, warm, touching, cringe inducing.  If you are old enough to remember the show The Wonder Years, you have an idea of what this book is like.  The tween’s favorite story is about the boy who was walking on the fence and fell off – straddling the fence.  And yes, they say balls. (And although this is completely MG accessible, they also say boner. I only point that out because some people got really upset when The Higher Power of Lucky said scrotum.  To me, it was not an issue because this is in fact how middle school and high school boys talk.)

In the end, Twerp is also a story about bullying.  The thing is, Julian is not a bad kid.  He just sometimes makes really bad decisions.  Julian has a fantastic voice, a great supporting cast of characters (this is a great story of friendship), and this is just a charming story.  I loved listening to it and highly recommend the audio book.

If I Ever Get Out of Here Alive by Eric Gansworth

Lewis “Shoe” Blake lives on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in the year 1975.  He has few to no friends, until George shows up and he doesn’t know that he isn’t supposed to shun the reservation kids.  The two become friends, but they each have their secrets.  Lewis will go to great lengths to hide how poor his family is, but people like the bully Evan make it hard as he goes out of his way to target Lewis.  And yes, this is also a book about bullying.  But it is also a good one.

So, there are a few really great things about this book that I want to make sure you know about.

1)  This is such a spot on depiction of tweens and teens living in poverty.  The lengths that Lewis go through to hide this fact are just soul crushing.  There is a scene where George’s dad is bringing Lewis home and his family sits inside with the lights off so that he can’t actually see what the house looks like.  If this scene doesn’t make your heart grow 3 sizes for kids living in poverty then it is most likely true that you do not in fact have a heart.

2)  This is also a spot on depiction of what it is like to be a military family.  George’s family is a military family, as are a couple of other kids in the school.  There is a lot of talk about not putting down roots and being ready to pack on a moments notice because you never know when you are going to get orders to move somewhere else.  I was a military kid; we moved every 3 years.  This part of the story was an authentic depiction and I thought it was a nice inclusion because I haven’t often seen it in a lot of our MG or YA lit.

3) Lewis is a huge Beatles, Paul McCartney, Wings fan and I loved the inclusion of the music throughout the book.  The book title and each chapter title are somehow derived from McCartney songs.  It is a powerful story about friendship and the power of music: to move you, to bond you, to inspire you.

Like Twerp, If I Ever Get Out of Here is a book about bullying.  With Twerp, if you don’t know much about the story, you don’t realize it is about bullying until the very end.  There are no questions about that in If I Ever Get Out of Here.  But it is more than bullying, it is about discrimination and racism and the hatred that can live in our hearts for people that our different than us. Gansworth himself grew up on the Tuscarora reservation and Cynthia Leitich Smith endorses it (“A heart-healing, mocs-on-the-ground story of music, family and friendship.” — Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of TANTALIZE and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME), which carries a huge amount of weight in my eyes.  This is an important and accessible look into Native American life for those who are not yet ready to read The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I think that both of these titles are MUST READS for everyone.  They are really good books, moving stories, and important reminders that we really should just be nicer to one another. These are sincere, heartfelt glimpses into our past, both the good and the bad; And in the case of If I Ever Get Out of Here, it is an important reminder of the racism and classicism that can divide us if we let it.  They also both have really strong, well developed voices.

Twerp by Mark Goldbatt.  Published in May 2013 by Random House.  ISBN:
9780375971426.  Also available on audio.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric L. Gansworth.  Published in July 2013 by Arthur A. Levine Books. ISBN: 9780545417303

Also, check out this Random House feature on Kids and Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation   

More About Bullying on TLT:
Join the Fight Against Bullying
A Letter to Teens About Bullying
Quotable Ra: Stop Bullying. Period.
When is a Prank More Than Just a Prank?

Audio Review: W.A.R.P. The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer (review by Cuyler Creech)

It’s the late 19th century in Victorian London, and orphaned Riley has the hard luck of being apprenticed to the heartless and vicious madman illusionist-gone-assassin, Albert Garrick. Riley has been well trained by his master in the shrouded arts of illusion, but when it comes to killing, teenage Riley’s heart just isn’t as black as Garrick’s. Which puts Riley in a bind. If he doesn’t consent to becoming what his master has been training him for since he was a child, Garrick won’t hesitate in slitting his throat and dumping him in the lake with his other victims. When given another chance to prove himself to Garrick, an unconscious man is brought into their hideout, and Garrick has all intents of Riley ending the man’s life. But what Garrick wasn’t expecting was the unconscious man’s strange pendant to light up, actually dematerializing the man and his boy apprentice. In a flash of light Riley is just…gone.
Gone through a wormhole.

Chevron Savano, a Native American FBI agent in an experimental teenage program may have just cost herself her career as a full-fledged agent in the Bureau. After an incident in America, Chevy is sent to a secret facility in present day London for a “babysitting” job watching a strange metal pod associated with an unknown program called ‘W.A.R.P.” Chevy has no idea what the pod does, but has just been told to guard it and watch for a man to step outside of it, which no one has in over thirty years. That is, until one day the pod opens, revealing a boy wearing clothes seriously out of style for the 21st century. And he’s standing over a dead body.
Chevy realizes that she’s been assigned to watch a time machine that operates through wormholes, which the FBI uses to safely relocate witnesses to different time periods; a program appropriately called the ‘Witness Anonymous Relocation Program,’ or W.A.R.P. But this time, the body of its creator and a boy named Riley from the Victorian era step from the past and into the present.
And Riley’s murderous master, Albert Garrick, isn’t far behind. And he’s looking for his apprentice, as well as the secrets of the time warp. And no force, in the past or the future, can stop him.
Can the teen duo from worlds apart, a 19th century orphan and a teenage FBI agent, stop the quantum assassin?
MY OPINION:        
This was, undoubtedly, a pretty fun read. Eoin Colfer has such a neat vocabulary, and the way his words are threaded together are like succulent beads strung on one huge necklace of awesomeness. This was an audiobook read for me (or is that a listen?), which, if you get the chance, is really fun to listen to. Maxwell Caulfield narrated this time-travelling tale excellently. I didn’t count, but I’d say there were about eight different character voices, which made the telling very alive and realistic. If you find the audiobook version of this, don’t pass it up. 
As far as pace goes, Colfer played out his story pretty well. The tense emotions begin immediately with the first chapter, and keep throughout. The time-travelling subject is kind of awesome, and I’m a sucker for wormholes. The science of it was enough to make me feel like I knew how they worked instead of suffocated by confusing and uninformative jargon of quantum mechanics. Throughout, this was a pretty easy to read story. That being said, I am, after all, not a Victorian, so Riley’s dialogue was a little hard to understand. But Colfer even played that out well, (even Chevy didn’t know what Riley was saying half the time which made for some entertaining banter), and if you’re good with context clues, you’ll get the gist of what he says.
The idea of using time-travel as a means of witness relocation is, in a word I use for, like, everything, awesome. Add a hard-hitting and sarcastic heroine, a time-travelling illusionist/killer-in-training, and a psychopathic quantum man who would make Jack the Ripper wet his pants, and you got yourself one spicy meatball of a story. 
W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assassin is the first in a fun and enthralling series, tackling the time warp plane with a whole new look and style with animated and unique characters that will take you on their ride through time. I give 4 out of 5 stars for this quantum adventure tale, and I look forward for what Riley, Chevy, and Colfer have to bring next. 
Karen’s totally irrelevant editor’s note: When I was my Tween’s age, I was totally in love with Maxwell Caulfield.  Grease 2 baby.  I had the soundtrack – on tape! I probably should not be sharing any of this. But I am totally going to listen to this now because he is narrating.

Five Questions with ROTTERS and SCOWLER author Daniel Kraus

June is Audio Book Month – take a minute to enter our giveaway!

Listening Library is thrilled to talk horror, audio, and inspiration with Daniel Kraus, the author of two highly-acclaimed novels—both available on audio from Listening Library and recommended for YA listeners 14 and up. (As we like to say, “Listen with the Lights On!”) He is also an editor at the American Library Association and has a brand new YA Lit column called Booklandia, so be sure to check it out! Daniel’s audiobook ROTTERS, read by Kirby Heyborne, was the winner of the 2012 Odyssey Award, given by the American Library Association to the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults in the United States. Lucky for listeners, and thanks to the SYNC program, ROTTERS is available for FREE download from June 27 – July 3.. And his latest audiobook, SCOWLER, also read by Kirby Heyborne, is available now at your local library or wherever books are sold. After Daniel’s Q&A, step into the recording studio with narrator Kirby in this great video.

Q: What is special or unique about the horror genre?  Why do you gravitate toward writing horror stories and what do you think this genre gives to teens?

A: With the possible exception or romance/erotica, it’s the one genre that tries to elicit a specific emotional, and even physical, response. I think the attraction for this kind of visceral thrill is strongest when you’re a teen. It’s the age when kids decide it’d be fun to drive too fast or jump off a cliff into a reservoir or experiment with drugs or whatever. It’s no wonder that teens want to experience some of these transformational thrills in their literature too.
Some of us get addicted to that thrill of pushing past safe boundaries and we never stop, and that’s how you end up with writers like me.

Q: In all of your books, you seem fascinated by small towns in the Midwest – and yet you live in a big city.  What draws you to this setting?

A: There is plenty to be scared of in the city. But for me, the endless stretches of nothing in the Midwest are what’s scariest. It’s almost like being in outer space. No one can hear you if you scream. No one can reach in time to save you. You could run, but the distances are great and you probably won’t make it. The isolation of the country can do strange things to people, but you’d never know it when you zoom by some farm house doing 80 on the interstate.

Q: Have you ever read your work aloud as part of your writing process? Have your audiobooks affected how you think about how writing sounds? (Or do you ever hear narrator Kirby Heyborne’s voice in your head?!)

A: In my case, I think it’s best that I *don’t* think about the audiobook process when I write. If I did, it might make me worry “How in the hell is Kirby going to do *this*?” Case in point is Scowler’s voice in SCOWLER, which basically looks like this on the page: “Tk-tk, hr’wo-gep-gep-gep.” Of course, to write dialogue like that you have to have some sense of what it sounds like, and I communicated that to Kirby once he was ready to record the audio, and I think it helped.

Q: We include your titles on our
Guys Listen website and we constantly hear from librarians and teachers that your books and audios have been perfect to place in the hands (or headphones!) of their male patrons and students, many of whom are considered reluctant readers. What do you think are the biggest challenges in helping guys discover stories that speak to them and encourage a love of reading? How does it make you feel to know you have the ability to reach this audience? 

A: It’s difficult to answer this based on my personal experience because I always loved to read. What fostered that love, however, availability. I never read the books that were put in front of me at school, which I think turned reading into an act that felt a little daring and subversive. I’d go wander the adult stacks looking for the most unsettling stuff, or pick something off my sister’s shelves that boys weren’t “supposed” to read, or snoop around in my parents’ room until I found something even more illicit. The hunt was almost as exciting as the reading. Once you frame it this way, the reluctance slips away. This isn’t unique to boys, but it’s certainly a way to present the idea of reading to them.

Q: We also include your titles on our Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation website, as your books not only tell gripping and unique tales but they also confront important topics from bullying and abuse to poverty. Do you set out to tell a story that addresses specific issues that you feel are important and/or underrepresented in teen literature?

A: Never, never, never. Setting out to tackle a particular “issue” would be death to my writing. I’d feel like I was merely plugging a curricular hole. Tell a story, as deeply and richly and honestly as you can, and real issues will present themselves. Then you’ll fight through them. That’s what a writer does.

And don’t forget to enter our Audiobook Giveaway!

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!

5 Audio Books My Tween Says You Should Listen To Right Now

If you follow me on Twitter (@tlt16), you know that the Tween and I are now audio book obsessed.  Even if we are just in the car for a five minute drive she asks me to turn on whatever book we are currently listening to.  We have gotten home and sat in the car for a few extra minutes to finish whatever scene or book we are listening to.  I don’t forget to turn on the book because she won’t let me, “Mom, turn the book on” she cries from the backseat of the car.  Here are 5 of her recent faves.

1.  Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

I won’t talk a lot about this one, because I mentioned it in yesterday’s post about reality TV. The tween wasn’t interested in it though for the inside look at all the behind the scenes happenings of reality TV.  No, she just liked that it was funny, charming, and at times kept you on the edge of your seat.  She is also a huge animal lover and there is plenty of fun wildlife present.

2.  The Paradise Trap by Catherine Jinks

In The Paradise Trap, Marcus’s mom buys a trailer for them to vacation at the beach.  One day they discover that the trailer has a basement, which if you know anything about trailers is physically impossible.  Inside the basement your wildest dreams – and most fearful nightmares – come true.  This story is an interesting twist on the legend of the Sirens.  It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat as you travel through the maze of a basement and try to find a way out.  It also led to some fun discussions about what our dream vacation and nightmare vacations would look like.  I think it would be a fun book club book and you can do an activity where your tweens create their own dream or nightmare vacation brochures.  You can listen to an excerpt at the Random House Audio page.

Audio Book Fact: Most listeners use audiobooks in the car (whether they are commuting or on driving vacations) but an increasing number of people also report using audiobooks while they are exercising, cooking, gardening — and even at work. (from the Audio Publishers Association)

3.  Divergent by Veronica Roth
Okay, I don’t always make awesome parenting decisions.  I am the mother who took the Tween to see The Hunger Games movie when she was 8.  Anyhow, I was listening to Divergent when she got in the car with me one day and I hadn’t turned it off.  She started protesting so we kept listening.  There is a lot of violence, obviously.  And there is one scene where Tris is attacked and basically sexually assaulted.  I was surprised, because she did really like it.  And of course now she is closer to being a teen then she was when I took her to see The Hunger Games movie (which she did like by the way).  So, the moral of my story is this: definitely read or listen to the book first, but it is a good audio, a good book, and with the movie coming out soon there will be high demand.

Audio Book Fact: Audiobook listeners are avid readers who use audiobooks as a way of enjoying an author’s work when they are not able to read. 94% of audiobook listeners had read a book in the past year vs. 70% of non-audiobook listeners. (from the Audio Publishers Association)

4.  I’d Tell You That I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

Because I am the mom to two girls, I am always looking for good representations of females in my books.  Ally Carter is one of my favorite authors because of the characters she writes.  And, her books are charming, fun, and entertaining while being empowering.  ITYTILOVBTIHTKY is book #1 in the Gallagher Girls series.  I think everyone should read these books.  They are about girls in spy school and they do a good job of presenting a wide variety of girls, their interests and personalities, and have some pretty kick-ass role models.  There is a touch of romance, geeky spy science, and really intelligent women.  What’s not to love?  We were introduced to the series by listening to the audio and have bought every book since then for our home library.  Last night the Tween started reading the series again I noticed.

Audio Book Fact: In a recent consumer survey, the Audio Publishers Association learned that 25% of Americans had listened to an audiobook in the last year.

5.  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

This was a really interesting listening experience because we did it backwards.  I started reading the book out loud as our family read along, but somewhere along the way I picked up a new book before we finished this one.  We both really liked this book and wanted to finish it, so we listened to the audio.  The Mysterious Benedict Society is such a clever book about genius children and there are lots of fun mysteries and puzzles to solve inside.  Just listening to it made us feel like we were getting smarter by the day.  And one of my favorite childhood books is The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, which this series reminds me a lot of in tone and personality.  You can listen to an excerpt to get a feel for the series at the Random House Audio page.

I recently had a discussion with the Tween, asking her what she liked about audio books.  She said she liked how they drew you into the story and it was kind of like watching TV or a movie, but the picture forms in your head.  Plus, it made car rides more fun.  The only thing she said she liked better about reading a book is that she could do it at “her own pace.”  I will say that I have noticed that she often doesn’t finish reading a book, but she always finishes the audio which means she is getting the whole story.

From page to audio: Bernadette Dunne shares her journey (A Flashback Post)

Since today we are talking with an audio book narrator, Mike Paine, I thought I would do a Flashback post and rerun this post with Bernadette Dunne, the narrator of Son by Lois Lowry.  More than 1 point of view helps us develop more insight into the creation of an audio book.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Having had the honor of narrating a couple of Lois Lowry audiobooks, I have found this to be true: If you let your mind drift into thoughts about Lois Lowry’s writing, be prepared to lose track of time. To think about the characters and events in SON, to get lost in the eloquence of that story, is to begin a rumination on the very nature of the human experience. What is our true purpose? What is an individual? How do we define a spiritually satisfying life? SON is not merely an engrossing story but may also provide readers with a jumping off point for some of the biggest, most complex questions that life will present. And while I imagine the YA category is probably a perfect place to introduce these questions and spiritual themes, I found them to be fully resonant at my own (slightly, barely, hardly noticeable) more advanced age, as well. 

So how does a narrator approach the performance of a book like this one? For starters, it’s an awesome and intimidating responsibility, but the good news for the narrator is that with a book like SON the narrator can trust that the material is, itself, plenty compelling. Rather than a narration that adds a lot of dramatic huffing and puffing and actor-esque flourishes,  you want to fully support the story momentum but try to keep the approach clean, spare, simple and true. The story’s the thing. Particularly with Lois Lowry material, the narrator wants to almost become transparent, so the beauty of the sentences really gets heard.  

-Bernadette Dunne

AND for those of you who fall in love with audiobook narrators like I do, here is a link for more from Bernadette Dunne! Hear more from award-winning narrator Bernadette Dunne .  Thanks again to Bernadette and to Books on Tape for connecting TLT with Ms. Dunne!

This statement originally appeared at the begnning of this post which was first published on October 11, 2012: Thanks to all of you who participated in our celebration of The Giver quartet here on Teen Librarian’s Toolbox.  A special thank you to the amazing teams at both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Books on Tape/Listening Library for an excellent giveaway and for helping to promote our tribute.  

This is my favorite picture of Stephanie. She did it herself. She rocks.

 Many times, we hear from an author and during this tribute, we were excited to hear from Lois Lowry and then I found out that Bernadette Dunne, the narrator for the SON audiobook, wanted to send in a little something about her experience recording the audio.  We are super excited to host Bernadette’s post and I hope you all enjoy!