There are two reasons to listen to this audiobook: Kirsten Potter and Scotland. In the interests of complete honesty, I would probably listen to almost any Scotland-set tale. It’s the most craggy, magical place to visit, and they like butter as much as I do. (I’m including a link to the absolute best shortbread – Stag Stornoway Shortbread – that you can only get in the Outer Hebrides. It’s worth the flight . . . and the ferry ride . . . trust me.) So take a cozy Scottish village setting and a second-chance-at-love story and add the memorable vocal stylings of narrator Kirsten Potter, and you get true listening pleasure. Did I mention it’s a series? I jumped in mid-series with this title and had no problem following along. I liked hearing hints about other characters and their stories, and I kept thinking it would be fun to go back and listen to the other stories.
In IT HAPPENED IN SCOTLAND, Rachel journeys to Scotland as a widow, bringing her daughter Hannah to meet her husband’s family, not realizing her old flame Brodie has also returned to the village of Gandiegow. Potter manages the intricate backstory of this contemporary, small-town saga with great aplomb. She incorporates Scottish terminology and accents into her character-driven voicings, differentiating Scots of various ages and temperaments, ensuring that each character is unique.
Watch a behind-the-mic video and find other audiobooks narrated by Kirsten Potter at our website!
There seems to be a proliferation of adult mystery and suspense writers dipping their toes–or taking the full plunge–into writing for younger readers. John Grisham has kid lawyers, Ridley Pearson brings a young James Moriarty to life, Kathy Reichs and her son created a “pack” of young crime fighters–one of whom is the grandniece of Reich’s Temperance Brennan–and James Patterson has an entire imprint for children with books spanning the age range.
These mysteries aren’t limited to American writers either. The Scandinavian rage that’s captured the adult side of the genre is present on the YA shelves as well. Salla Simukka’s AS RED AS BLOOD, the beginning of The Snow White Trilogy, is a prime example.
And while the classic stories as well as the newer generation of mysteries continue to hook youth on reading and listening, the same stories are captivating adults as well. What is it about these audiobooks that make them so magical to audiences of all ages?
I talked with actor and narrator Peter Berkrot who’s performed some YA audiobooks. I wanted to know how he approaches an audiobook intended for young listeners and if he does anything different from the audios he performs for adults. For the most part, his preparation is the same, but he says, “in the acting choices and in honoring the writing, I find that good YA books tend to strip away any excess writing and leave us with an essence of each character. Not to say that YA novels aren’t as sophisticated or intelligent as their adult counterparts. On the contrary, young readers are incredibly insightful and can detect inauthenticity when authors get too clever or complex. There is often a parable-like quality to good YA, allowing direct access into the spirit of the character. Just as in real life, young people have not developed a capacity for self-deception and complex psychology; novels of this sort take us more instantly into the truth of the characters. So I trust the writing and stay out of its way.”
I’m not sure I broke it down enough to notice that before, but he’s absolutely right. I’m sure that’s what I found so intriguing about Charlie Thurston’s narrations of Barry Lyga’s I HUNT KILLERS trilogy. And the fat was definitely trimmed from Bill Cameron’s PROPERTY OF THE STATE, which isn’t on audio but I’d love to see recorded.
I also had the chance to chat with Kirby Heyborne about narrating for younger listeners. Since he’s been so successful in this realm of audiobook recording I wanted to know his secret to narrating for children and young adults. He told me he took some cues from story time with his own kids: “I found that when my kids were little and I read to them for bedtime, they preferred me not reading down to them. They were more interested when I was invested in the characters and made them sound fun and believable.” Isn’t that really what we all hope for in a good audiobook performance? No wonder the books that are intended for younger audiences strike a chord with adults as well. By the way, Kirby is also a fan of THE WESTING GAME, “My all time favorite mystery novel. In fact, it’s one of my all time favorite books of any genre.” Mysteries have that effect on many people!
A conversation I found especially fascinating was the one I had with Amy Rubinate. “I’ve been directing a lot of middle grade, YA and picture books lately, and it has caused me to look more closely at my approach to the work.” Amy has narrated books for young readers for a long time and has developed an instinct for the characters and plots in these stories. “But when I’m directing, I have to put more thought into it in order to convey that information to the actors. The best thing I can do is cast the books well – then not a lot of direction is needed; the narrators lock right into the work. But we also spend time in session weighing how to approach subtle aspects of character that would be reflected in the narration; for example: how much innocence/wonder would still be present in the voice and spirit of the spunky 12-year-old protagonist, given the hardship he has endured.” I think it would be especially fun to be a fly on the wall in those sessions!
When I asked Amy about her favorite mystery from childhood, I was reminded of a story I, too, adored, “My favorite audio mystery/thriller when I was a kid was a ‘story record’ of the Disney movie, The Rescuers. I listened to it hundreds of times, and mimicked all of the voices. They did a novelization of the movie with wonderful narration, interspersed with dialogue cut from the movie. Bob Newhart, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Geraldine Page…it never failed to enchant me. I think the repetition of great work like this is one of the things that made me able to handle dialogue easily many years later.” I think I’ll be picturing the little dragonfly, Evinrude, all day today. What great memories.
There are a lot of wonderful titles out there making selections for young–and young-at-heart listeners–explode. How about you and your young audiobook fans? What titles have captured your imaginations and entertained you lately? Do you ever listen to a title together? Feel free to share your experiences and recommendations in the comments today.
There’s no mystery about it – our website is full of more great audiobooks for children and young adults!
AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to talk with Ramon de Ocampo about recording Anne Sibley O’Brien’s inspiring children’s audiobook, I’M NEW HERE. Part of an ensemble cast of voices, Ramon encourages us to explore this read-along and learn about welcoming immigrants and refugees.
“We’ve all been there—we’ve all been the new kid at school. And we probably will be again.” —Narrator Ramon de Ocampo
I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, Read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon de Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien
Live Oak Media
The voices who introduce us to Fatima, Maria, and Jin remind us how it feels to be the new kid. This read-along might help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
Explore AudioFile’s short recommended audiobooks list to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them here.
Find more great audiobooks here across many subjects and topics, Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.
My daughter is one to ask a million questions. She is three, and precocious, and we find ourselves having deep discussions about how the human body works, Pete Seeger’s life, why Fritz breaks Clara’s Nutcracker, and more recently, why we help others who are here as refugees and asylum seekers.
Here in Portland, Maine, we have a growing community of immigrants and refugees who have come from countries where their lives are at risk, their homes are destroyed, and they and their children have experienced things no person should. How do I explain that to my three-year-old without making her frightened?
The answer, in our case, came in part through reading. There are many beautiful and moving picture and chapter books for learning about the experiences of immigrants and refugees with content that is approachable for children and helps facilitate discussions at their level. These titles are excellent, as well, for helping children who have come to America as immigrants and refugees see a mirror of their own lived experiences.
Through a wonderful initiative developed in Maine called I’m Your Neighbor, we found a beautiful collection of books to give children windows into the lives of others and to help them see their own experiences reflected back to them. Dive in and see what amazing resources you can find!
We’ve selected six audiobooks to help your children, or the children in your life, understand and reflect on what it means to be new to a country and to leave everything you knew behind. There are audiobooks appropriate for kids as young as three to ages ten and older.
I’M NEW HERE
by Anne Sibley O’Brien, Read by Frankie Corzo, Ariana Delawari, Ramon De Ocampo, Ruth Livier, Anne Sibley O’Brien • Children Ages 4-6 • 12 mins. (Live Oak Media)
Young, vibrant narrators voice heartfelt concerns as students from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia are each welcomed into new classrooms in a new country. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
WE ARE AMERICA: A Tribute from the Heart
by Walter Dean Myers, Read by Macleod Andrews, Olivia DuFord, Dion Graham, Lizann Mitchell, Christopher Myers, Walter Dean Myers, Johanna Parker, Adriana Sananes, Kaipo Schwab, et al. • Children Ages 6+ • 33 mins. (Live Oak Media)
A chorus of voices welcomes listeners to this meditation on what it is to be American. Poems and quotes are delivered by a talented cast of narrators that reflect the diversity of the United States. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
SAVE ME A SEAT
by Sarah Weeks, Gita Varadarajan, Read by Josh Hurley, Vikas Adam • Children Ages 8+ • 4 hrs. (Scholastic Audiobooks)
Using two narrators is the perfect way to deliver this story, told as the alternating first-person recollections of two fifth-grade boys. Vikas Adam is the voice of Ravi, a recent immigrant from India, and Josh Hurley is the voice of Joe, a boy with auditory processing disorder (APD). Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
THE RED PENCIL
by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Read by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Children Ages 8+ • 3.25 hrs. (Hachette Audio)
Pinkney performs her novel in free verse, which features Amira, a girl listeners meet when she’s living a happy life with her family in the South Darfur region of Sudan. Everything changes when her family is forced to flee. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
A CRACK IN THE SEA
by H.M. Bouwman; Read by Bahni Turpin, H.M. Bouwman [Afterword] • Children Ages 10+ • 9.75 hrs. (Listening Library)
Bouwman weaves a fascinating story of brothers and sisters, history and fantasy in this incredible tale. Narrator Bahni Turpin is extraordinary in bringing this fantasy world and its characters to life. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
by Karen Hesse; Read by Fred Berman • Children Ages 10+ • 4.75 hrs. (Macmillan Audio)
Newbery Medalist Karen Hesse’s deeply moving story concerns Russian immigrants in 1903 Brooklyn. Fred Berman beautifully captures 14-year-old Joseph’s electric excitement to participate in the life of the city around him. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
Have you listened to a family audiobook on this topic? Please share about it below!
Don’t miss — our interviews with Ramon de Ocampo, one of the narrators of I’M NEW HERE, and a two-fer interview with Josh Hurley and Vikas Adam narrators of SAVE ME A SEAT–as part of our ongoing Behind the Mic series!
Find more great audiobooks here: Audiobooks for Kids & Teens. AudioFile’s dynamic lists come complete with age ranges.
AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to talk with Khristine Hvam about recording the latest in Debbie Macomber’s New Beginnings series, IF NOT FOR YOU. Khristine speaks with such heart and entices listeners to step into the unlikely friendship of Beth and Sam.
“We can all relate to getting to a point in our lives when we need to make our own choices . . . and finding love along the way. —Narrator Khristine Hvam
IF NOT FOR YOU
by Debbie Macomber, read by Khristine Hvam
Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
AudioFile Earphones Award
Debbie Macomber’s books have legions of fans, and she uplifts her readers with stories of connection and hope. We love to hear that this newest audiobook, winner of our Earphones Award, follows through on that promise. Khristine brings keen intuition to her performance of Macomber’s new classic. Listen to a sound clip from IF NOT FOR YOU and read AudioFile’s full review here.
If you can’t get enough of Debbie Macomber, you might enjoy AudioFile’s interview with her!