“Alchemy, sorcery and characters that aren’t what they appear to be—it’s mystery, it’s fun!”—Narrator Eileen Stevens
How do children’s audiobooks catch my attention? Sometimes it’s a visual
pop from the cover, sometimes it’s wanting to hear a narrator I love, and sometimes it’s the Earphones Award a reviewer recommends.
The cover of Junot Díaz’s ISLANDBORN immediately grabbed me, and the Earphones-worthy performance by the author sealed it. The unlikely appearance of a Swedish children’s series from the 1940s, Pelle No-Tail, is another that made me curious. Master narrator Rupert Degas is one of my favorites, and his performance of THE ADVENTURES OF PELLE NO-TAIL sealed the deal. Rupert’s performance in THE GOLDEN COMPASS is one I hold dear, and his SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series was a marvel.
As we watch and listen to the young leaders from Parkland, Florida, Americans are divided by whether both life and liberty can be attained jointly. Values, many adults seem hasty to opine, come from maturity and experience, which may be another way to say that the suspension of disbelief in the face of actual events is a subtle art that escapes youth.
History, however, shows a different reality, and it’s a reality born of fact: Teenagers are at peak power of seeing the emperor has no clothes, saying the emperor has no clothes, and acting on their observation that the emperor has no clothes. Read more…
Narrator Pete Cross takes AudioFile readers Behind the Mic to share his narration of Bill Konigsberg’s funny and sweet audiobook for teens, OPENLY STRAIGHT.
“I was happy, really happy, to be a part of it because I thought it was important . . . I’m gay, and when I was a teenager, there weren’t books with main characters my age who were gay and that had these positive images of gay people.”—Narrator Pete Cross
The lack of diversity in children’s books has been noted by many parents, teachers, librarians, and children who seek more new books that reflect experiences that are more inclusive than the traditional reflection of white middle-and upper-class characters and concerns.
Children’s authors, publishers, librarians, and book bloggers have written extensively through social media and editorials about the disconnect between available children’s books and potential audiences whose experiences were under-represented. Two movements, We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB) and #OwnVoices, were born.
While the We Need Diverse Books movement’s goal is to increase inclusivity overall, #OwnVoices specifically focuses on story creators. The message? Telling stories from marginalized experiences requires authenticity, and the storytellers who live outside the empowered culture are the ones whose voices need to be heard.
AudioFile Magazine goes Behind the Mic with Dan Bittner to hear about his narration of HONESTLY BEN, an Earphones Award winner. Bill Konigsberg’s novel is a complex portrait of Ben, a scholarship student and baseball team captain at an elite East-coast boarding school. Ben is confused about his sexuality, namely his feelings for his ex-best friend, Rafe, and a cute girl at the neighboring school. Rafe and Ben briefly became more than just friends in the first novel in the series, OPENLY STRAIGHT, which was told from Rafe’s point of view.
“Growing up is messy and it’s complicated, and Bill nails it in his writing”—Narrator Dan Bittner
HONESTLY BEN: Openly Straight, Book 2
by Bill Konigsberg, read by Dan Bittner
AudioFile Earphones Award
HONESTLY BEN and OPENLY STRAIGHT are both about growing up and developing a sense of identity in the petri dish that is high school. Dan thoughtfully portrays Ben in all of his complicated emotions and sensitivities, along with the other jocks and wealthy classmates surrounding him at his high school. This novel will engage teen and adult listeners alike for its humor and its empathetic portrayal of learning about who you are.
Find more audiobooks narrated by Dan on 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? Read more…
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
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
Live Oak Media, Ages 4-6
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.
Live Oak Media, Ages 6+
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
Scholastic Audiobooks, Ages 8+
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
Hachette Audio, Ages 8+
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]
Listening Library, Ages 10+
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
Macmillan Audio, Ages 10+
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— both 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 went Behind the Mic to talk with narrator Ron Butler about the ‘magic’ of his performance of HOODOO by Ronald L. Smith. Magic indeed, you’ll come under Ron’s spell to seek out this audiobook.
“Hoodoo, the 12-year-old boy has so much heart—a huge heart—the heart of a poet.”—Narrator Ron Butler
by Ronald L. Smith, read by Ron Butler
AudioFile Earphones Award
2016 Coretta Scott King Award
We loved the way the author weaves together the 1930’s small-town Alabama, Hoodoo’s magical family and the spooky Southern Gothic atmosphere. Narrator Ron Butler pulls in listeners immersing them in this great family listen. Listen to a sound clip and read AudioFile’s full review here.
HOODOO is featured in our 20 Exceptional Audiobooks to Kickstart Your Family Listening, and is part of AudioFile’s comprehensive Kids & Teens Listening lists.
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