5 Novels in Verse: Audiobooks for National Poetry Month

Discover the Power of Young Adult and Children’s Audiobooks

Elizabeth Acevedo by Max Flatow Photography
Elizabeth Acevedo by Max Flatow Photography
Author Elizabeth Acevedo

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? That makes this month the perfect time to push your audiobook envelope and add some variety to your listening.

Although your first inclination might be to listen to a poetry collection (try Richard Blanco’s HOW TO LOVE A COUNTRY), I have another suggestion. One of my personal favorite ways to enjoy poetry is to listen to novels in verse. For today’s Take 5 recommendations, I’ve concentrated on audiobooks that are appropriate for teens but that deal with issues that listeners of all ages can relate to, such as self-image, the #MeToo movement, racial profiling, immigration, family, and finding one’s path.

By the way, today’s picks can also serve double duty for Children’s Book Week, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, starting on April 29. Listen to these audiobooks for the poetry, to discover the power of children’s stories, and to learn something about yourself and the world we live in.

Blood Water PaintJoy McCullough’s BLOOD WATER PAINT is based on the true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 17th-century Italian Baroque painter who faced daunting hurtles on her journey to establish herself as a respected artist. Narrator Xe Sands’s smooth and unhurried performance highlights Gentileschi’s full range of emotions, especially her determination to find inner peace and justice after being sexually assaulted by a teacher. Although Gentileschi lived 400 years ago, the lessons her mother teaches her about being female in a male world are still relevant today.

MooIf you’re in a lighter mood, try MOO by Sharon Creech, which is the story of 12-year-old Reena, whose family has moved from the big city to rural Maine. Narrator Brittany Pressley captures Reena’s wonder at her new freedoms as well as her growing affection for Zora, an ornery cow she’s agreed to take care of for an elderly neighbor. This charming audiobook about making new friends of all ages is a good choice for family listening, and everyone will smile whenever Pressley speaks for Zora with a “Moo”!

PerfectThe four narrators who perform Ellen Hopkins’s PERFECT beautifully deliver the main characters’ inner trauma as they deal with the pressures (often self-imposed) to find self-worth. Aya Cash, Heather Lind, Aaron Tveit, and Tristan Wilds portray high school seniors whose quest for perfection leads them into a downward spiral of depression, drugs, and destructive behavior. The contemporary issues faced by these teens include body image, excelling at sports, sexuality, popularity, and meeting parental expectations.

SwingThe audiobook edition of SWING is performed by its author, poet Kwame Alexander, who adds an extra emotional layer to an already powerful story about two high school friends who should have nothing more to worry about than playing baseball and winning over the girl of their dreams. This novel in verse shows how even a good upbringing and a comfortable socioeconomic status can’t protect youngsters from the tough realities of life in America, especially for people of color. This heartbreaking but important listen is part of our summer SYNC audiobooks for teens program, and it can be downloaded for free at audiobooksync.com starting April 25th.

The Poet XPerformance poet Elizabeth Acevedo won an Earphones Award for her narration of her novel in verse THE POET X. This young adult audiobook explores the interlinked layers of 15-year-old Xiomara (X), a first-generation Dominican American who must balance her family’s Caribbean and Catholic traditions with her life as a Harlem high schooler. Writing provides X an outlet for private thoughts, such as her anger at being objectified and her growing attraction to a Trinidadian boy, whom she suspects won’t meet her mother’s standards.

I hope these audiobook recommendations will encourage you to listen to a novel in verse. If you’re already a fan, which titles were your favorites?

Elizabeth Acevedo photo by Max Flatow Photography

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Questions with Mark Bramhall

Why being pigeonholed isn’t always a bad thing

Mark Bramhall

Mark BramhallToday’s guest here at Take 5 created a problem for me, though it wasn’t anything the delightful Mark Bramhall did. The fault lies with the fact that I was forced to restrict my overview of his incredible range of work as an audiobook narrator to only five titles. What’s a fan to do? (Hint: I cheated a little!)

Mark’s rich voice and thoughtful characterizations have accompanied me through some of my favorite fiction (like EVERYBODY’S FOOL) and have increased my enjoyment of history and biography (don’t miss GRANT). His performances of thrillers keep me on the edge of my seat, and when it comes to connecting me emotionally to a novel . . . well, let’s just say I keep the tissues handy. (See how I worked additional audiobooks into this post?!)

Whatever your preferred listening genre (fantasy to politics) or target audience (children to adult), you’ll have your choice of recommended Mark Bramhall-narrated audiobooks. Here are five to get you started. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Mystery Audiobooks to Take Outside

Spring Ahead With Mystery Listening

The Lost Man

The Lost ManWith spring just days away, I’m starting to get a touch of cabin fever. In my part of the world, winter has been too cold, wet, and windy to spend much time outside. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, however, I can now enjoy taking a walk after work, even if I still have to bundle up.

Mysteries and thrillers are a sure bet for encouraging me to put on my walking shoes and head out the door. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended up thinking, “If keep walking and listening to this mystery for another fifteen minutes, maybe I’ll be able to figure out who the villain is.”

All the audiobooks recommended today were written by women; the stories take us around the world, and a couple send us back in time. Queue up one of these great listens, and get ready to wear out your walking shoes.

Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Questions with Cherise Boothe

Why patience is important in the recording booth

Cherise Boothe

Cherise BootheSay hello to today’s Take 5 guest, Cherise Boothe, who is one of the queens of collaborative audiobooks. Her voice always gives spark to multicast productions, and I’m impressed with her ability to portray characters of all ages and from different parts of the world.

You may be familiar with Cherise’s youthful voice, which allows her to bring authenticity to children’s books. She is also, however, equally at home performing contemporary culture (THE FIRE THIS TIME), literary fiction (WHATEVER HAPPENED TO INTERRACIAL LOVE?), and humor audiobooks (BLACK MAN, WHITE HOUSE).

The audiobooks I feature here underscore the range of Cherise’s solo work, starting with a children’s story and ending with a novel about life under Jim Crow. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Stellar Listens for Speculative Fiction Fans

Take a Break from Reality

How Long 'Til Black Future Month

How Long 'Til Black Future MonthDo you ever just want to step back and take a quick break from reality? When work is crazy or the weather keeps me cooped up inside, I’m ready for a different world. Since I’m not a NASA astronaut and I can’t seem to time travel or walk through a mirror into an alternate universe, I escape with the help of speculative fiction, one of my favorite audiobook genres.

If the term speculative fiction is new to you, it’s just a fancy term for novels that feature a departure from life as we know it. The genre includes science fiction, time travel, fantasy, and alternate history as well as all things paranormal (vampires, werewolves, and demons).

Although I find it hard to resist a good dystopian listen (I’m gathering survival tips, just in case), today’s audiobook recommendations highlight the scope of speculative fiction and introduce you to excellent performances. In fact, all five titles featured here were Earphones Award winners. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Escapes to Warmer Climes

Cozy up and listen

Escape to Warmer Climes

Escape to Warmer ClimesAs many of us in the northern tier of the United States hunker down for the coldest and dreariest part of winter (I’m looking at you, February), I’m grateful to be living in modern times: electric lights, central heating, and . . . audiobooks. When it’s cold outside, I like to do some armchair traveling, and this week I’m thinking about escaping to warmer climes.

Who says beach reading is only for the summer? I think it’s the perfect way to warm up any winter night. Here are five recommended audiobooks that will take you to the seaside and introduce you to some new friends. You’ll even get a little romance on the side.

Pour that coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or hot toddy, curl up on the couch in your favorite comfy clothes, and dream of summer skies. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Questions with Simon Vance

Plus 5 Audiobooks from a King of Audiobooks

Simon Vance

Simon VanceIs there genre or style today’s Take 5 narrator can’t handle? If there is, I haven’t discovered it. Veteran narrator Simon Vance is one of the kings of audiobook performers and a favorite of thousands of listeners (me included).

Simon’s voice has been my companion for many hours over the years, helping me navigate fantasy worlds as well as the very real past and contemporary culture. I’m sure you agree: If you see his name is on an audiobook cover, you know the performance will be fabulous. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Audiobooks for the New Year

Meet Your Goals in 2019

Craft A Life You Love

Craft A Life You LoveI don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I can’t help but see the new year as a chance to carve out more down time, to be a better scheduler, and to enjoy more time with friends and family. Every January when I open my new planner and hang the new calendar, I promise myself that this is the year I break the busyness cycle.

Researchers and social observers note that most of us are, in fact, less busy than we feel. Theories for this disconnect abound. For example Science Alert makes an argument that technology, information overload, and too many leisure choices add to our anxiety levels. The Guardian puts the blame on our DIY lifestyle. By booking our own travel or acting as our own bankers, we not only have to make time for those chores but we also miss out on face-to-face interactions, which can brighten our days. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

Cozy Christmas Mysteries

5 Audiobooks for the Season

Cozy Christmas Mysteries

Cozy Christmas Mysteries

Don’t panic, but Christmas is less than a week away! If you celebrate Hanukah, then you’re already cruising and looking forward to the new year, but if you celebrate Kwanzaa, Christmas, or the winter solstice, then you’re probably deep into last-minute prep.

For most of us, pre-holiday activities include baking and cooking, cleaning, decorating, shopping, wrapping, and—I hope—relaxing in the evening with some cookies and a warm (or warming) drink. Are you looking for something that will make all of those chores more fun and will put you in a holiday mood? One of my secrets is listening to holiday-themed cozy mystery audiobooks. Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.

5 Best Young Adult Audiobooks 2018

2018 Best Young Adult Audiobooks

2018 Best Young Adult AudiobooksWelcome to December and the winter holiday season. One of my favorite things about the end of the year is reading all the best-of lists, especially those that focus on audiobooks. I love adding to my wish list and discovering great books I might have missed.

Get ready to find your next outstanding listen: Today’s Take 5 post is all about AudioFile’s Best Young Adult audiobooks for 2018. All the titles that made our list deserve the spotlight not only for their great stories but also for the fantastic narrators whose performances made the audiobooks unforgettable.

Here, I give you a hint of what each audiobook is all about, but don’t forget to click through to our full reviews. To see all the winners in all the categories, check out AudioFile’s 2018 Best Audiobooks E-Zine.

Now for this year’s best audiobooks for young adults: Read more…

Candace Levy
Candace is a full-time freelance book editor as well as a book reviewer and journalist. When she’s not working, you'll inevitably find her listening to an audiobook while cooking, walking, making lace, or taking photographs. She was honored to be the 2016 Audio Publishers Association's Audiobook Blogger of the Year.