Five finalists were chosen in the category of Children's Books for ages 8-12. They are:
by Natalie Lloyd
Narrated by Cassandra Morris
“Once upon a time, Midnight Gulch was a magical place and the Brothers Threadbare were two of the most magical people who ever lived here.”
Felicity Pickle arrives in Midnight Gulch, a southern town that used to be magical, with her family in the Pickle Jalapeno. It used to be that every family had some sort of magic. In her 6th grade class, Felicity hears the "Story of Stoneberry", a tale of jealousy in which the brothers, Stone and Berry Weatherly, lost their magic. It's also where she meets Jonah Picket, the secret do-gooder from the seat of his wheelchair. But he's not the first "Beetle." The town has been beneficiary to kind deeds for over 50 years. Felicity hears more stories about Midnight Gulch from Oliver Weatherly, grandson of Berry Weatherly and the original Beetle of Midnight Gulch. He's become a millionaire by making ice cream. His Blackberry Sunrise ice cream flavor has the ability to bring memories to the taster. Felicity hears that her family might have magic in its veins. Felicity is able to see words in everything, but she is convinced that “Pickles are cursed with wandering hearts. We’re cursed at everything we try."
Felicity hopes her restless mother will decide to stay in Midnight Gulch, where Aunt Cleo lives. Felicity and her 6-year-old sister, Franny Jo, have moved many times already due to their mother's inability to stay put. Soon, her Uncle Boone shows up too, and she sees the words “New Beginnings” sitting on his shoulders, which she hopes is true for all of them. In order to ensure that they stay in Midnight Gulch a little bit longer, Felicity agrees to read some of her poetry for the talent show. Also, she wants to solve the mystery of the town's curse that says it is “Cursed until the chords align.” If only her mother will stay put long enough for her to put all the pieces together...
This book reminded me of "Because of Winn Dixie," possibly because young Felicity has many adult friends. Of course, there is a dog too. Maybe it was the voice of the story, set in a southern town. There is nice music at the beginning and end of the book to set the tone, and the narrator sounds like the age of the character. At some points, the voices of the characters all start to sound the same. I'm not sure that the audio enhances the text in any way, but neither does it hinder. We don't hear any music or singing during the story, when there were opportunities available. Still, it is a nice listen, and I enjoyed hearing the slight southern accent. This audio won an Odyssey Honor Award in 2015.