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.
by Sharon G. Flake
Narrated by Bahni Turpin
Set in 1953, during a time when negroes live under the laws of Jim Crow and little girls are expected to wear dresses, 10-year-old Octobia May, who has survived a near-death experience involving her heart, is introduced wearing pants and wanting a perm. She is a very strong female character given lots of freedom by her Aunt Shuma, with whom she has come to live in her boarding house, after convincing her family in Pittsburgh. Octobia enjoys visiting the "Before Sisters" in the cemetery and living with the older residents, hearing about their sometimes painful pasts and current events. But one boarder, Mr. Davenport is not the quiet writer he pretends to be. He sleeps all day and claims to work at the cemetery at night. Octobia knows the truth, however. He is a vampire. Because of that she carries garlic with her everywhere she goes and constantly chews on it, to the dismay of all around her, especially her best friend Jonah. She wants Jonah to help her expose the man for what he really is, since no one else believes her. She spies on Mr. Davenport all the time to get her proof, until the dreaded night when she and Jonah follow him and see him kill a woman in white by biting her neck. Her body is found in the river the next day. Even so, she still cannot convince anyone of his lies. Not even Mr. O’Malley, the town policeman.
The times being what they are, and with civil rights just beginning to become a fight for negroes, the limitations for woman are highlighted as Aunt Shuma tries to acquire a bank loan to build a hotel. But she is not married and banks don’t loan money to single women. With Mr. Davenport’s assistance, she manages to get a meeting with the bank manager about a loan. The two are obviously trying to take advantage of her, but Octobia May can’t figure out how it is Mr. Davenport could have so much control over the white banker. Once Aunt Shuma realizes their scam, she kicks Mr. Davenport out of the boarding house, but not before Octobia and Jonah discover lots of jewelry and money hidden in his room. They take some of the money hidden in a bucket of sand. Unfortunately Aunt Shuma is accused of the theft of some missing jewelry and is sent to jail. To prevent being sent back home, Octobia goes on the run. She does not want to go back to Pittsburgh before she and Jonah solve the mystery behind Mr. Davenport.
I enjoyed the story overall. It was historical, humorous, had believable dialect, and the mystery kept me guessing. Octobia and the rest of the characters were very likable. I liked that Mr. Davenport wasn’t a one-dimensional villan. I have a couple of complaints about the plot, but can’t really reveal those issues without giving anything away. I liked that the time period was reflected throughout and I enjoyed the ending. I would stress that this is not a vampire book. Except that Octobia is certain Mr. Davenport is a vampire, it doesn’t play a big part. It is a mystery with an historical setting. There are issues of race. There is one really sad episode that I won’t give away. Recommended for middle grade readers. I read complaints in reviews about the dialect being difficult to read, but the audio version does not have that problem and it is very easy to listen to and understand. In this regard, the audio might be better than the book. Bahni Turpin is a great narrator for this story and listeners will believe that she is Octobia May. Or Aunt Shuma. Or Policeman O'Malley with his Irish brogue. If you are looking for diversity or an African American story, this one is a great choice.
by Neil Gaiman
Narrated by a Full Cast
This won the 2009 Newbery Award. The book begins with a triple murder leaving a baby orphaned. He toddles across the street into a graveyard where he is adopted by a community of ghosts. Mr. and Mrs. Owens claim him as their son and name him Nobody, or Bod for short. Silas becomes his guardian due to his ability to leave the graveyard and thus provide Bod with food and other necessities. Other ghosts take on the role as teachers and tell him about the real way historical events occurred. He is given Freedom of the Graveyard where he learns to Fade and how to stay protected within the gates of the graveyard. Outside the gates, "Jack" still hunts for the baby he failed to kill. In each chapter, Bod learns another lesson, mostly by not following the advice of his elders, but he comes to appreciate and understand their intentions as he unfolds the mystery behind the killings and his larger role in an ancient secret society. Mostly, this is a story of family and community, and the love and support they provide as a boy learns how to cope in the world. Written by the same author who wrote Coraline, this book is scary and suspenseful and would be most suited for readers in grades 5 and up.
Music at the beginning and between chapters is a plus in the audiobook version. The "Danse Macabre," performed by Bela Fleck and Ben Sollee, sets the tone of the story. As well, the audio is loaded with lots of special effects sounds throughout, with some singing and music at the macabre, enhancing the text. I really enjoyed the full cast performing, showcasing many accents and voices. The audiobook version also includes an author's note following the performance. This is definitely worth listening to, even if you have read the book.
by Catherine Jinks
Narrated by Mandy Williams
This story takes place in 1870 Victorian England. “Birdie” McAdam is a small girl for her 10 years and has a beautiful singing voice. She helps Mr. Alfred Bunce who is a bogler. He catches and kills bogles that eat little children. Birdie acts as bait by singing songs to coax bogles out of their hiding places. Birdie is the best apprentice Mr. Bunce has ever had. She never makes a mistake. He’s lost one boy before and he doesn’t ever want to lose another to a bogle. Birdie loves her job and she is treated well, and together they earn a good, honest living. Soon they are approached by a questionable woman who does not run quite as honest a business as they, who complains of her “boys” have gone missing. They are orphans who pick pockets for her. One has a crush on Birdie, but Alfred has warned her to "stay away from them that don’t work an honest living." Then enters Miss. Eames, who is researching local folklore and is very interested in their business. She would like to join them to see what they do, since she doesn’t entirely believe in bogles. She and her elderly aunt are well-to-do and after hearing Birdie sing would like to take her in and provide her with singing lessons, as well as give her all the other accoutrements of a wealthy lifestyle. Birdie cannot imagine leaving Alfred. He needs her to sustain his business. When Alfred and Birdie are called to help join in a mission to break in a house to rid it of a bogle, and help rescue a missing boy, they include Miss Eames. The bogle is killed but end up infuriating a man who is worse than any bogle. The house belongs to a doctor who has figured out how to catch bogles using the young boys for bait. He desires increased power by keeping a bogle. When he realizes Alfred has killed his bogle he retaliates by kidnapping Birdie. At this point the terror and suspense is scarier than when they are catching bogles. There is a satisfying ending when Birdie finally agrees to live with Miss Eames, although she still helps Alfred on the side as he experiments with new ways to catch bogles. This is the first in a trilogy. Although good on its own, I can imagine the next book will provide another adventure and twist the plot even further. Good for grades 4-7 who enjoy suspense in a realistic fantasy.
Mandy Williams is very good as the narrator, but sometimes the British accent is hard to understand and there were words I was not familiar with. Though the book has a glossary, the audio does not, so readers may want to check the hardcover for definitions when confused. In this regard, the book may be better to read than to listen to as an audiobook.
by Christopher Healy
Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
Gr 4–6—The third installment in this series finds the League of Princes on the run, falsely accused of murdering Briar Rose. Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Liam, and Prince Duncan (the jokester of the group), along with Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Princess Lila devise a plan to clear their names so that they can stop the evil Lord Rundark from taking over the 13 Kingdoms. Midway through the story, the princesses form their own band of do-gooders. Chaos ensues as they and the princes spend a good portion of the narrative tripping one another up in the race to prove Briar Rose is still alive. Countless battles take place—one in each Kingdom. Enemies include giant mongoose, pirates, and bounty hunters. Surprises abound with the reappearance of past foes, including the evil witch, Zaubera. Powerful Magic Orbs are Lord Rundark's secret weapons of choice. There's really something for everyone here, although sometimes it feels as if there is just too much going on. Readers new to the series will probably find the going a bit tough at times trying to keep track of who's who. Nevertheless, Healy has a good understanding of middle-grade humor and his audience in general. With its gender-bending stereotypes and oodles of action, this addition will be welcomed by fans of the series. - School Library Review
The introduction had me doing belly laughs and I looked forward to the listen. Unfortunately, coming in on book 3 left me completely confused. So many characters entered with little to no introduction and I was not able to follow the plot. Also, there were thick accents that were completely incomprehensible. I think Rapunzel was German. There were creatures that shreaked in high-pitched voices of which I understood little. In this aspect, I suspect reading the book would be easier. Also, I highly suspect readers will need to start at the beginning with book 1.
I can't wait to see who wins!
For a complete list of all the finalists, click the link below.