Happily, I enjoyed the majority of them and understand why they became finalists. Also, I love all the titles that eventually won their category. There are two books I did not include: one in which I was unable to obtain a copy, one I disliked due to the narrator (and subsequently did not finish), and one is included below that I did not listen to because it is #10 in a series, and I haven't read the preceding titles. I think those are the only omissions.
Hopefully, you will find a title or two to recommend to youth, or to listen to yourself!
The Audio Publishers Association has announced finalists for its 2014 Audie Awards competition. Winners were announced at the Audies Gala on May 29 at the New York Academy of Medicine in New York. For a full list of finalists click the button below:
Hooray for Anna Hibiscus; by Atinuke; Narrated by Mutiyat Ade-Salu; Recorded Books
This is a collection of four linked stories about family life set in modern west Africa. Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her family in a wonderful house in a beautiful garden in a big city. Join Anna as she sings for the president, gets in a terrible tangle with her hair and visits the other side of the city.
This is a nice collection of stories for young elementary school aged children. I liked that the narrator used an African accent when reading the dialogue because I thought it helped create the atmosphere where these stories were happening. Also, the narrator really sang the song that Anna Hibiscus performed for the president (and she did it just as a child would - it was great!) The stories are relatable, yet provide information about another culture. Kids will enjoy this this longer option for an audiobook.
Betty Bunny is the youngest in her family of rabbits and she’s just discovering the important things in life, like chocolate cake. She declares, “I am going to marry chocolate cake” and takes a piece to school with her in her pocket. Mom values healthy eating and tells Betty Bunny she needs patience when it comes to dessert. But Betty Bunny doesn’t want patience, she wants chocolate cake! In this funny tribute to chocolate lovers (and picky eaters), Betty Bunny’s charming perspective on patience will be recognizable to anyone with a preschooler in their life.
This is a really amusing story and the ending is completely unanticipated. The story is so right on in terms of kids trying to learn patience. Poor Betty Bunny can't think of anything but chocolate cake. "A is for chocolate cake. B is for chocolate cake. C is for chocolate cake." I can relate. Kathryn Kellgren gives a wonderful performance using a British accent. It sort of reminded me of the "Charlie and the Chocolater Factory" movie moment with the rich girl whining for a golden egg. Kids will want to hear this over and over. Highly recommended.
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
He eats them on the way to school.
He eats them going to Little League.
He eats them walking home.
Until the day the carrots start following him...or are they?
A fractured Peter Rabbit tale. Readers expect it to be another bedtime story that explains why the child does not need to be frightened. But Jasper finds a solution for his own fright before the reader is let in one last secret. A really cool feature of the illustrations for this Caldecott Honor Award winning book is the use of the carrot color throughout to show what Jasper Rabbit is supposed to be seeing, rather than creepy carrots. Everything else appears in black and white. Listening to this is a great experience. Along with creepy music and the creepy voice the narrator uses, subtle background noises match perfectly the illustrations. The surprise ending will delight children. They will remember it for a long time. Highly recommended.
In this picture book biography, award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant free verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy's determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin.
This is a beautiful picture book and the writing and paintings by Kadir Nelson are as wonderful as in his other books. It is deservedly a Caldecott Honor Book. The story of Mandela's struggle against apartheid is understandable for young children. The audio includes appropriate background noises that match the text, but the music is what makes this so special. My complaints about the audio version in that, while Forest Whitaker makes a satisfactory narrator, it might have have made a better experience if young listeners could hear a South African accent, adding some authenticity to the sound. Also, the back matter is not read out loud, and that is a loss for the audio experience.
Croak! Squeenk! Ribbet! After a close encounter with a mutant amphibian makes him freaky for frogs, water-shy Stink becomes a swimming success. Stink may be super smart, and Stink may be uber clever, but he’s been in the Polliwog swim class frog-ever and he still can’t bear to put his face in the water. Why would he want a geyser up his nose, on purpose? But then something weird happens: Stink starts to see frogs everywhere — in the locker room, in his boot, in the bathtub. And when a freaky blue frog licks his arm, his froggy senses start tingling! He has an urge to slurp up raisins (that look like flies). He can’t wait to play in the rain and mud. He’s a wiz at identifying frog calls. And he has become very interested in the local frog population. Could it be that Stink is turning into . . . the amazing Stink-Frog, fighter of slime? Pree-eep! Craw-awk!
This will be a winner with younger elementary aged kids who like funny books that also provide educational facts. The sub-story to the description provided above is about Stink (the younger brother of Judy Moody, with a series of books of her own) who becomes fascinated with frogs after finding one with only three legs. He wants to help frogs from getting mutations in the future by helping count frog species at the First Annual Frog Neck Lake Frog Count. He prepares by learning numerous frog calls. After participating, he is sorry to learn that only two and three specific types of chorus frogs were counted. Luckily, another frog count is planned which gives Stink some time to educate his friends and neighbors about the hazards to frogs when using chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers. The narrator is very skilled at keeping the attention of children. She voices genders of all ages, differentiating between each, and adds lots of excitement to the text. An additional fun aspect of the book are the comics that Stink writes about his frog hero, Stink-Frog, Fighter of Slime. Although the listener can't see the comics, they are acted out so it is easy to follow along. Also, there are a couple of quizzes included about frogs, which again, is a fun addition to the story since kids can guess the correct answers. This audiobook clocks in at just over 2 hours and would be great on road trips. It may even inspire some young swimmers out there to swim like a frog. Highly recommended.
Matilda; by Roald Dahl; Narrated by Kate Winslet; Penguin Audio
Matilda is an exceptional 5-year-old girl with cruel parents. She despises the way her father favors her brother and calls her stupid. She also hates the way he brags about the dishonest methods he uses to sell cars at his successful car business. Since she is so bright, she figures out a few pranks to play on him to tone down his behaviors, if only temporarily. For instance, she borrows a friends talking parrot and sticks it up the chimney one night to scare her father. Also, she switches her mother’s hair bleach for her father’s purple hair oil one morning causing his hair to turn white. She also put super glue around the inside brim of his hat so that he was unable to remove it once it was on his head. But Matilda is not a mean child. She just wants some recognition from her parents. She gets this immediately from her new teacher at school, Miss Honey, who cannot help but see how exceptional she is. Matilda can read (she has been going to the library everyday where the librarian helps her find more and more books, consequently she has read most of the classics) and she is extraordinary at math, a skill her father refused to recognize. She loves Miss Honey, but the Head Mistress, Miss Trunchbull, is a nightmare. She has an unlimited number of ways to torture the children who have misbehaved or not learned their lessons. Payback begins when Matilda learns she has one more extraordinary talent. Kids will absolutely love reading this book and finding how Matilda is able to vindicate herself. There are so many strong and unforgettable characters. This Audie winner is narrated by Kate Winslet and she does a magnificent job with all the voices, though some of the dialects were a tad hard to follow at times. Naturally, I like that there is a friendly librarian who takes the time to help Matilda, providing a good library message. One interesting thing I noticed while listening is that Dahl often uses prepositions to end his sentences. With. Ha!
Highly recommended for middle grade readers grades 3-6 and as a read-loud for younger children. A.R. Level is 5.
Two stories alternate in this book based on true events. The first is about 11 -year-old Salva living in Sudan during a war that separates him from his family in 1985. After living in three refugee camps he becomes one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" and eventually is taken in by a family in Rochester, NY. The other tells of 11-year-old Nya, also in Sudan, who must walk many miles twice a day to fetch water from a pond. The two stories converge when Salva realizes what it is he needs to do to help his native southern Sudan. Alternating between two narrators, I enjoyed that both spoke slowly and clearly with the dialogue spoken in the dialect of these Arabic speaking characters. The audio is also unique in that the thoughts of each character are given a sort of echo quality.The real Salva also provides a brief account of his current work with the Water for South Sudan project at the end of the audio and it is interesting to hear him speaking in English and giving his advice to young people. This deals with a serious subject and is recommended for listeners in grades 4-8 who are interested in world events, philanthropy, other cultures, and true stories.
Hilary Westfield longs to be a pirate and applies to the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, who refer her to Miss Pimm's Finishing School for Delicate Ladies instead, since they don't allow girls to join. Her father, the Admiral of the Royal Navy, endorses this idea and would like nothing more than have Hilary abandon the idea of searching for treasure. But Hilary is a determined girl who can't be swayed. She packs the magic gargoyle from her father's estate and escapes from school to answer an ad for pirates on a ship run by the Terror of the Southlands, Pirate Jasper Fletcher, who is rather polite and non-threatening as pirates go. He has obtained possession of a map leading to a treasure buried by the Enchantress of Augusta and recruits Hilary to assist. There are many twists and turns as Miss Greyson, Hilary's governess joins the crew, as well as a boy who worked for her father. Things really heat up when the Queen commands Admiral Westfield to track down Fletcher's ship, the Pigeon, to reclaim stolen magic. As if that isn't enough, Miss Pimm relocates her school girls onto a floating division of the school and head straight into the chaos. No one is who they seem to be, and who will end up finding Augusta's store of magic is anyone's guess. This story has a difficult vocabulary (A.R. level 6.1) and will most likely appeal to young girls in grades 3-5 who enjoy adventures and magic. The narrator does a wonderful job on this book voicing each character distinctly, and makes it very entertaining. I enjoyed many of the voices, especially that of Miss Pimm. Also, all the pirate lingo, especially in the chapters from the manual of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (VNHLP for short), is quite amusing. If your child has trouble reading the book, I would definitely recommend trying the audio. Boys will even revel in the plot. Book 2 is available and might be a new series kids will want to follow.
I was immediately sucked into this story about 10-year-old Sugar who works on a sugar plantation in Louisiana following the emancipation of slaves. She works alongside the aging adults and earns pay. Her mother has died but left directions for Sugar to wait for her father to find his way back to their plantation. But years have passed without his return and Sugar hates sugar. She can't stand the taste or smell of it. She wishes she didn't have to do the backbreaking work of harvesting the sticky stuff. She wants adventures, and she finds some playing pirates on a raft with the plantation owner's son, Billy. They are forbidden to play together, but times are changing and the two are determined to remain friends. Billy's father decides on another controversial change for his plantation. He hires Chinese men to work for him. Sugar is very excited to meet them, but her elders are worried that they will lose their source of income, and their home. This is a very sweet story with the energetic Sugar who challenges everyone to think differently about family. I love all the accents going on here - recently freed slaves, southern, African. The dialects are spot on. Also, the folklore woven throughout is so cleverly utilized. Bahni Turpin is easy to listen to, and makes the listener forget she isn't a 10-year-old girl. I highly recommend this title.
Viva Jacquelina; by L.A. Meyer; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren; Listen & Live Audio
The vivacious Jacky Faber returns in the tenth tale in L. A. Meyer's Bloody Jack Adventures, a rip-roaring young adult series applauded for its alluring combination of adventure, romance, history, and humor. Once again under the thumb of British Intelligence, Jacky is sent to Spain to spy for the Crown during the early days of the nineteenth-century Peninsular War. She finds herself in the company of guerrilla freedom fighters, poses for the famous artist Goya, runs with the bulls, is kidnapped by the Spanish Inquisition, and travels with a caravan of gypsies . . . all while hoping to one day reunite with her beloved Jaimy Fletcher.
I have not listened to this one. It is #10 in a series and I don't like coming into the middle of a story. I will start with #1. However, I know that several of the previous books in the series also were awarded prizes for narrations, so I can only assume that this one is equally good. Katherine Kellgren always does an outstanding job voicing books. I am including it in my list because it is the winner of this category. You'll have to check it out for yourself.
This audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Molhotra, is a recipient of the 2014 Odyssey Honor Award. It is an exceptionally sweet love story of two 16-year-old teens falling in love for the first time. Park is a nerdy, but cute Vietnamese-American who loves comic books and alternative music. Eleanor is the new girl with the mysterious background. They meet on the bus when "Big Red", so named for her red hair and larger, curvy body, tries to find a seat. "Weird Asian Boy" is the only one willing, though reluctantly, to scoot over and make space for her. The story is told from both Park's and Eleanor's points-of-view, which is how the reader learns about Eleanor's troubled life with an abusive step-father. The two never speak to each other, but Park realizes that Eleanor is also reading his comic books as he reads them on their ride to school. He eventually starts to let her take them home to finish the really good ones like "Watchman". He also lets her listen to the cassette tapes of his favorite music. She is appreciative and particularly careful not to damage anything so that he won't stop letting her borrow them. She knew she'd never have access to them otherwise. Little by little they begin a dialogue together, and find out that they have a lot in common. Eventually, Park takes her hand on the bus and sparks fly for both Park and Eleanor. Their relationship deepens to the point of Eleanor sneaking over to Park's house on a daily basis. Park's family embraces her and know the troubled family she comes from, but Eleanor's family knows nothing of Park. Her step-father already makes disgusting accusations about her behavior and more. Their love is tested when Eleanor must suddenly escape her house and move to another state for the safety of her uncle's house. Can they survive this separation? This tender, yet heartbreaking story will immediately suck in readers who enjoy love stories full of innocence, first kisses, and the electricity of touching your love for the first time . Appropriate for readers in grades 9 and up. The audiobook is excellent. I miss Eleanor and Park.
Narrated from the point of view of the ghost of Jacob Grimm (of the Grimm brothers), who is searching for the thing he has left undone on Earth. He settles in the United States watching over the only person who seems to hear him, 15-year-old Jeremy Johnson-Johnson, who lives in the "Two Book Bookstore" his grandfather opened after writing a 2-volume set of his memoirs. Not surprisingly, the store is struggling and Jeremy's depressed father is behind on their mortgage with no plan for keeping the bank from repossessing it in 60 days. Jeremy's friend Ginger suggests he try to win money on the show "Uncommon Knowledge" for his supposed knowledge of fairy tales. But it's the ghosts' knowledge he occasionally spurts out, not his own. Jacob Grimm has a mission too. He must protect Jeremy from the Finder of Occasions. Is this Ginger? She does tend to keep the boy from his studies, which is his only way out of this town of complex characters that shun him for being weird. Also, for the simple prank where he and Ginger place pop rocks in his cereal. But the baker forgives them and alone offers to give them work to help pay the debt. Everyone loves the cheerful baker with his daily greetings of "Is it not a good day to be alive?" When the town sees green smoke coming from his chimney, they know another batch of his specialty Prince Cakes are ready. And no one is as concerned about the numerous missing children as the baker. There are gruesome things happening in the town of Never Better and time is running out before three more children go missing forever. Reminiscent of Hanzel and Gretel in which the witch cooks children in her oven and feeds them in a tart to their father, this story will captivate readers and listeners ages 12 and up who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales. This story is full of twists and turns that keep it moving and the reader guessing until the very end. There is a satisfying conclusion and all lose ends are wrapped up tidily. A very innocent attraction between Ginger and Jeremy is included.
This audiobook has me in a quandary. The narrator of the story is an old German guy, however, it is set in the United States. The British accent of Sheppard implies that the story takes place in England. Also, there is the Swedish baker who has a sizable role, so the listener hears German, British, and Swedish (arguably some Scottish too). The children are not supposed to have English accents, but the speech pattern is definitely not American. Eating cucumber sandwiches and playing horseshoes seems inconsistent and the dialogue often uses British terminology rather than American.The whole thing reeks of English village set in the distant past. These 15-year-old kids sound much younger than they are. The narrator himself is quite good. It's not bad to listen to, but I had to constantly remind myself that this story was set in modern day America. Maybe reading this as a book works better?
This is in the same vein as the author's novel "Code Name Verity" where woman who are serving during WWII are featured. The story is separated into three parts. The first is Rose story as a pilot who transports planes for the boys fighting the war in England. Since she is female, she is unable to fight herself, and this angers her. While returning to England from France (something she was only able to do due to her high ranking uncle) she encounters a flying bomb and decides to nudge it off its course after hearing other pilots saying it can be done. Unfortunately she loses her heading and ends up in Germany where two German planes force her to land. She is sent to a concentration camp where the second part takes over. And the third is her time after she is free again, and how she copes with her experience and the trials for atrocities against humanity. Additional story is relayed through the writings in her journal, along with poems she has written before she is captured and after she is free. This gripping story narrated by Sasha Pick is addicting to listen to. The accents of the Polish, Russian, and French prisoners, as well as the American and British characters are all convincing and I was glad that she actually sang the songs mentioned. I have a small criticism about the pronunciations of some words spoken by Rose (an American) with a British accent (garage, fuselage, berries, etc.). Also, the tiny Polish girl with the high voice who sounded at times like a shrieking Miss Piggy, not only grated on my nerves because it hurt to listen to her, but she was also hard to understand. Still, she and all the other characters are memorable. There are many strong female characters. I highly recommend older teens and adults interested in WWII giving this a listen. An author's note is provided at the end.
From the author of "Silver Linings Playbook" comes this emotional story, told in 1st person by Leonard Peacock, an A.P. high school senior who is planning a murder/suicide using a WWII Nazi trophy of his grandfather's, a P-38, on his 18th birthday. From a wealthy family, he lives alone in Philadelphia while his fashion designer mother is preoccupied in NYC running her successful fashion design business and co-habitating with her French boyfriend, Jean Luke. Leonard befriends his next door neighbor, an elderly man who shares his obsession of Humphrey Bogart movies with the isolated and distraught teen. They develop a special bond in which they communicate using lines from the movies they watch nightly. During days when not watching movies, or attending classes, Leonard follows depressed-looking adults off the train as they go to work, looking for any signs of a possible happy future after graduation. It hasn't provided him much to be optomistic about. Planning revenge against his former best friend for past unforgivable offences, Leonard makes preparations for his scheme by presenting gifts to those individuals who have affected him in some way. For his mother, Linda, Leonard hacks off his long locks and leaves them in a pink-wrapped ball in the refrigerator for her to discover, should she return home. Though he receives mixed reactions from Baback, the violin virtuoso and Lauren, the girl who hands out Christian pamphlets at the train station, the gesture sets off an alarm for his Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman, who provides his private phone number and promises to reveal why his never rolls up his sleeves if Leonard will call before following through with any rash actions. He already recognizes the boy's anguish and has him writing letters to himself from the future. These hopeful and loving letters from his future wife and daughter in a dystopian future are an interesting counterpoint to the current bleakness of Leonard's internal dialogue. This 2014 Audie finalist is narrated by Noah Galvin, whose voice reminded me of a young Cory Feldman. His performance was spot on as the troubled teenager and I loved listening to the way he voiced the dialogue of the varied characters. Highly recommended for teens in grades 9 and up who enjoy contemporary fiction.