Friday, April 8, 2011

Audiobooks for the Audiophile: In which I make a new list

In no particular order, here are my ten favorite children's/MG/YA audiobooks. (I addressed the awesome Jim Dale and Katy Kellgren in my last post, so I haven't included their books on this list.)

Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer (Author) and Sean Patrick Reilly (Narrator): I knew when smoky jazz filled the car that I was in for trouble, and I was right. The combination of Eoin Colfer's dime-store humor and Sean Patrick Reilly's melodramatic brogue made me believe I entered the world of a P.I.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (Author) and Brendan Fraser (Narrator): I had the biggest crush on Brendan Fraser back in high school, which is why I picked up this recording in the first place. But after the first few minutes, I forgot whose voice I was listening to and got totally enthralled by the story.

Heist Society by Ally Carter (Author) and Angela Dawe (Narrator): This action-packed story works so well as an audiobook I can't imagine it any other way. Although I love Carter's writing so much that if I had read it first I probably wouldn't be able to imagine it in audio form.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (Author) and Various Artists (Narrator): There are a lot of wonderful audio productions of this series, but perhaps my favorite is the one produced by HarperAudio featuring Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave and more. It was like listening to a story behind a story--with each narrator you actually hear how passionate they are about the book they're performing.

Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman (Author) and Various Artists (Narrator): It makes sense that you would want to listen to poetry read aloud, but this book is simply amazing when performed by two voices. Unfortunately, this audiobook has become difficult to find (I still have it on tape even though I no longer have a tape player). Hopefully this will be remastered so a new generation of listeners will be able to get the full effect of poems for two voices.

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers (Author), James Williams (Narrator) and Vanesse Thomas (Narrator): This is the perfect example of when great writing and great performance come together to make something bigger than the sum of its parts. It utilizes the musical talents of real jazz musicians to compliment the poems and illustrations of a beautiful book.

Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (Author) and Robert Ramirez (Narrator): I read the first book in this series and then listened to the second, and I can't tell you which way I enjoyed it more. The action is so compelling when read aloud, yet I wanted it to go faster so I eventually had to pick it up and read the third one myself.

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela (Compiler) and Various Artists (Narrator): I don't know if there has ever been this much buzz about an audiobook before, but with people like Charlize Theron, Samuel L. Jackson, Matt Damon, Whoopi Goldberg, Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman lending their voices to raise funds for children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa, it's really not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the quality of the production and how uniquely beautiful each story is. And both the traditional musical performance and the PDF of bright, bold illustrations included with the recording sets this production apart.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Author) and Jeff Woodman (Narrator): I was extremely skeptical when I picked up this audiobook. After all, how would they be able to turn the magic of an illustrated novel into an audio production? But I couldn't stop listening. This production does one of my favorite books of all time the justice it deserves.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (Author), Emily Janice Card (Narrator) and Emma Bering (Narrator): This audiobook blew my mind. Really. I couldn't wait to listen to Card and Bering give a new outlook on a fascinating historical period with beautiful accents, perfect rhythm and infallible timing. Their skills should make every recording artist green with envy. (It probably also helped that Donnelly referenced some of my all-time favorite bands in the same sentences as my most beloved classical composers.)

Of course I can't just leave a list at ten...

I would be amiss if I didn't mentions that Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book), Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl) and Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) recorded their own books. These authors have an unique ability to make characters come alive both on the page and through voice.

If you want more recommendations, the ALA's new Odyssey Award recognizes the best audiobook produced for YA/children, and AudioFile Magazine presents The Audie Awards for many different categories.

This post is the last in a three-part series dedicated to Molly Jaffa, who loves audiobooks only slightly less than I do.

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