September 17, 2017

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Author-Narrated Audiobooks | Listen In

The vast majority of audiobooks are read by professional narrators—with good reason. (The adage about lawyers who represent themselves could easily be applied to authors who want to narrate their own books.) But there are plenty of authors who double as narrators with great success.

When writers read their own work, listeners hear the stories exactly the way the author intended. Many author-narrated books feature highly personal material or quirky characters or phrasing that the author will best bring to life. Those writers who are also performers tend to be terrific narrators. Examples include Chris Colfer and his “Land of Stories” series and Colin Meloy and his “Wildwood” books. And some well-known authors, including Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, happen to be preternaturally gifted readers of their own work. These selections, from picture books to YA, feature exceptional narration by their authors.

Alexander, Kwame. Booked. Recorded Books. 2016. ISBN 9781501916885.

Gr 5-8 –In Alexander’s novel in verse, eighth grader Nick claims to hate words, but the very subject of his derision eventually helps him deflect bullies and get the girl.

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Recorded Books. 2009. ISBN 9781456118198.

Gr 7 Up –Alexie won an Odyssey Award for his narration of this semiautobiographical tale of Junior, a 14-year-old Spokane boy who lives on a reservation but attends a mostly white school.

Almond, David. Skellig. Listening Library. 2009. ISBN 9780739385883.

Gr 5-8 –Ten-year-old Michael discovers the creature in his garage at a particularly difficult time in his life. He and homeschooled neighbor Mina tend to the creature, nursing it back to health.

Arroyo, Raymond. The Relic of Perilous Falls. Listening Library. 2016. ISBN 9780147521521.

Gr 4-7 –When 12-year-old Will Wilder “borrows” a sacred relic that’s protected his town for nearly 100 years, all hell breaks loose. Arroyo also narrates the second “Will Wilder” book, The Lost Staff of Wonders.

Bray, Libba. Beauty Queens. Scholastic Audio. 2011. ISBN 9780545315234.

Gr 9 Up –When a planeload of teen beauty pageant contestants crashes on a remote island, it’s hilarious chaos and feminist fun (with just a hint of government conspiracy).

Clinton, Chelsea. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. Listening Library. 2017. ISBN 9780525529002.

K-Gr 3 –Clinton’s celebration of American women whose achievements made a difference includes Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, and Florence Griffith Joyner.

Dumas, Firoozah. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel. Brilliance. 2006. ISBN 9781536618921.

Gr 4-7 –An Iranian American girl in 1970s California copes with normal teen issues while the news coverage about Iran becomes increasingly negative.

Federle, Tim. Better Nate Than Ever. S. & S. Audio. 2014. ISBN 9781442374157.

Gr 4-6 –In this first book in the “Nate” series, Federle’s own theater background helps him perfectly voice the story of a small-town theater kid heading to New York hoping to get an audition for E.T.: The Musical. Federle also narrates the sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Gantos, Jack. The Trouble in Me. Macmillan Audio. 2015. ISBN 9781427264138.

Gr 7 Up –While Gantos also narrates his fiction, including the “Norbert” and “Joey Pigza” series, the personal nature of this title, a fictionalized account of events in his life that landed him in prison, lends itself to an especially poignant narration by the author.

Jennings, Jazz. Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen. Listening Library. 2016. ISBN 9780735207448.

Gr 9 Up –Transgender activist Jennings shares her journey and discusses the part she played in promoting transgender rights in mainstream America.

Lo, Malinda. Ash. Brilliance. 2013. ISBN 9781522671817.

Gr 8 Up –In this imaginative retelling of the Cinderella story, Ash must choose between the prince Sidhean and Kaisa, the king’s huntress.

Nelson, Marilyn. American Ace. Listening Library. 2016. ISBN 9780147525772.

Gr 4-6 –In Nelson’s novel in verse, Connor sets out to find his dad’s birth father with only a class ring and a set of pilot’s wings to guide him.

Novak, B.J. The Book with No Pictures. Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780553397093.

K-Gr 2 –Full of silly sounds and frivolous phrasing, Novak’s first book for young listeners takes full advantage of his comedic skill.

Valente, Catherynne M. The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Brilliance. 2011. ISBN 9781501246166.

Gr 4-7 –Valente reads several of the entries in her “Fairyland” series. In this launch title, 12-year-old September accepts an invitation to Fairyland, only to find the magical realm in turmoil.

Willems, Mo. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Weston Woods. 2012. ISBN 9780545134538.

PreS-Gr 2 –Willems skillfully narrates (or conarrates) all of his audiobooks, but this tale of a boundary-pushing pigeon is a great place to start.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780553397260.

Gr 4-7 –Woodson’s National Book Award–winning novel in verse explores the author’s childhood in North Carolina and New York in the 1960s and 70s and her growing awareness of the civil rights movement.

This article was published in School Library Journal's July 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Hello everyone,

    I am self-published indie author. I have just published my 15h book in a collection of stories for children , and young adults.

    I look forward to having my books as audio-books. My books are available on amazon.com via amazon.com/author/fatimakoise

    Kind regards

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