November 29, 2015

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Top 10 Audiobooks 2015


These 10 titles, curated by audio editor Stephanie Klose, represent excellent storytelling with exceptional narration and production values.

This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Flame Out | “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2″ Movie Review

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen (Photo: Lionsgate/Murray Close)

Katniss Everdeen brandishes her lethal bow and makes her final bow in the film finale of Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy | SLJ Audio Review


MURPHY, Julie. Dumplin’. 8 CDs. 9 hrs. Blackstone. 2015. $59.99. ISBN 9781504645225. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –“The word fat makes some people uncomfortable,” Willowdean Dickson remarks. Called Dumplin’ by her mother, Will insists that fat is “not an insult.” She’s comfortably self-aware, buoyed by her late aunt, whom she still deeply mourns, and her picture-perfect best friend. When she introduces herself to coworker Bo, a private school jock and hottie, she’s direct, describing herself as a “cashier, Dolly […]

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon | SLJ Audio Review


YOON, Nicola. Everything, Everything. 6 CDs. 6:45 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $40. ISBN 9781101916391. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Yoon’s superb debut begins and ends with books. Stories are how 18-year-old Madeline has survived with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency—“you know it as ‘bubble baby disease’”—in her sanitized world that includes only her doctor mother and a nurse. She’s been content enough with taking classes via Skype, having movie nights with Mom, and posting Tumblr book reviews, until Olly and […]

Diversity explored and celebrated in “Same, Same but Different” | Audio Pick


KOSTECKI-SHAW, Jenny Sue. Same, Same but Different. 1 CD. 6 min. Weston Woods. 2015. $12.95. ISBN 9780545842426.
K-Gr 2–When Elliott draws a picture of his world in art class, his teacher sends it across the globe to another classroom and a beautiful story is born. Elliott from America and Kailash from India have very different lives, but through their letters and drawings they see how much they have in common. Kostecki-Shaw teaches listeners about the beauty of diversity and sends the […]

Scientists and engineers explore climate change in “Antarctic Edge” | DVD Pick


Antarctic Edge: 70° South. 72 min. Dist. by First Run Features. 2015. $24.95. UPC 720229916639.
Gr 9 Up–This documentary follows oceanographer Oscar Schofield and a team of scientists from many disciplines on a three-month expedition to Antarctica. Their research vessel becomes an independent community in the remote, harsh wilderness as they study the myriad effects of global warming on the continent and its life-forms. Particular attention is given to the melting of sea ice, which is an important habitat for penguins. […]

Dual narrators excel in gripping supernatural thriller “The Walls Around Us” | Audio Pick


Suma, Nova Ren. The Walls Around Us. 8 CDs. 8:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2015. $87.75. ISBN 9781490664613. digital download.
Gr 9 Up–In alternating narratives that ultimately converge in supernatural ways, two girls share a connection, though, ostensibly, their stories are separated by three years. Violet is an 18-year-old ballet dancer, recently graduated and soon to start at Juilliard. Amber is incarcerated at a juvenile detention center for allegedly killing her abusive stepfather. Tying them together is Orianna, Violet’s best friend, who […]

Audio adaptation of “Billy and Goat” surpasses original | DVD Pick


Billy and Goat at the State Fair. 7 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781681411545.
PreS-Gr 1–The DVD version of Dan Yaccarino’s picture book (Random, 2015) is enhanced by the upbeat music befitting a visit to the fair. The simple story follows Billy and his prized yet nameless goat on their adventures. When Billy sees a billboard advertising the state fair and learns that there will be a best goat competition, he’s sure that his will win. This adaptation […]

Rollicking “Ratscalibur” a sure favorite among young fantasy fans|Audio Pick


LIEB, Josh. Ratscalibur. 3 CDs. 3:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $27. ISBN 978101915301. digital download.
Gr 3-6–Joey, a soon-to-be seventh grader, has recently moved to New York City with his mother. He is not particularly enthralled by big city life. Soon though, Joey’s uncle brings home a special new friend for him—a rat, just like the creatures he has seen about the city. To Joey’s surprise, his new pet rodent begins speaking to him from his cage. He learns that the […]

Stunning images of our “Invisible Universe” are brought to life in NOVA’s new documentary | DVD Pick


Invisible Universe Revealed. (NOVA) 54 min Dist. by PBS. 2015. $24.99. ISBN 9781627893619.
Gr 4-8–This 25th-anniversary tribute to the Hubble Space Telescope combines jaw-dropping deep space photographs with an unusually detailed account of how the defective mirror that nearly derailed the entire project was fixed. The story begins with the discoveries of early 20th-century astronomer Edwin Hubble. Veteran scientists—notably NASA’s chief astronomer Nancy Roman, now in her nineties and known as the “Mother of Hubble”—describe how the telescope was designed, manufactured, […]

Listeners encouraged to find joy in the mundane in “Last Stop on Market Street”| Audio Pick


De la Peña, Matt. Last Stop on Market Street. 1 CD. 15 min. Recorded Books. 2015. $15.75. ISBN 9781490683720. digital download.
Gr K-2–In this beautiful, magical tribute to an intergenerational relationship between a boy and his grandmother, CJ and his Nana take the bus home after church on Sundays, unlike some of his friends, who jump in their family cars and drive away. CJ’s envy is understandable, but Nana’s positive outlook on the many advantages of their journey soon influences CJ […]

A young boy helps his dog and his village in “Belle and Sebastien”|DVD Pick


Belle and Sebastian. 99 min. Dist. by Omnibus Entertainment. English dubbed audio. French audio with English subtitles. 2013. $24.95. UPC 857692005222.
Gr 3-8–Set in the French Alps during World War II, this movie is based on the 1965 French novel of the same name. It chronicles one boy’s journey to redeem a dog and help his village. Sebastian, six, befriends an enormous stray sheepdog who he names Belle, even though the townspeople think that the dog is responsible for the […]

“The Last One” explores fascinating history of AIDS quilt and community|DVD Pick


The Last One. 71 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $89. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up–This documentary covers the history of the AIDS Quilt and Names Project, while providing a revealing look at the effects of ignorance, stigma, and discrimination, which cause the disease to spread. Conceived by San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones, the AIDS Quilt began in 1985 with a single panel dedicated to Jones’s lover, Marvin Feldman. The quilt now numbers more than 48,000 panels and […]

Manic Pixie Girl Rising | “Paper Towns” Movie Review

Quentin (Nat Wolff) and Margo (Cara Delevingne)  in Paper Towns (Photo: Michael Tackett)

Quentin (Nat Wolff) and Margo (Cara Delevingne) in Paper Towns. Photo by Michael Tackett

The box office success and the generally well received critical response of the first film adaptation of a John Green novel, The Fault in Our Stars, provides ample evidence that there is an audience to be found for somber, darker YA subject matter that has nothing to do with lottery killings or armed insurrections. Although the filmmakers of the new Paper Towns, based on Green’s third novel […]

“Denton” is a wry romp for teens |Audio Pick


RUBIN, Lance. Denton Little’s Deathdate. 7 CDs. 8:36 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $45. ISBN 9780553556018. digital download.
Gr 10 Up–In Denton Little’s world, most people know their deathdates, which for Denton will be in his 17th year, the day of prom. Denton tries to live a normal life, even knowing that it will not be a long one. For his final days he decides to truly experience life. He accidentally cheats on his girlfriend while drunk, gets threatened at gunpoint by […]

Six young men grow through African folklore in “Finding the Gold Within” | DVD Pick


Finding the Gold Within. 92 min. Distributed by the Video Project. 2014. $89. ISBN unavail.
Gr 9 Up–This documentary follows the lives of six young African American men as they move from high school through their first year of college. Each has faced adversity, whether it is poverty, homelessness, loss of family, or their own challenges in the face of subtle and explicit racism. They live in Akron, OH, and grew up with dreams and ambitions, along with the burden of […]

Historical fiction brings WWI items to life in “The Great War”| Audio Pick


The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items From The First World War. 5 CDs. 6:28 hrs. Brilliance. 2015. $49.97. ISBN 9781501216008.
Gr 5-8–At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, Germany and the Allies signed the truce ending the Great War, as World War I was then called. Here 11 authors—Tanya Lee Stone, Marcus Sedgwick, David Almond, Timothée de Fombelle, A.L. Kennedy, Ursula Dubosarsky, Michael Morpurgo, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier, Sheena Wilkinson, and Adèle Geras—have […]

Fantasy novel “Shadow Scale” excels in audio format | Audio Pick


HARTMAN, Rachel. Shadow Scale. (Seraphina, Bk. 2). 15 CDs. 18:10 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $60. ISBN 9780307968982. digital download.
Gr 9 Up—To save Goreddi, Seraphina begins to search for other half-dragons in the hopes they can unite to stop dragons from damaging the fragile peace between humans and dragons. Her journey takes her to other regions in the Southlands, and some of the people she seeks prove to be malevolent. When her old nemesis, Jannoula, gains control of the other half-dragons’ […]

“She’s Beautiful” deftly spotlights second wave feminism| DVD Pick


She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. 92 min. Dist. by the Cinema Guild. 2014. $99.94. ISBN 0781515149.
Gr 9 Up–This documentary about the second wave of feminism covers the years 1966–71. It deftly pulls together the many threads and factions of the movement, from middle-class housewives responding to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, many of whom became the founders of the National Organization of Women, to radical groups such as the Redstockings and the lesbians of the Furies Collective. Additionally, women flocked […]

Heartbreak 101 | “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Movie Review


Author Jesse Andrews judiciously prunes and adds some quirk to the smirk in his screen adaptation of his 2012 debut novel. The result is an amicable, lively enhancement of his book, which in numerous ways it surpasses.