February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Warm Stories for Cold Nights: Curl up with a CD or digital download| Listen In

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Throughout the long winter and the still-cold months of early spring, many listeners are seeking a promise of warmth, comfort, and contentment and a sense of well-being. For those who are ready to make a commitment to snuggle down and listen to a good story, the selection of titles here offers excellent narration paired with recent and classic tales that will provide respite from long, cold winter nights. Stories of a gorilla, a bear, science, magic, and more combine to satisfy the yearning for a tale well told. If the medium is the message, this medium—the audiobook—delivers a message of pure delight to happy listeners.

Early elementary

BOND, Michael. A Bear Called Paddington. 2 CDs. 2:40 hrs. Harper Audio. 2005. ISBN 9780060760717. $17.99.

Gr 2-5 –Stephen Fry flawlessly relates the hilarious escapades of a young bear from darkest Peru, transplanted to the hustle and bustle of London. From Paddington’s love for marmalade to his penchant for getting into trouble, Fry keeps the laughs coming with his dry narration. Now a motion picture, the original story will be enjoyed just as much by children and their parents as the recent cinematic update.

MCDONALD, Megan. Judy Moody, Mood Martian. 2 CDs. 2:11 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2014. ISBN 9781491502365. $24.99.

K-Gr 3 –Barbara Rosenblat’s droll interpretations of bossy Judy, her classmates, and her whiny little brother, Stink, ensure that listeners know exactly who is talking. When the class celebrates Backwards Day, Judy combs her hair, wears matching clothes, and becomes a cheerful girl, but then she triple dog dares herself to continue this incredible behavior, and her friends can’t understand what is happening, providing listeners with inside knowledge that elevates the fun.

middle grade

APPLEGATE, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. 3 CDs. 3:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2013. ISBN 9781470351236. $30.75.

Gr 4-8 –The 2013 Newbery Medal winner, with its heartwarming depiction of concern for others, is a great choice for family listening. Adam Grupper’s voicing of trapped gorilla Ivan is appropriately older and deep-voiced, while baby elephant Ruby sounds youthful and vulnerable. His frenetically exuberant portrayal of Bob the dog steals the show. Offer this to families wanting literature that prompts discussion.

FOXLEE, Karen. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy. 5 CDs. 6:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780804168366. $35.

Gr 4-8 –For those who like their stories a little scary, Jayne Entwistle’s ethereal, nuanced narration heightens the tension in a modern fairy tale based on the “Snow Queen.” Grieving her mother’s death, Ophelia and her father and sister move to a snowy city where her father is curating a collection of ancient swords. In the museum, Ophelia discovers a boy whose terrifying story leads her to prove her capacity for friendship, allegiance, and love.

GRABENSTEIN, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. 5 CDs. 6:20 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780 804168083. $45.

Gr 4-8 –Solidarity and perseverance are featured in this adventure, narrated with energy and enthusiasm by Jesse Bernstein. Elusive Mr. Lemoncello invites a dozen 12-year-olds to spend the night in his new library, where they must use their library skills to solve puzzles, escape from the building, and win the grand prize. Bernstein’s spot-on middle school voices provide a you-are-there listening experience.

HOLM, Jennifer L. The Fourteenth Goldfish. 3 CDs. 3:04 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780804193825. $30.

Gr 4-8 –In this humorous story, sixth grader Ellie is shocked when her mother brings home a teenager who turns out to be her estranged grandfather. Melvin has discovered how to reverse the aging process, and Ellie learns a great deal of science while helping him retrieve his research. But Ellie understands something her scientist grandfather does not—discoveries can have unintended consequences. Georgette Perna admirably voices the disparate ages and stages of the various characters.

LIN, Grace. The Year of the Dog. 3 CDs. 3 hrs. Recorded Bks. 2007. ISBN 9781428133624. $25.75.

Gr 3-7 –Combining humor and food for thought, Lin takes listeners through one year—the year of the dog—with Grace, whose Taiwanese heritage sometimes sets her apart from her classmates. Narrator Nancy Wu’s childlike inflection and pacing perfectly capture Grace, her younger sister, and her friends, and Wu is equally effective in accurately voicing Grace’s more composed parents.

LLOYD, Natalie. A Snicker of Magic. 8 CDs. 8:14 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. 2013. ISBN 9780545706797. $34.99.

Gr 3-7 –Employing a slight drawl, Cassandra Morris creates each quirky character in this Southern tale of love, loss, and loyalty. Felicity Pickle feels right at home in Midnight Gulch. It’s where her wandering mama grew up, and there seems to be a bit of lingering magic there. Felicity herself has magical qualities—she sees words everywhere, describing things that are or might be. With her new friend Jonah, Felicity sets out to right wrongs of the past in a gentle story that appeals to a broad age range.

MONTGOMERY, Lucy Maud. Anne of Green Gables. 9 CDs. 10:12 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2003. ISBN 9781400100712. $32.99.

Gr 5-9 –Listeners will be captivated from the moment freckled, red-haired, orphan Anne arrives to turn life upside down for the Cuthberts, who meant to adopt a boy to help on the farm. The beloved story about the true meaning of family is narrated with consummate skill by Shelly Frasier, whose inflection and pacing embodies early 20th century speech, fully capturing Anne’s lively imagination and zest for life.

WOODSON, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. 4 CDs. 3:56 hrs. Penguin Audio. ISBN 9780553397260. $38.

Gr 5-9 –This 2014 National Book Award-winning memoir describes growing up between worlds—mother and grandparents, rural South Carolina and Brooklyn, and Jim Crow and the civil rights movement—in elegant, moving free verse made even more intimate by Woodson’s conversational reading of her own story. Listeners will feel she’s sitting right there, talking about her family and the joy and pain she experienced as a child.

young adult

BODETT, Tom. Norman Tuttle on the Last Frontier. digital download. 4:40 hrs. Listening Library. 2007. ISBN 9780739360347. $14.

Gr 7 Up –Bodett’s languid narration perfectly suits this story of an awkward Alaskan teen who just can’t seem to do anything right. He falls off his father’s fishing boat, gets into trouble with the school bully, and certainly doesn’t understand how to deal with girls. Fifteen vignettes follow Norman from age 13 to 16 in this funny, heartwarming coming-of-age story.

BRAY, Libba. Beauty Queens. 12 CDs. 14:30 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. 2011. ISBN 9780545315234. $35.99.

Gr 8 Up –Listeners will be drawn into the plight of these Miss Teen Dream contestants from their dramatic introduction, their survival after a plane crash on a deserted island, and the unfolding of unforeseen dangers. Bray’s talents as writer and narrator are evident as she fully voices multiple characters, complete with deft accents and underlying ironic humor in this entertaining yet thoughtful story with themes of feminism, survival, and friendship.

CRAWFORD, Brent. Carter Finally Gets It. 7 CDs. 9 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2010. ISBN 9781423391807. $29.99.

Gr 7 Up –Fourteen-year-old Will Carter is stumbling through his freshman year of high school. Obsessed with girls, he seems to get himself into more than his fair share of trouble in this laugh-out-loud coming-of-age story. Nick Podehl narrates with great enthusiasm and humor, heightening the hilarity for listeners.

Sharon Grover is head of youth services at the Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan was a school librarian and the district library supervisor for the Arlington (VA) Public Schools before her retirement.

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

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