28 Audiobooks for All Ages | Multimedia Reviews

These reviews from the July issue feature audio performances of books by Nic Stone, Melissa Albert, Nikki Grimes, and Walter Dean Myers, among others.

Early Elementary

Allsburg, Chris Van. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. 1 CD. 11 min. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $19.99. ISBN 9781690559429.
PreS-Gr 3 –Alan Mitz has been asked to watch Miss Hester’s mischievous pooch, Fritz. When Fritz escapes to the gardens of magician Abdul Gasazi, where dogs are strictly prohibited, Alan is horrified. Then the magician claims to have changed the dog into a duck, who flies away with Alan’s hat. Downhearted, the boy returns to Miss Hester’s house to explain the loss of her pet, only to find a surprise awaiting. Was it all misdirection, or did magic really take place? Originally published in 1979, this whimsical tale is read by Chris Lurkin, Jordan Killam, Nick Mondelli, and Qarie Marshall. The introductory music is tinkling with magic, and background sounds add to the immersive feel of the presentation. This would best be enjoyed with the book in hand, as the illustrations are atmospheric and add much to the story. VERDICT This enjoyable audio experience brings to life a much-loved book. –Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elem. Sch., Federal Way, WA

Browne, Anthony. Little Frida: A Story of Frida Kahlo. 1 CD. 9 min. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $14.99. ISBN 9781974989164.
PreS-Gr2– Mexican artist Frida Kahlo had a challenging childhood that includes illness and loneliness. Her imagination offered solace and escape, much of which is reflected in her artwork. Told in the first person and narrated by Cynthia Farrell, this work transports readers into young Frida’s heart and mind while supplying insights into her childhood. End notes provide further information about the artist and her work. Farrell reads the text in a warm, sympathetic voice while background music and sounds enhance the performance. VERDICT This nicely paced and lovely presentation would be best appreciated with the book, as illustrations are key to full enjoyment of the text.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elem. Sch., Federal Way, WA

 

Middle Grade

Avi. Gold Rush Girl. 6 CDs. 7:15 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $26.99. ISBN 9781799731023.
Gr 4-6– The year is 1848, and 14-year-old Victoria “Tory” Blaisdell is desperate for the kinds of adventure her favorite book heroines enjoy. So when her father leaves their home in Providence, RI, to test his fortunes in the gold fields of San Francisco, accompanied by Tory’s younger brother Jacob, Tory stowes away on their ship. Once in San Francisco, Tory begins to find the independence she craves, but when her father leaves the two siblings alone for months, having charged Tory with her brother’s care, she chafes under the responsibility. When Jacob goes missing one day, will Tory and her two new friends be able to navigate the dangers around them and rescue him before it’s too late? The historical subject matter, and the tense, suspenseful plotting make it a good match for fans of the “I Survived” or “Dear America” series. A brief author’s note with some historical information is included. VERDICT Sarah Naughton’s narration doesn’t add significant value to the book, so consider it a supplemental purchase for libraries with larger audiobook selections or a population that prefers that format. –Ann Santori, Cook Memorial P.L., Libertyville, IL

Dee, Barbara. Halfway Normal. digital download. 6:30 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $45. ISBN 9780593214084.
Gr 4-7 –The print version of Halfway Normal was published in 2017 and is as relevant now as it was then. Norah has been successfully fighting leukemia and is poised to join her seventh grade classmates at school after a two-year absence. Middle school can be tough in the best of circumstances, and Norah finds her adjustment rougher than anticipated. She rages against her divorced parents’ rules, finds established friendships shifting, falls for a new student, and experiences the requisite middle school insecurities and drama. She just wants to be treated normally and hates being faced with acknowledgment of her illness and her limitations. As Norah comes to terms with her life-changing cancer experience, the novel ends on a hopeful note of self-acceptance. Kim Mai Guest narrates in a very youthful voice in the first person, expressively revealing Norah’s thoughts and feelings of angst. VERDICT Guest’s engaging treatment of what could have been a grim subject makes this a perfect choice for middle grade listeners and middle school libraries.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Elliott, Joseph. The Good Hawk. (Shadow Skye: Bk. 1). 7 CDs. 8:14 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $24.99. ISBN 9781978665323.
Gr 6-8 –When all the other members of their clan are kidnapped or killed by raiders, 15-year-old Agatha, who has Down syndrome, and 14-year-old Jaime, who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, begin the journey of a lifetime, determined to save their people. They must summon inner courage as they battle Vikings, terror beasts, death fins, and shadow creatures. Set in mythical Scotland, this fantasy is rich with dark secrets, forgotten magic, and chilling monsters. Narrators Fiona Hardingham and Gary Furlong voice Agatha and Jaime’s stories in alternating chapters, allowing listeners to experience this epic adventure from two different perspectives. Hardingham’s portrayal of Agatha is especially strong, and her performance captures the character’s unique worldview. This is the first title in the Shadow Skye trilogy, and the ending sets listeners up for this brave duo’s next adventures. VERDICT Fast-paced action, authentically fresh voices, violent beasts, and unforgettable Scottish scenery elevate this debut novel. Share this title with Rick Riordan fans. –Anne ­Bosievich, Friendship Elem. Sch., Glen Rock, PA

Jennings, Rashad. Arcade and the Triple T ­Token. (The Coin Slot Chronicles: Bk. 1). 4 CDs. 4:51 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690585800.
Gr 4-7 –Twelve-year-old Arcade is every librarian’s dream patron. He loves books, and even knows the Dewey Decimal System so he can reshelve them. He has been working on a careers project at school, and while his friends all seem to be finding something they are passionate about, Arcade still feels lost. One day at the library he receives a mysterious token and discovers that it can transport him in time. The token sends him, along with his sister Zoe and his friends, to different places in the future to try out careers with varying, and sometimes hilarious, results. There also seems to be someone sinister after the token. Arcade deals with a variety of issues facing kids today: uncertainty about future careers, bullying, and making friends. Though Arcade’s busy parents are mostly absent from the narrative there is a strong family connection, and references to their faith appear throughout. K.T. Wright effortlessly moves between adult and kid characters with easily distinguishable voices. The adventures end on a cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting more. ­VERDICT This series launch is a fun middle grade adventure. –Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug Elem. Sch., Aurora, IL

Keller, Tae. When You Trap a Tiger. digital download. 7:23 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $45. ISBN 9780593155462.
Gr 3-7 –Keller’s narrative can’t be faulted—the story is achingly gorgeous. A widowed Korean American mother and her two mixed-race daughters move from California to Washington to live with their glamorous, unconventional ­Halmoni—grandmother” in Korean. Older sister Sam—living in sullen teenagerhood—is resistant, but younger Lily can’t get enough of Halmoni’s magical tales. When Lily learns of Halmoni’s illness, she negotiates a deal with a mythic tiger to save Halmoni’s life. While Keller, whose own grandmother is Korean, has written an affirming book, the audio adaptation, narrated by Korean American Greta Jung, amplifies Keller’s easily correctable cultural stumbles. Keller’s use of “Unya” for “older sister” is particularly jarring; “unnee” is older sister, the suffix ‘-ya’ akin to adding ‘hey’ or ‘yo’ when calling to someone—“This is it,Unya cried,” translates to “hey, unnee cried.” Perhaps Jung could only read exactly what’s on the page, but as her Korean is uneven (the pronunciation of “Halmoni,” for example, is inconsistent), writer, reader, and certainly the producers missed an obvious opportunity for improvement or correction. ­VERDICT Alas, this audio interpretation misses the mark. –Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Kim, Jessica. Stand Up, Yumi Chung! digital download. 5:30 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $45. ISBN 9780593162682.
Gr 3-7 –Greta Jung energetically embodies 11-year-old Yumi Chung’s evolution from quiet odd-girl-out to feisty stand-up-comedian-in-the-making. At her exclusive L.A. private school, Yumi is rarely noticed, except by the bully harassing her as “Yu-MEAT” (for her barbecue-scent-infused clothing from helping at her family’s Koreatown restaurant) or “Top Ramen” (for the bad perms enforced by her mother). Conditioned by her genius older sister, in her second year of med school at 20, Yumi’s parents expect no less achievement. As seventh grade looms, Yumi needs a scholarship (via near-perfect test score) to continue her privileged education, so her parents enroll her at an all-summer, Korean-style cram school. Bad luck, until a case of mistaken identity (a cringe-inducing all-Asians-look-alike stereotype) enables her to join a comedy camp taught by her YouTube comic idol. That’s where Yumi—most ironically—becomes the true self she’s been composing in her “Super-Secret Comedy Notebook.” Yumi learns to stand up for her family, friends, and, most importantly, herself. Jung nimbly complements spunky Yumi with equally affecting characterizations of her immigrant parents, her not-quite-perfect sister, and her quickly growing audience. VERDICT Kim’s debut gets a spot-on audio boost for even the most reluctant readers. –Terry Hong, ­Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Roanhorse, Rebecca. Race to the Sun. digital download. 7:19 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $56. ISBN 9780593149546.
Gr 5-8 –Seventh-grader Nizhoni Begay left a big public school for a small tribal school, but she still doesn’t feel like she fits in. The fact she is able to see monsters sets her apart from her family, as the most current visible monster is her father’s new boss. When her father disappears after a meeting with Mr. Charles, Nizhoni, her little brother Mac, and savvy schoolmate Davery are determined to find him. Help turns up in unexpected ways: a kind stranger, coded song lyrics, and Navajo legends come to life. Though Nizhoni feels she has “zero” hero material, she, Mac, and Davery bravely and ingeniously gather gifts from the sacred mountains, aided by Diné legends including Rock Crystal Boy and Spider Woman, along with a stuffed horned toad come to life. Narrator Kinsale Hueston, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, voices Nizhoni convincingly, whether she is annoyed with Mac or speaking phrases and names in Navajo. VERDICT A fast-paced adventure, occasionally violent, with a strong, positive “be who you are” subtext. Suggest to mythology-based adventure readers. –Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

Stone, Nic. Clean Getaway. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $30. ISBN 9780593155387.
Gr 3-7 –“Scoob” Lamar thinks his nickname is cool, but when his grandma, referred to as G’ma, draws it out to Scoob-a-doob, well, that’s a little over the top. G’ma is pretty cool overall. She bought an RV and is set for a Spring break adventure. Never mind that Scoob is grounded after to a fight. He hastily scribbles his dad a note and hops on board. G’ma, who is white, plans to recreate a trip she and G’pop, who was black, never completed. With the help of G’ma’s faded Travelers’ Green Book, Scoob begins to understand what it was like for a mixed-race couple traveling through Alabama, Mississippi, and neighboring states in 1963. Scoob’s initial thrill turns to concern when license plates are switched, and “fantasy jewelry shopping” looks more like stealing. When G’ma starts calling him by his father’s name, Scoob has to decide if it’s time to call home and face his dad. Narrator Dion Graham is excellent as both Scoob and G’ma, emphasizing the humor in the story while giving weight to the realities of 1963 Jim Crow attitudes. VERDICT Abundant humor cloaks subjects for further discussion: bullying, cheating, bias, and acknowledgment of the aging process. Thoughtful and enjoyable on many levels and an asset to middle school libraries. –Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX

Staff of The Undefeated. The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World. 2 CDs. 142p. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690560760.
Gr 5-8 –In quick two- to three-minute biographies, this work introduces the listener to 44 African Americans, 28 men and 16 women, who led and inspired others to overcome obstacles and to challenge inequalities. Each is introduced by a “Because” statement that explains why he or she is included in this illustrious group. The 44, a number chosen to honor Barack Obama, includes familiar historical figures like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; athletes like Simone Biles and Muhammad Ali; artists like Jay-Z, Alvin Ailey, and Quincy Jones; and scientists such as Katherine Johnson and Charles Drew. There are those who fought to make a difference, like Robert Abbott, and those, like Henrietta Lacks, who unknowingly changed the world. Narrator J.D. Jackson reads with thoughtful pacing and careful inflection. An audio presentation, obviously, misses some of the beauty of a book like this, since listeners miss the wonderful portraits by Robert Ball that introduce each entry, and the reader cannot flip back easily to reread or compare dates. VERDICT Even so, this well-presented, concise, and interesting introduction to 44 dynamic Americans will appeal to young listeners and adults alike.–MaryAnn Karre, Binghamton, NY

Walker, Sally M. Deadly Aim: The Civil War Story of Michigan’s Anishinaabe Sharpshooters. 5 CDs. 5:22 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781974993031.
Gr 5-8– Even though more than 20,000 Native Americans enlisted and fought for both the North and the South during the American Civil War, their stories are rarely told. This thoroughly researched nonfiction title spotlights Michigan’s Anishinaabe sharpshooters from Company K, the Union Army’s largest all-Native company east of the Mississippi River. Detailed, first-hand accounts introduce listeners to the soldiers and their families while also exploring motivations for enlisting. Early chapters focus on traditional Anishinaabe customs and how Native Americans dealt with colonization of their lands. Later chapters recount Company K’s involvement in some of the Civil War’s deadliest battles, including the Battle of the Wilderness, Petersburg, and the Battle of the Crater. Listeners will appreciate narrator Darrell Dennis sharing these soldiers’ own words from letters and diary entries; however, they miss out on seeing the many maps, photographs, and other documents included in the printed book. VERDICT This title fills a hole in many Civil War collections and will be well-received by history buffs. –Anne Bosievich, Friendship Elem. Sch., Glen Rock, PA

Young Adult

Albert, Melissa. The Night Country. (Hazel Wood: Bk. 2). 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2020. $34.99. ISBN 9781250246240. digital download.
Gr 9 Up –This dark fantasy sequel to The Hazel Wood finds Alice struggling in New York after having been rescued from the Hinterlands by her friend Finch. After someone tries to kill her on the subway, she realizes people from the Hinterlands are infiltrating the human world and murdering ex-Stories like her. Narrator Rebecca Soler returns to the series, voicing the multiple perspectives effortlessly. She reads Alice in the first person in an edgy, intense manner, while Finch tells his perspective in the third person as he wanders through different worlds. Soler gives the book a creepily atmospheric tone while reading the lyrical text with ease. While it is necessary to have finished The Hazel Wood to fully comprehend this sequel, those who have will not be disappointed. It is slow to start but explodes into a satisfying conclusion. Don’t give this to your faint-of-heart listeners as violence and blood abound.VERDICT Lovers of dark fairy tales andThe Hazel Wood will inhale this. –Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Brown, Richard & Joe Hart. I’ll Bring You Back. 8 CDs. 9:33 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $22.99. ISBN 9781799747505.
Gr 8 Up– Londyn and David have been inseparable since they were young, when Londyn first moved to town, supporting each other through tough times such as David’s brother leaving to escape their father’s abuse and Londyn’s father’s death from cancer. Londyn and David are walking along a snowy road when an accident occurs. Londyn is thrown to the side by David as he is struck by a vehicle. One day, while visiting David, who is in a coma, Londyn suddenly finds herself in a strange world. It looks just like her own neighborhood but is full of decay. Londyn slips back and forth between the two worlds before being stuck in the decrepit one. As she follows a leaf guiding her way she has poignant flashbacks to important scenes in her life with David. Emma Galvin’s narration does a good job of characterization. VERDICT A good purchase for large collections where romantic stories are popular, especially mixed with angst and tragedy.–Megan Huenemann, Norris H.S., Firth, NE

Capin, Hannah. Foul is Fair. 9 CDs. 10:39 hrs. Macmillan Audio. 2020. $45.99. ISBN 9781250262745. digital download.
Gr 8 Up –Emily Lawrence narrates Capin’s contemporized adaptation of Macbeth, featuring overprivileged L.A. teens with a #MeToo narrative overlay. Out at a party with her three best friends Elizabeth Jade Khanjara is gang-raped by a group of prep school lacrosse stars. She refuses to be labeled a “victim,” or even “survivor”—instead, she’s the “avenger”; her last name is a feminization of khanjar, meaning “curved dagger,” summoning Shakespeare’s possessed leitmotif. She demands revenge, tranferring to her rapists’ school, enrolling as Jade, and within 13 days, the squad will be dead. Lawrence’s voice drips vicious manipulation as Jade wreaks overdue punishment over and over again. Lawrence growls through the perpetrators, initially pompous, convinced of their unchallenged power, until Jade reduces them to desperate whining and ineffective begging. VERDICT More train wreck than classic, once begun, turning off—even as you know how it all ends—is not an option. –Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Cokal, Susann. Mermaid Moon. 9 CDs. 11:38 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $32.99. ISBN 9781799731146.
Gr 9 Up– Sanna is a half-landish mermaid. When she was born, the witch who delivered her cast a spell to make people, including her mother, forget her birth. Longing to find her mother, and following the ancient riddle of the sea witch Sjeldent, Sanna finds herself at a town and castle run by the ageless Baroness Thryla, a witch who steals youth and power from people. Soon, she is betrothed to the witch’s useless son, Peta. Narrators Jess Nahikian and Stina Nielsen do a good job of adding a mystical element to the characters’ voices. The pacing matches well with the darker fantasy plot. The slightly monotone intonations in parts of the book, however, may disengage some listeners. VERDICT A good addition to library collections where fantasy, adventure, and strong female protagonists are popular. –Kira Moody, Salt Lake County Lib. Svcs.

del Rosario, Juleah. Turtle Under Ice. digital download. 3:03 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $34. ISBN 9780593212394.
Gr 7 Up –Del Rosario’s sophomore novel in verse is a haunting elegy, revealed in the back-and-forth voices of two sisters. Rowena is the star soccer athlete, Ariana the artist who might not graduate. They’re students at the same high school, but the older hardly acknowledges the younger; at home, the distance lengthens and lingers. Their mother died years ago, leaving the young girls alone until Dad married Maribel and the family had promise, especially with another sister on the way. Miscarriage robs the family again, cleaving the sisters further: Ariana disappears one snowy night, leaving Row in desperate search. Narrator Cassie Simone is ever-so-slightly hopeful through Row’s sadness, her youthful rhythms reverberating throughout. Donabella Mortel as Ariana is the weaker link, too mature to be convincing as a student. She doesn’t speak German, although a simple “pronounce Erlebnis,” for example, in any search engine could have sufficed. VERDICT While del Rosario’s raw, unadorned verses might resonate more on the page, the audio adaptation could provide an affecting option for reluctant readers. –Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Grimes, Nikki. Ordinary Hazards. 4 CDs. 4:30 hrs. Recorded Books. 2020. $46.75. ISBN 9781980042853. digital download.
Gr 7 Up –From a young age, Grimes released her heartbreaking childhood into spiral notebooks, and the act of writing gave her hope. Her tumultuous early years were punctuated by her mother’s swings between mental illness, alcohol, and sober detachment. This memoir, written in verse and read by the author, takes the listener through locked closets, street fights, many schools, and many homes: some filled with fear, others with kindness. Ballasts for the young writer, her older sister Carol, and musician father, came and went physically but were ever present in her consciousness. There are no background sounds or music, just the author’s own voice and poetic cadence which lend gritty authenticity to her story. VERDICT This will appeal to Grimes’s many fans, as well as high school writers searching for their own voice and those relying on hope and strength to navigate a rough and complicated road. –Jane Newschwander, Fluvanna County Public Sch., VA

Iacopelli, Jennifer. Break the Fall. 8 CDs. 9:23 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690566410.
Gr 8 Up– Audrey Lee, a 17-year-old Korean American gymnast, is going to the Tokyo Olympics to represent the United States. But then the IOC announces an investigation against the coach and one of the girls on the team. Once the girls are assigned a new coach, they are told that they have to requalify. Audrey does make it through the second round of tryouts but not without challenges that come from her new coach as well as her teammates. Emily Woo Zeller captures the suspense and nerves of the Olympic competition among the athletes. Her pacing and use of tempo make the listener see and feel that action. With the addition of a love interest, Leo, the coach’s son, and Audrey, readers get a dose of romance, competition, suspense, and the #MeToo movement. Occasional strong language makes this a choice for high schoolers and mature middle school students. VERDICT A perfect substitution for listeners disappointed by the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton H.S., Linden, MI

Lee, Victoria. The Electric Heir. (Feverwake: Bk. 2). 12 CDs. 14:58 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2020. $26.99. ISBN 9781978671645.
Gr 9 Up –After helping overthrow Carolinia, Noam is more determined than ever to bring down Lehrer. Working undercover as Lehrer’s protégé, Noam plays both sides of the coin in order to steal the vaccine to stop the virus. Meanwhile, Dara, who was thought to be dead, returns to Carolinia. Where will Noam’s allegiances lie? If he decides to take down Lehrer, will he be able to succeed? Michael Crouch does a phenomenal job uses distinctive voices and emotion, bringing increased depth to the story. His unique pacing matches well with the book and draws the listener into the story. The characters are engaging and the plot is action-packed. The characters dealing with difficult topics such as sexual and emotional abuse may be triggering for some readers. VERDICT Libraries where the first book circulated well want to pick this one up. –Jessica Moody, Olympus J.H., Holladay, UT

Myers, Walter Dean. 145th Street: Short Stories. digital download. 5:11 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $38. ISBN 9780593153758.
Gr 7 Up –This 20th-anniversary edition features a 10-reader cast performing the original 10 stories, with additional “Bonus Content” that includes a dozen “Tributes” by literary luminaries, including Christopher Myers, Lois Lowry, and Jason Reynolds, extolling the late, great Myers’s enduring legacy to diverse children’s literature. Myers’s interlinked stories capture everyday lives of Harlem residents, made immediately resonant by notable narrators. Sullivan Jones reads “Big Joe’s Funeral,” in which Big Joe conducts his funeral before his death, and “A Story in Three Parts,” about a great-grandmother’s sobering history lesson shared with her addict descendent. Heather Alicia Simms reads “Block Party—145th Street Style,” adding to Big Joe’s story from the perspective of his stepdaughter-to-be’s BFF. Adenrele Ojo narrates “Kitty and Mack,” an aching celebration of first love in crisis. Bahni Turpin reads “A Christmas Story,” which links a hesitant policeman with Harlem doyenne Mother Fletcher. Brandon Gill, Almarie Guerra, Johnny Heller, Dominic Hoffman, and Paula Parker affectingly read the rest. The concluding who-read-what reveal (although JaQwan J. Kelly remains mysteriously uncredited; process of elimination shows he’s the energetic voice of “The Streak” and “Monkeyman”) is a rare gift for curious listeners. VERDICT A gift for groupies and newbies alike. –Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Myers, B.R. Rogue Princess. 8 CDs. 9:26 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690561323.
Gr 7 Up –Delia is a princess tasked with choosing her husband from eight contenders, each representing a different planet in the system. Her mother is pushing her to choose quickly as the planet will soon run out of its energy source. Her younger sister is primed to swoon at any handsome man and has a delightful sense of humor, not to mention a way with words. When Delia and a kitchen boy end up together in a space ship, sparks fly. Mix in ethical pirates, a six-armed man who is the last of his kind, giant sandworms at the bottom of a canyon, an abundance of intrigue, treachery, sword fights, and some of the best red herrings you could imagine and you have this delightful story. Lucy Brownhill’s pacing and intensity do a nice job of ­conveying the action as the story ­progresses. ­VERDICT A dandy choice for adventure-loving teens who like offbeat and intelligent plots. –John R. Clark, formerly with Hartland P.L., ME

Noyes, Deborah. We Are All His Creatures: Tales of P.T. Barnum, the Greatest Showman. 5 CDs. 617p. Brilliance Audio. Mar. 2020. Audio $27.99. ISBN 9781799731245.
Gr 9 Up –Many people know the story of P.T. Barnum and his famous shows, but not much about his private life. Some could argue that he had two families. He had his two wives and his daughters, as well as the people that worked for him. All of the women in his life were exploited in one way or another. It didn’t matter if she was a Little Person, a giantess, or his daughter, they all had to overcome life in his shadow and surviving under his rules. In this fictional account, the lives of many of these women are woven together. Jess Nahikian, Carly Robins, Lauren Ezzo, Andrew Eiden, Will Ropp, and Sarah Zimmerman give voice to the many characters represented. Noyes’s book is a quick, escapist listen and should be treated as such. It is not meant to be a true account of these varied lives. VERDICT Recommended as a supplemental purchase for high school and public libraries. –Elizabeth Kenyon, Merrillville H.S., IN

Polisner, Gae. The Memory of Things. 6 CDs. 6:47 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690561200.
Gr 7 Up –Sixteen-year-old Kyle is close to Ground Zero on 9/11. His NYPD father rushed to the tower as the first plane hit, his mother and little sister are stuck in L.A., and phone service is sporadic. His Uncle Matt waits at the family apartment. While escaping with his classmates from chaos and toxic fumes, Kyle sees a girl wearing bedraggled angel wings, clinging to the side of the Brooklyn Bridge. After rescuing her, he brings her home. Kyle isn’t sure whether she remembers anything and worries she’ll vanish and harm herself. He must also deal with growing fears that his dad might be another tower victim and that his mom and sister may be stuck in California forever. At first, Kyle is afraid of saying or doing something that might spook the mystery girl, but after she begins talking, a bond forms between them. Nick Mondelli and Jordan Killiam alternate narrating the characters, ­giving listeners an intense feel for how 9/11 ­affected those directly impacted and how love can blossom even in times of ­disaster. VERDICT This is an emotional and ­satisfying story, one teens will very much enjoy. –John R. Clark, formerly with Hartland P.L., ME

Reynolds, Jason & Ibram X. Kendi. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. 4 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2020. $25. ISBN 9781549184482. digital download.
Gr 7 Up –Kendi’s National Book Award–winning book Stamped from the Beginning has been engagingly adapted here for younger listeners by Jason Reynolds. Billed as a “not history history book,” the audio traces the history of racism and African American people from 1415 to the present day. Reynolds focuses more on the people that made the history than the events, which gives life to the story. Activists such as Cotton Mather, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Angela Davis are spotlighted, as are the American Founding Fathers/slaveowners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Slavery, the civil rights movement, and #BlackLivesMatter are covered. Kendi reads the introduction to the audio, clearly describing the differences among segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists. Reynolds narrates the rest with his customary energy and expression, and in a conservational tone which adds intimacy. The audio is set up chronologically and in easily accessible chapters. Younger listeners may find some of the issues discussed both challenging and emotional. VERDICT This audiobook, which has deservedly received a lot of media attention, should be in all secondary school libraries. –Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Taylor, Mildred D. All the Days Past, All the Days To Come. (Logan Family: Bk. 8). 12 CDs. 14:30 hrs. Listening Library. 2020. $60. ISBN 9780593155714. digital download.
Gr 9 Up –In this final novel in the Logan family saga, listeners find a grown Cassie who’s a college student as World War II pulls her brothers into war industries and military service. Cassie begins her own journey that includes living in California as she faces racial prejudice, sexual harassment, and an unexpected death. Later, she pursues education in Colorado and Massachusetts. Through the decades, Carrie and her family join the civil rights movement, and they remain a strong, loving family. Allyson Johnson’s narration evokes the range of emotions and accents including conveying Cassie’s courage in tense situations. This conclusion can stand alone. VERDICT While this is historical fiction, it works well for class discussions because it touches on current concerns. Fans and newcomers will want to find this title at their school and public libraries. –Barbara S. Wysocki, formerly with Cora J. Belden Lib., Rocky Hill, CT

Watson, Sarah. Most Likely. 7 CDs. 9 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2020. $25. ISBN 9781549184499. digital download.
Gr 7 Up– This story opens with a mysterious woman about to be inaugurated U.S. president. Listeners are given only her married last name. Then we jump back in time, to the senior year of high school for four girls. One of these girls will be the future president, but it is left to the listener to guess throughout the story which one it will be, until the reveal in the last chapter. Best friends since kindergarten, the girls are distinctly different, with each having her own special talent (artist, journalist, volunteer extraordinaire, scientifically brilliant) as well as baggage to overcome. Christie Moreau narrates engagingly with a youthful voice. Chapters are done from multiple third-person viewpoints, without much voice differentiation among characters. High school life is realistically portrayed with its ever-changing dynamics of relationships, stress about the future, and feelings of social inadequacy. Moreau’s range handles the lively dialogue and fast pacing as well as capably reflecting the wonder of first love, along with the angst and nostalgia of senior year. VERDICT Give this to fans of touching coming-of-age stories who like a drop of mystery added.–Julie Paladino, formerly with East Chapel Hill H.S., NC

Williams, Ismée. This Train Is Being Held. 7 CDs. 8:48 hrs. Dreamscape Audio. 2020. $39.99. ISBN 9781690586425.
Gr 9 Up– When Isa, a dance student in New York City, is surreptiously recorded on the subway, Alex steps between her and the creep. They strike up a conversation, mainly about Latin music and dance. Both of them sense a strong connection, but at Isa’s stop, the doors open, she jumps off, and is gone. Over the ensuing weeks, the two periodically run into each other on the subway and their connection grows. Alex’s family is from the Dominican Republic. Isa’s mom was born in Havana, but the two families couldn’t be more different. Alex lives in Brooklyn, some of his friends run with a gang, and he tenses up every time he sees a cop. Isa’s family lives on Park Avenue and she attends a private school. Even so, they start to fall for each other, though they each begin to harbor a fear that the other is hiding something. Narration by Gary Tiedemann and Frankie Corzo bring to life this tender love story that touches on the joys and challenges of Latinx culture in the U.S. as well as the emotional strain of mental illness on teens. VERDICT ­Recommend to fans of YA romance.–Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush H.S., Lyndhurst, OH

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