Audiobooks: Baba Yaga, Civil Rights, and Advice from an Olympian | December 2017 Xpress Reviews

Three extraordinary teens face face high school, their biggest challenge yet; a young girl and her grandfather find a temperamental typewriter; and a multicultural attempt to broaden Eurocentric history feature in December's audiobook Xpress.

Abedi, C.J. The Queen. (Fae Trilogy: Bk. 3). 8 CDs. 9 hrs. Brilliance. Dec. 2016. $19.99. ISBN 9781491504178. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Caroline is continuing to come to terms with the fact that she is the queen of the Light Fae and that her relationship with Devilyn is wrong on many levels. When the Dark King and Puck create a new plan that defies long-established rules, Caroline must learn from her hidden past and cultivate the Fae powers that have been dormant within her. Even though this is the third and final story, listeners who have not experienced the first two works can still enjoy this installment if they are familiar with basic Fae lore and, of course, Puck. The variety of voices performed by Emily Durante and Mikael Naramore will have listeners believing they are listening to a full-cast dramatization. VERDICT Will make a good supplemental addition where the first two books circulate well.–­Elizabeth L. Kenyon, Merrillville High School, IN

Arcos, Carrie. Crazy Messy Beautiful. 6 CDs. 7:06 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $40. ISBN 9781524749781. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Neruda is destined to find the love of his life. He must, since he is named after the great love poet Pablo Neruda. Unfortunately, as a 16-year-old artist, he has only experienced heartbreak. After Callie and Neruda are paired for a writing assignment, he discovers that she is more like him than any of the other girls he has crushed on. Is Callie his soul mate? Will their mutual love of art bring them together? Arcos has developed Neruda’s voice so that listeners of any age and any gender will appreciate his plight. Michael Crouch’s narration will make listeners feel as though they’re inside the character’s mind. VERDICT This will make a strong addition to a middle school, high school or public library collection.–Elizabeth L. Kenyon, Merrillville High School, IN

Bayerl, Katie. A Psalm for Lost Girls. 9 CDs. 10:27 hrs. Listening Library. Mar. 2017. $55. ISBN 9781524750145. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –Callie da Costa’s faith in a higher power was always tested by her older sister, Tess. In their hometown of New Avon, MA, Tess was considered a bona fide, miracle-making saint. Anyone she touched or prayed for would be (almost) instantly healed. When Tess abruptly passes away and a missing girl, Ana Langone, suddenly turns up, the New Avon community, and people around the world, petition the Vatican for Tess’s official sainthood. Disgusted, Callie, along with Tess’s secret boyfriend, Danny, attempt to uncover the truth to what really happened to Ana Langone. Told in the alternating voices of Callie, Tess’s diary, and Ana’s thoughts, and beautifully narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, Kyla Garcia, and Julia Whelan, the work will instantly engage listeners. VERDICT A wonderful listen and interesting story. Could help to start a discussion on faith, love, family, and loss.–Amanda Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

redstarBell, Jennifer. The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence. 8 CDs. 9:19 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $45. ISBN 9780735207059. digital download.

Gr 4-6 –When their grandmother ends up in the emergency room, 11-year-old Ivy and her 14-year-old brother Seb are whisked into a secret underground city called Lundinor hidden beneath streets of London. Lundinor is filled with enchanted “uncommon” objects that have special powers. Colanders filter the air, bells chime navigational directions, and carrying a candle makes a person invisible. Lundinor is also filled with traders—both living and dead—who barter with each other, trying to acquire the most useful objects. When their parents are abducted, Ivy and Seb learn some important family history involving their grandmother’s unexplained disappearance from Lundinor more than 40 years before. Racing against time, Ivy and Seb try to locate a powerful object before their parents are lost forever. Jayne Entwistle’s whimsical narration is perfect. Listeners will immediately be drawn to Ivy and Seb’s quest for justice as they try to clear their family’s name and hunt for one of the most powerful uncommon objects of all. VERDICT This is the first in a planned trilogy, and listeners will be excited to hear how this fast-paced adventure continues in the story’s next installment.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

Bouwman, H.M. Crack in the Sea. 8 CDs. 9:45 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $50. ISBN 9781524755188. digital download.

Gr 4-8 –Imbued with fantasy and history, this complex multilayered tale is set in worlds with an oceangoing raft village and an isolated island community. Quest-filled journeys, magical powers, and a kidnapping are woven together as three sets of siblings navigate voyages spanning centuries and continents. Accompanied by caring friends and searching for a mythical portal, the children in these related stories are resilient and resourceful. This unique work has a wide range of characters: a fearful king, a kind storyteller, two huge one-eyed sea monsters, and a boy dealing with face blindness. Narrator Bahni Turpin delicately balances the novel’s many voices and their emotions. The broad-ranging text is steered by examples of endurance, loyalty, and courage. VERDICT Heavy with twists and turns, this is a challenging but worthwhile story for upper-elementary and middle school fans of fantasy underpinned with facts.–­Barbara Wysocki, formerly at Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

Carmody, Isobelle. Obernewtyn. (Obernewtyn Chronicles: Bk. 1). 6 CDs. 6:26 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781489358059.

Gr 7 Up –In a harsh, post-apocalyptic world destroyed by chemicals, known as the Age of Chaos, surviving humans live together in a semi-agricultural society. They form a Council for protection. But a mutation in their genetic makeup of some has given them enhanced mental abilities that are a threat to the the Council. Elspeth tries to keep her power hidden in order to survive, but her special abilities are discovered and she is sent to Obernewtyn, a place designated for Misfits. As she discovers the horrors done elsewhere to Misfits, she and the others know they must save their comrades. The author narrates, doing a good job of distinguishing character voices. The plot is well developed and complex, and the characters are memorable. However, the overall narrative voice takes some adjusting to and may deter some listeners. VERDICT Recommended for libraries where science fiction audiobooks fly off the shelves.–­Jessica Moody, Olympus Junior High, Holladay, UT

Carter, Ally. Perfect Scoundrels. (Heist Society: Bk. 3). 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Brilliance. Dec. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781531869052.

Gr 7 Up –Narrator Angela Dawe continues her stellar reading of the series in this third installment. Teenage master thief Kat Bishop’s job this time is closer to home: she has been hired to prove that the will naming boyfriend and coconspirator W.W. Hale V the inheritor of his family’s billion-dollar corporation is a fake. Is Hale the mark this time? The extensive Bishop family of criminals comes to work in the con Kat creates to find out the truth in this fun caper. Dawe’s intimate reading makes listeners feel they are in on the secret. She performs all of the characters’ voices distinctly and handles the fast-paced conversational style of the book with ease. VERDICT Give this to your multitudes of Ally Carter fans.–Julie Paladino, formerly at East Chapel Hill High School, NC

Colfer, Chris. Stranger Than Fanfiction. 6 CD. 7:12 hrs. Hachette Audio. Feb. 2017. $25. ISBN 9781478940463. digital download.

Gr 10 Up –Six years ago, the cult TV phenomenon Wiz Kids brought four wallflower middle school fans together. Now, with high school behind them and college looming ahead, best friends Topher, Sam, Joey, and Mo are set to begin a two-week cross-country road trip. Their route is mapped in precise detail yet fails to account for Topher’s tongue-in-cheek email to Wiz Kids icon Cash Carter accepting an invitation to join them. The startstruck Wizzers quickly realize that pill-popping, chain-smoking Cash is nothing like his nerdy quantum physics expert character. No one understands that better than Cash himself. He is fiercely protecting a deep secret—and he is not alone. Comfort zones are broadened, secrets are revealed, and friendships are tested…and strengthened. The author does not provide a great deal of character distinction in his reading, but he still manages to provide enjoyable, solid narration. VERDICT Colfer opens doors to the serious topics of transgender identity, sexuality, and self-worth. He successfully reminds readers “it’s a tough world to find yourself in, but an even tougher one to be yourself in.”–Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City School District, OH

Cuevas, Michelle. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. 1 CD. 6 min. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $15.75. ISBN 9781501948138. digital download.

K-Gr 2 –An unnamed guy, whose job is to open bottles washed up by the sea and deliver the messages, yearns for one to be delivered to him. One day, a note arrives with no name on it, inviting the reader to a party. The uncorker tries in vain to deliver the note to many townsfolk. He finally returns to the sea to apologize for his failure, and the coast is transformed into a magical place, where townspeople join him in the ocean’s celebration. This whimsical tale is full of imagery and metaphor, though listeners will also enjoy the tale at a literal level. Scott Sowers provides a narration perfectly cadenced for a seaside tale. The second track has page turn signals for use with the print version. VERDICT Recommended for elementary and public libraries.–Deb Whitbeck, formerly at West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Castaldo, Nancy F. Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel. 3 CDs. 3 hrs. Dreamscape. Feb. 2017. $29.99 ISBN 9781520064888.

Gr 7 Up –Castaldo explores animal cognition through such topics as empathy, communication, and social interactions. She maintains that animals are not so different from humans—humans are animals, after all. Ants take slaves, monkeys steal, dogs are jealous, and elephants can be deceptive. Castaldo surmises that animals think, communicate, and feel much like humans do. The book’s intended audience is unclear, however. At times it seems that the focus is for younger listeners, yet there are some high-level topics (e.g., self-awareness and empathy) as well as vocabulary that make it seem geared toward an older audience. Narrator Charon Normand-Widmer’s voice is almost rhythmic, and she pronounces species and researcher’s names effortlessly. VERDICT The volume of cited experiments and research is disorienting. Frequent sidebar quips, denoted by a soft tone at the beginning and end are also disorienting and do not add value. A fascinating topic that slightly misses the mark.–April Everett, Rowan County Information Technology, NC

De La Peña, Matt. Ball Don’t Lie. 6 CDs. 6:58 hrs. Listening Library. Apr. 2017. $40. ISBN 9781524778675. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –Sticky, 17, is a gifted basketball player with a difficult life. His mother is a sex worker who is abused by pimps, while Sticky moves from foster home to foster home and sometimes lives on the streets. Sticky has not always made the best decisions in life, which often comes back to haunt him. While the story goes back and forth in time and is told from different points of view, listeners will still be able to follow Sticky’s rocky journey. Narrator Dion Graham nails this performance as he vacillates among a variety of characters. The basketball jargon and slang make the setting come to life. Graham’s talent brings the story off the page and into the actual street. The detailed basketball action pulls the listener in as Graham’s rhythmic reading never misses a bounce of the ball. VERDICT Teens looking for action on the court or inspirational characters won’t be disappointed.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Dennard, Susan. Windwitch. (Witchland: Bk. 2). 12 CDs. 14:42 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $60. ISBN 9780147523815. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –Scattered throughout the Witchlands, Truthwitch Safiya, Prince Merick (a Windwitch), Threadwitch Iseult, and Princess Vivia (a Tidewitch) all believe the others to be dead. Vivia and Merick are trying to save their kingdom from starvation and attack from surrounding countries. Safiya and Iseult soon sense through their magic that the other is still alive, and they try to reunite. On that quest, Iseult and Bloodwitch Aeduan find a small girl who has been kidnapped for her Earthwitch powers. Vivia and Merick, no longer competitors for their father’s crown, capture and reveal the enemy who has been undermining the kingdom. Cassandra Campbell’s narration is excellent, though each character in the novel speaks and thinks with a Slavic accent while the remainder of the narration is in American English. As it does not seem to be relevant to the plot, the accent is an odd choice. VERDICT Fantasy readers will enjoy knowing that their relationship with these complicated characters will be rewarded with a five-novel series. Recommended.–Suzanne Dix, The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati

Foudy, Julie. Choose To Matter. 7 CDs. 7:57 hrs. Dreamscape. May 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520077017. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 8 Up –Foudy, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion, and former captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, has written a guide to help young women determine their personal leadership style. Foudy gathered a diverse team of women she interviewed in casual conversations she dubbed “#socktalks.” The group included Good Morning America cohost Robin Roberts, soccer star Mia Hamm, Irish scientist Sophie Healy-Thow, and Paralympic Games medalist Tatyana McFadden, among others. Chapters unfold with a conversational tone as Foudy leads the listener through developing a positive self-image and various leadership skills. Older teens will most likely roll their eyes at Foudy’s corny sense of humor. ­VERDICT Although the book is intended to help young women find their own style, it skews strongly toward extroverts, and non-athletes may be put off by the abundance of sports analogies. Teams and clubs, though, could benefit from using the audio as a guide for developing confidence and character.–Lisa Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH

Frederick, Heather Vogel. Yours Truly. (Pumpkin Falls: Bk. 2). 6 CDs. 7:10 hrs. Dreamscape. Jan. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520061122. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 4-8 –Thirteen-year-old Truly Lovejoy has lived in Pumpkin Falls, NH, less than a year, but she is fully immersed in the small-town culture, including Maple Madness, which is a flurry of activities centered around everything maple. Spring break and the celebration of Maple Madness coincide, leaving Truly and her friends time to reconvene the Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes. Mysteries unfold, including vandalism at two of the town’s prominent maple farms. Truly and her friends also feel obliged to solve the theft of maple sap from the farms to quell the feuding that has started between people they all admire. Thanks to the involvement of a college professor, Truly’s Peace Corps volunteer grandparents, and the town librarian, the mysteries are solved and secrets are exposed. All’s well that ends well, and even Truly’s crush on one of her classmates turns out to be mutual. Narrator Amy Rubinate lends charming Texas accents to Truly’s mother and cousin as well as masculine voices to male characters. Truly’s young sister has a delightful gap-tooth lisp, and Truly speaks in a flawless young teen’s voice. VERDICT Middle school students will be engaged by the mysteries and the well-developed characters.–Ann Weber, Los Gatos, CA

redstarFreedman, Russell. Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America. 2 CDs. 1:47 hrs. Dreamscape. Jan. 2017. $29.99 ISBN 9781520046877. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 7 Up –This is the powerful account of the events in 1965, in Selma, AL, that influenced a larger movement to win voting rights for black citizens across the country. With reverence and honesty, Freedman brings to light the pure courage and tenacity needed to overcome the fear wrought by the physical, mental, and social reprisals that resulted from attempts to register to vote and also from decisions to stand up and be heard. A masterful combination of narrative sprinkled with historical quotes provides a succinct tale that packs a powerful punch. Performer Rodney Gardiner draws from his dramatic roots to enliven the text and its varying speakers with a near-flawless mixture of authentic voices. VERDICT An essential purchase for collections designed for upper elementary through adult. Curse words and derogatory racial epithets are heard sparingly in quotes from historical figures.–Lisa Youngblood, Harker Heights Public Library, TX

Garlick, Nick. Storm Horse. 5 CDs. 5 hrs. Recorded Bks. Feb. 2017. $51.75. ISBN 9781501944314. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Flip’s miserable life with a thieving father and missing mom suddenly ends with his dad’s death and an unknown uncle reluctantly assuming responsibility on a rural island in the Netherlands. Flip endures the new chores, sleeping in the barn with no electricity, bullies armed with slingshots, and a ghostly girl who refuses to speak, only coming alive when he helps rescue a Friesian during a storm. As all things on the farm, the horse must earn its keep in order to stay. The boy and horse develop a trusting relationship toward that goal, all tested by the bullies and their wealthy father who wants to own the farm for a development. Malk Williams provides excellent voice to this gripping tale, in which author Garlick takes us to modern life without TV, computers, or cell phones that listeners will find appealing. VERDICT Libraries will want this novel, and circulating audio collections will want this audiobook.–Deb Whitbeck, formerly at West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

GORNALL, Louise. Under Rose-Tainted Skies. 6 CDs. 7:14 hrs. Listening Library. Mar. 2017. $40. ISBN 9781524733582. digital download.

Gr 10 Up –Norah has watched her world slowly shrink since her panic attacks have developed into agoraphobia. At 17, she peeps outside through curtains and lurks on the social media site Metro. She knows her fears and compulsions are irrational, but she can’t stop until Luke, a handsome, outgoing neighbor, indicates an interest in getting to know her better. Although Gornall’s debut never fully conveys what makes Norah so likable, Luke persists in his friendly overtures, and eventually Norah shares her inability to leave the house. Instead of driving Luke away, it brings them closer, forcing Norah to consider whether a kiss might be worth the perceived dangers. The author sometimes relies on character types and stock situations, but Norah’s forthright language makes this most suitable for high schools. Phoebe Strole does an excellent job with the cast of voices. VERDICT Libraries owning Sophia Kinsella’s Finding Audrey will find this fits the same niche in a collection. An additional selection, suitable for large collections.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Greene, Stephanie. Princess Posey and the Crazy, Lazy Vacation. 1 CD. 28 min. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $15.75. ISBN 9781501941603. digital download.

K-Gr 2 –In this tenth book in the Princess Posey series, spring break is here, and Posey is disappointed that her mother is planning for them to stay at home and have a “lazy vacation.” But, as her teacher says, “it’s impossible for a first grader to have a boring vacation!” A lost tooth, a bike crash, and a first sleepover are a few of Posey’s activities. (She and her Gramps have a lovely relationship as they search for frogs’ eggs.) Greene’s charming beginning chapter book authentically mirrors the everyday life of a young child. For example, when one of the children at the sleepover misses her mother and leaves to go home, the other children wonder when she will feel ready to try a sleepover again. The mother’s response is precious: Ava will be ready “when she feels it inside.” Stina Nielsen’s gentle narration is warm and expressive, with smooth transitions among voices. VERDICT It will be impossible not to be drawn into this sweet story.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

Gupta, Subhadra Sen. A Children’s History of India. 1 MP3-CD. 12 hrs. Brilliance. Jan. 2017. $9.99. ISBN 9781536682953.

Gr 3-7 –Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in ancient India? Or how the British ended up controlling this vast land? Gupta’s book encourages middle greaders to learn about India’s history and to explore more with “to do” activities and websites for additional information. This book is not easily read straight through, and the audiobook is no exception. Although Manisha Sethi narrates beautifully, the work is not conducive to a cover-to-cover reading approach. Also, the audiobook does not include any of the illustrations available with the printed work. VERDICT A fine supplemental addition to an elementary or public library collection.–Elizabeth L. Kenyon, Merrillville High School, IN

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Children of Exile. 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $66.75. ISBN 9781470322021. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Rosi and her younger brother Bobo have only known an ethical, peaceful life in Fredtown. At 12, Rosi is one of the oldest children in the small, neatly laid-out community. When the Fred-mamas and Fred-daddies announce that the children will be returning to their original families, what starts as an exciting airplane adventure quickly turns sour. The caretakers during the transfer are mean, and their “real” parents range from ineffective to cold and cruel. Rosi and Edwy, a boy her own age, quickly discover that life with the Freds did not prepare them for the world they now live in. Each short chapter is exciting, yet the overall story line unfolds rather slowly as Rosi and Edwy attempt to find out what is going on. Haddix’s characters look at prejudice and the morality of war, without graphic detail. The cliff-hanger ending points clearly towards a sequel. Narrator Erin Moon distinguishes nicely between Rosi and Edwy, while voicing younger children with a charmingly juvenile tone. Most adults are a variation on a rough or raspy growl. VERDICT Haddix’s “Shadow Children” series has a more compelling story line and is likely to see more checkouts. Consider this one for purchase where Haddix is popular, or if the series develops a following.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX.

Hedlund, Jody. A Daring Sacrifice. 5 CDs. 6:09 hrs. Dreamscape. May 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520069159. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 7 Up –Skilled at hunting and thieving, Julianna Wessex lives in hiding in the forest to protect her identity as a member of the ruling family now under the control of her cruel uncle. In this Robin Hood–esque tale, Julianna takes from the wealthy to help the poor survive. Falling for a wealthy knight, one of those she has robbed, is the last thing she expects. But she and Collin are destined to suffer before they can find happiness. The power of the rich and the brutality of life for the poor in medieval England is made apparent without being too gruesome. Full of danger, betrayal, loyalty, friendship, and romance, this story will engage listeners. Hayley Cresswell’s quality reading utilizes a variety of voices to bring the characters to life, shifting between male and female voices and the points of view of Julianna and Collin with skill and dexterity. VERDICT Listeners will enjoy this story with Christian themes as well as ties to folklore and fairy tales.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

Holm, Jennifer L. Full of Beans. 3 CDs. 3:30 hrs. Listening Library. Aug. 2016. $27. ISBN 9780735207561. digital download.

Gr 4-6 –Beans Curry has adults all figured out. They’re nothing but liars—from Winky, who reneges on paying Beans full price for cans, to his own Poppy, who is currently out of work. It may be the middle of the Great Depression, and he may have to drag his younger brother around with him, but Beans is determined to make money. He and his gang are the best marble players in town, so how hard can it be to figure out a steady source of income? Beans is a likable protagonist, and the historical details put the reader in the middle of the action. The lack of consequences for some of Bean’s actions may not ring true for some listeners, but otherwise this is excellent historical fiction. Holm reads the author’s note, and there are a couple of fun lists at the end. Kirby Heyborne brings Key West and its quirky characters to life with his narration. He captures Bean’s highs and lows, bringing the reader directly into the story. VERDICT Fans of historical fiction will not want to miss this.–Elizabeth Elsbree, Krug Elementary School, Aurora, IL

Jones, Carrie. Time Stoppers. 1 MP3-CD. 9 hrs. Brillance. Jul. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536667394.

Gr 4-6 –Annie Nobody and Jamie Alexander are two miserable preteens. Annie is an orphan, and Jamie’s grandma is a troll—and not the kind that leaves mean comments on the Internet. Jamie’s grandma is a real, honest-to-goodness chicken-eating troll, and as Jamie nears his 13th birthday, she has been eyeing him hungrily. If he doesn’t turn into a troll himself, he can look forward to becoming the next meal. The lives of this downtrodden duo take a sudden turn for the better when they are whisked off to a tiny, magical village that had been previously cloaked but became vulnerable when the enchanted garden gnome was kidnapped by Jamie’s grandmother. Within the welcoming borders of Aurora, Annie discovers that she is a Time Stopper. In Aurora, she is wanted and valued. Meanwhile, Jamie discovers love, friendship, and the courage to face his evil grandmother and father. This delightful story is the foundation of what is likely to be a series featuring these two likable characters. The narrator, Casey Turner, delivers a pitch-perfect performance alternating seamlessly among multiple adult and child characters. VERDICT Listeners who enjoy “The Chronicles of Narnia” or The Hobbit will warm to these unlikely heroes.–Jodeana Kruse, R.A. Long High School, Longview, WA

Kennedy, Katie. Learning To Swear in America. 1 MP3-CD. 9 hrs. Brilliance. Jan. 2017. $9.97. ISBN 9781536667066.

Gr 9 Up –In what sounds like the plot to a blockbuster movie, Yuri, a 17-year-old physics prodigy from Russia, is recruited to help NASA calculate a plan to stop an asteroid from slamming into California. His unpublished research on antimatter will likely earn him a Nobel Prize and could also potentially save the planet—if only NASA would listen to him. And if NASA doesn’t listen to Yuri he may never get a chance to take the enigmatic Dovie, a regular American teenage girl he meets outside headquarters, to her junior prom. Dovie and her family help Yuri realize there is more to life than applied mathematics and prestigious awards. With a liberal sprinkling of science and mathematics references woven into the fabric of a charmingly realistic coming-of-age tale, this book is an excellent addition to any high school audiobook collection. The narration is well paced and sweetly characterized by Aaron Landon. Yuri’s Russian accent, while not precisely accurate, is earnest and endearing and adds to the charm of the socially awkward genius VERDICT Recommended for lovers of realistic science fiction, the Simon Bloom series, or fish-out-of-water stories.–Chani Craig, Converse Middle School, Palmer, MA

Kline, Suzy. Horrible Harry and the Birthday Girl. 1 CD. 30 min. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $25.75. ISBN 9781501949357. digital download.

K-Gr 3 –Horrible Harry’s 34th series installment features his usual messy style and quirky personality. His friend Mary is celebrating her ninth birthday by taking some of her friends by train to a concert and play in a park. However, Mary’s advanced planning can’t prepare her for the obstacles they will face as they travel. She is convinced that her party is doomed! Fortunately, the snowsuit, ribbons, and lollipops that Harry has packed will save the day. Kline’s narrative will speak to many children who struggle with the stress of perfectionism. Harry provides the perfect foil to Mary and encourages her to embrace disappointment as opportunity. Johnny Heller provides his unique voice and expert pacing to this humorous book. VERDICT Fans of the “Horrible Harry” series will welcome this addition and those not familiar with the characters will embrace this fun listen.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

Knowles, Sir James. The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights. 7 CDs. 8:30 hrs. Dreamscape. Jan. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520064154. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 5-8 –Knowles’s lyrical version of the ancient legends of Camelot starts with the legend of the boy who drew his sword out of the stone to become the ruler of the kingdom. Knowles has included favorites, such as the Lady of the Lake and the quest for the Holy Grail. The adventures of Sir Lancelot have been included as well. Reader Charles Armstrong’s theater experience shines through with his strong voice and ability to diversify the characters and action. Teachers of British literature will welcome this version into their classrooms as it is easy to understand and engaging for a variety of ages. ­VERDICT Perfect for longtime fans of Arthurian lore as well as those hearing the stories for the first time.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

redstarKonigsberg, Bill. Openly Straight. 7 CDs. 9:02 hrs. Dreamscape. Mar. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520066776. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 9 Up –While high school jock Rafe is okay with being gay, he’s tired of being the go-to LGBT celebrity in his supportive Colorado town. He transfers to an East Coast all-boys school where he pretends to be straight. But his regular guy act crumbles when he falls for an intense, handsome classmate. Rafe realizes his desire to avoid labels is destroying his chance for an emotionally honest relationship. Throughout, Konigsberg threads a winning humor that helps to mellow a tendency toward earnestness. Narrator Pete Cross is the ideal voice for this story, as he delivers age-appropriate characterizations with verve and nuance. VERDICT Recommended for high school and public libraries.–Kelly Sinclair, Temple Public Library, TX

Krulik, Nancy. Lice Check: George Brown, Class Clown. 2 CDs. 1:19 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $25.75. ISBN 9781501924569. digital download.

Gr 2-4 –With Career Day quickly approaching, George and his archrival Louie are in a fierce competition. Will George’s dad’s army booth or Louie’s dad’s lawyer booth attract more students? As an outbreak of lice threatens to cancel the big day, George’s super burps, as in previous books in this series, continue to cause mayhem and chaos. Krulik appeals to a child’s sense of humor with burping, armpit hair, and toilets! Jonathan Todd Ross’s consistent voicing and high level of energy enhances the story. The burping sound effects are quite convincing. VERDICT This will appeal to all children who love to laugh.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

redstarLaCour, Nina. We Are Okay. 5 CDs. 5:37 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $35. ISBN 9781524749941. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –Eighteen-year-old Marin is paralyzed with grief. Following the unexpected death of the beloved grandfather who raised her, Marin flees California to New York and college, abandoning her support system. It takes a visit from her best friend and former lover Mabel for Marin to begin the healing process. Marin’s sorrow and sense of betrayal are explained through poignant flashbacks to the months leading up to her grandfather’s death. Jorjeana Marie does an outstanding job, reading LaCour’s spare and beautiful prose. She conveys the depth of Marin’s moodiness, introspection, and confusion. Individual characters are clearly defined, and as Marin grows stronger, so does Marie’s voice for her. VERDICT Give this to your sensitive listeners, to those who appreciate the power of a best friend, and to those who enjoyed I’ll Give You the Sun.–Julie Paladino, formerly at East Chapel Hill High School, NC

LaReau, Kara. The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. 3 CDs. 2:41 hrs. Dreamscape. Jan 2017. $39.95. ISBN 9781520047232.

Gr 4-6 –The Bland sisters, Kale and Jaundice, live up to their surname. Their idea of fun is reading the dictionary while they await the return of their long-missing but quite adventurous parents. Their quiet life is interrupted when the girls are kidnapped and pressed into service by pirate Deadeye Delilah, head of an all-female crew. Delilah and her henchwomen are on a quest to find Captain Ann Tennille’s treasure and defeat rivals, including the all-male crew of pirates on the Testosterone. Actress Rosalyn Landor adeptly reads the slyly humorous adventure. The pacing is pitch perfect to effectively complement the delightful, slightly offbeat characterizations. All’s well that ends well, and so the Bland sisters wind up back at home with a renewed interest in further adventures. VERDICT This lively reading will delight a range of listeners and is quite likely to encourage closer examination of words in the car or in a classroom.–Maria Salvadore, Washington, DC

Larson, Kirby. Audacity Jones Steals the Show. 5 CDs. 5:18 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Feb. 2017. $29.99. ISBN 9780545929134.

Gr 4-6 –Audacity Jones and her friend Bimmy leave Miss Maisie’s Home for Wayward Girls for an exciting escapade in New York City. Audacity has been enlisted to help keep Harry Houdini’s next big illusion, the disappearing elephant, from being sabotaged. The trio, along with scientist Theo (who helped Houdini create the trick), pretend to be a juggling act so they can be in the middle of all the action and watch for potential suspects. Narrator Lyssa Browne admirably plays a wide array of characters, especially the clever and mysterious Min the cat. VERDICT The story will inspire listeners to learn more about the real Houdini.–Theresa Horn, St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, IN

Leigh, Trisha. Return Once More. (The Historians: Bk. 1). 1 MP3-CD. 10 hrs. Brilliance. Jan. 2017. $9.99. ISBN 9781536667295.

Gr 8 Up –Kaia Vespasian is an apprentice to become a Historian. She lives in space and travels through time with her fellow classmates to understand what led to the devastation of Earth. Historians have strict rules when it comes to time travel: they cannot change or alter anything. Their duty is to study Earth and learn from the failures of the past. Kaia tries to follow the rules, but sometimes she can’t help but take an extra close look at those she’s not supposed to, such as her soulmate in Ancient Egypt or her exiled brother and his band of pirates. When Kaia accidently accesses some unauthorized documents while spying on one of her classmates, she quickly realizes that her world might not be as safe as she once thought. This work has something for everyone—romance, conspiracy, science fiction, and teen drama. Narrator Casey Turner keeps the story moving at an expert pace. VERDICT A great listen that leaves room for more installments. Give to fans of Kass Morgan or M.T. Anderson, conspiracy theorists, or time-travel enthusiasts.–Amanda Schiavulli, Finger Lakes Library System, NY

Linde, K.A. The Affiliate. (Ascension: Bk. 1). 1 MP3-CD. 11 hrs. Brilliance Audio. Dec. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536628968.

Gr 8 Up –The country of Byern has a political caste system lead by a stereotypical monarchy. Cyrene’s impetuous style catches the attention of the king, and soon she finds herself immersed in the intrigue surrounding him, his queen, his consort, and a court of power-hungry schemers. The already twisted tale is further complicated by murders that Cyrene is committed to solving. With the help of a drunken courtier and another awkward Affiliate, Cyrene begins a quest that uncovers her magical legacy and latent magical powers and reveals the motivation behind the murders. Cyrene’s character is alternately spineless and charismatic, and it is a frustrating dichotomy. The love triangle with King Edric and his brother, Prince Kael, is equally predictable. Erin Mallon skillfully characterizes each of the personalities in a breathy style. VERDICT A secondary purchase.–Jodeana Kruse, R.A. Long High School, Longview, WA

Mann, Charles C. 1493: From Columbus’s Voyage to Globalization, for Young People. 1 MP3-CD. 6:34 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536609660.

Gr 7 Up–What does bat guano have to do with the Irish potato famine? How did an Aztec version of baseball lead to non-indigenous rubber tree forests in southern China and Southeast Asia? This companion book to 1491 makes compelling arguments that the Columbian Exchange, a term first coined by historian Alfred Crosby in the 1970s, not only began the process of globalization but started an unanticipated chain of events that we are still feeling the effects of today. The speed of narration is slow, perhaps to allow students to take notes, making this audiobook a useful supplement for classroom lessons. Because the audiobook lacks the illustrations of the print version, which add depth and understanding to the topics, it might make sense to purchase both the print and audiobook to use together. James Fouhey’s informal and relaxed tone makes the listen enjoyable. VERDICT Recommended for high school history teachers and librarians, and for all students who enjoy big-picture, interconnected historical perspectives.–Chani Craig, Converse Middle School, Palmer, MA

Mass, Wendy. The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase. 15 CDs. 16:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $108.75. ISBN 9781501941009. digital download.

Gr 4-8–In The Candymakers, four precocious kids worked together to win the New Candy Contest with their Harmonicandy, a delightful concoction that “sounds as good as it tastes.” In this sequel, the four reunite for the release of their creation. But something has gone terribly wrong. Thought it is delicious, the new candy bar just isn’t right. The quartet takes off on a road trip to visit candy companies to promote the new candy bar. The trip turns into a mission to crack a mystery, long hidden by the Life is Sweet Candy Company founders and directly related to the Harmonicandy problem. Familiarity with the first book in the series is not imperative, but it would be helpful in providing some backstory. Narrator Mark Turetsky’s melodious voice captures the quirky spirit of this action-packed mystery. He adeptly portrays each unique character. VERDICT Tweens and middle school students who enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will love this delicious celebration of friendship and candy.–Lisa Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH

McCreight, Kimberly. The Scattering. (Outliers: Bk. 2). 9 CDs. 8:55 hrs. Recorded Bks. May 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781538419465. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –While Phoebe Strole stays consistently convincing in voicing characters of different genders and ages, and conveying shocks and surprises throughout, McCreight’s continuing mystery centered on teen Wylie is showing signs of fatigue, not to mention just plain disbelief. Wylie, a self-described “full-on agoraphobic” in the first book, is still at the mercy of her diagnosis, but her condition seems to conveniently disappear whenever she needs to hide, escape, or save someone. As book two opens, Cassie’s dead. Wylie and Jasper (Cassie’s ex-boyfriend) are back in Boston, albeit briefly. Jasper’s fallen into a guilt-induced existential crisis, and Wylie lands in Boston General Hospital with other girls who might be like her—even if they don’t know that yet. Then her father goes missing. Her twin turns belligerent. And her mother’s ex-best friend, who’s clearly been lying about what she knows, is suddenly Wylie’s designated protector. VERDICT Readers will need to be familiar with book one to fully comprehend book two. Strole’s steady narration helps ameliorate McCreight’s growing narrative flaws, enough that already hooked teen readers will likely request access to the full series.–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

Mongo, Mike. The Astronaut Instruction Manual: Practical Skills for Future Space Explorers. 1 CD. 47 min. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $12. ISBN 9781524752163. digital download.

Gr 3-7 –This is read by the author with input at the beginning from 13-year-old aspiring astronaut Alyssa Carson. It falls somewhere between a pep talk and a lecture on what youngsters might want to learn or consider if they have a serious interest in the space program. He coins a new word to describe such aspirants: humannaires. What follows is a blend of encouragements about the future possibilities; information about what some scientists are currently working on or researching, including moon-sized interstellar vessels; and exercises or experiences youngsters can try as a way to prepare for a path in space exploration. There are many references encouraging listeners to Google terms and people mentioned during the narration. VERDICT In audio format, this comes across more like a classroom lecture. The author’s narration is a bit too flat, so this will likely be of interest to those already very interested in science and/or the space program.–John R. Clark, formerly with Hartland Public Library, ME

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Avonlea. 8 CDs. 9:20 hrs. Dreamscape. Feb. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520065540. 1 MP3-CD.

Montgomery, L.M. Anne of the Island. 7 CDs. 8:45 hrs. Dreamscape. Feb. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520065601. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 7 Up –The adventures of a more mature but still dreamy-eyed Anne Shirley. In Anne of Avonlea, the 16-year-old heroine begins teaching in her hometown and hopes to become an inspiration to her young pupils. In Anne of the Island, Anne is 18 years old, and she and Gilbert are heading to Redmond College. The ever-faithful Gilbert professes his love, but Anne turns down his proposal and finds romance with a dashing, rich young man. It is only after she almost loses Gilbert that Anne realizes her love for him. The language and customs described are quaint, flowery, and old-fashioned. Tara Ward reads with a formality that befits the book’s age and setting, but does nothing to make it seem fresh and new. She attempts to voice the ladies and children in a higher-pitched voice, but her inflection is inconsistent, often varying within a conversation, and sometimes the voices of women and children are confusingly similar and change from one section to the next. VERDICT This classic tale is beautifully written, but the flowery descriptions and stilted narration may not appeal to young listeners.–MaryAnn Karre, Vestal, NY

Moracho, Cristina. A Good Idea. 9 CDs. 11 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $55. ISBN 9781524755119. digital download.

Gr 9 Up –After Finley’s parents divorce, she moves with her mother to New York City—away from her father, away from the claustrophobic small town of Williston, and away from her best friend, Betty. Fin and Betty stay close with phone calls, letters, and Fin’s annual summer visits to Williston. In their senior year of high school, Betty is murdered. When her ex-boyfriend Calder’s confession is thrown out on a technicality, people in town convince themselves that the attention-seeking, often misunderstood Betty ran off with another guy. Fin arrives in Williston to spend the summer finding out what really happened and getting justice for Betty. Narrator Alex McKenna’s raspy voice is perfect for chain-smoking Fin, and her voice is versatile enough to portray women and men. VERDICT Dark and disturbing with references to casual sex and drug use, this one is best for older teens. McKenna’s narration adds to the sense of urgency and desperation of the story.–Julie T. Rio, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Myers, Christopher. My Pen. 1 CD. 7 min. Live Oak Media. Sep. 2016. $29.95. ISBN 9781430125884.

PreS-Gr 2 –Whether it’s giving form to a young artist’s imaginings or providing comfort in the face of that same kid’s worries, a simple pen can be a powerful tool. A young boy named Aurelio offers observations on his pen’s abilities that range from serious to sweet, and from fanciful to frank. It all adds up to his belief that his pen “can do anything, anywhere,” and that there is strength in his use of art and writing to record his thoughts and feelings. The audio performance gets off to a bumpy start. The muddled overlapping voices of Myers and actor Dion Graham reading words embedded in the illustration on the copyright page is disconcerting and confusing. But beyond that, the production soars. Myers’s narration is smooth as silk. Illustrative sound effects (sloshing waves, beeping cars, trumpeting elephants) and background music by film composer Chris Kubie give extra depth to both Myers’s narration and his black-and-white sketches. VERDICT This production is a beautiful rumination on the power of the pen.–Jennifer Verbrugge, Minnesota Department of Education, Roseville

Nesbet, Anne. Cloud and Wallfish. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781522656098.

Gr 4-8 –Apart from what he refers to as his “Astonishing Stutter,” Noah is an average kid, with loving parents and a nice home in Oasis, VA—until his parents inform him that his real name is Jonah, his 11th birthday has not yet happened, and the family is leaving immediately for East Berlin, behind the Iron Curtain, so that his mother can study children with speech impairments. There, Noah struggles to fit in at school. His friendship with neighbor Claudia offers a diversion, and life gets exciting as as Noah begins to wonder who his parents really are. While some aspects of the story demand a leap of faith, Nesbit has crafted a wonderful story of friendship, loyalty, and personal identity against a backdrop of everyday life in the German Democratic Republic just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Will Ropp voices the characters brilliantly; each is distinguishable, and their emotions and personalities are aptly conveyed. VERDICT An engaging story in a fascinating setting, with adventure, mystery and a cast of characters that will appeal to a broad audience.–Mary Ann Karre, Binghamton, NY

Park, Jessica. 180 Seconds. 1 MP3-CD. 10:20 hrs. Brilliance. Apr. 2017. $9.99 ISBN 9781536627923.

Gr 7 Up –Allison spent most of her life moving from one foster home to another until finally being adopted at age 16. Even though she now has a loving father and a nice home, and is attending college, her painful childhood experiences prevent her from trusting people and developing healthy relationships. That is, until she is suddenly swept into a social experiment where she finds herself staring into the eyes of a handsome stranger for 180 seconds. Something unexpected and unexplainable happens during those three minutes, and the two of them form an instant connection. Esben, a social media star, helps her come out of her protective shell by connecting her with friends and his online community. However, Allison’s transformation seems too sudden considering the severity of her anxiety. While the story has its flaws, there are some bright spots. Allison’s relationship with her adoptive father, Simon, for example, is realistic and often touching. Arielle DeLisle narrates. Her best work is during Allison’s most vulnerable moments. VERDICT Teens who love a tragic story with a hopeful conclusion will enjoy.–Theresa Horn, St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, IN

Poblocki, Dan. The Gathering. (Shadow House: Bk. 1). 4 CDs. 4:27 hrs. Scholastic Audiobooks. Aug. 2016. $29.99. ISBN 9781338051179.

Gr 4-6 –Poppy, Dash, Dylan, Azumi, and Marcus each receive an invitation to a strange house that serendipitously seems to correspond to each of their hopes and dreams. Poppy, raised in an orphanage and whose only friend is a ghost, believes her visit to this peculiar place will lead her to her family. Azumi and Marcus each believe they are attending a school, while Dash and Dylan think they have landed a great acting gig in a horror film. Quickly after arriving, the tweens realizes they are trapped in a dark, dangerous house and begin to figure out how to escape. Some of the truly creepy aspects will be too much for young readers, but fans of Goosebumps-style tales will enjoy this. Dan Bittner does not disappoint in his performance, successfully changing voices for each character, which proves particularly helpful when the five of them are having conversations. Bittner also adds a sinister tone when reading the most horrifying scenes, which would make listening to this in the dark quite an eerie experience. Though this delightfully creepy book focuses much of its effort on introducing listeners to this clandestine world, it manages to deliver legitimate scares in addition to solid character development. VERDICT Recommended for school and public library collections where seriously spooky ghost stories are in demand.–Nicole Lee Martin, Rocky River Public Library, OH

Pon, Cindy. Sacrifice. (Serpentine: Bk. 2). 1 MP3-CD. 9:16 hrs. Brilliance. Sep. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536648942.

Gr 9 Up –This young adult fantasy picks right up where Serpentine left off, although it’s not necessary to have read the first novel to enjoy this one. Skybright, a young serpent demon, must come to terms with her own power and her captivity to the immortal Stone. She must find a way to work with her captor to close a breach in hell before more mortals perish and also come to her friend’s aid, as her husband appears to have some dark secrets. Little do they know that there is more danger and darkness lurking ahead. The fantasy kingdom of Xia comes alive with Pon’s vivid storytelling and descriptions. Narrated beautifully with emotion and ease by Emily Woo Zeller. VERDICT This fantasy novel features fantastic character development and will surely win over many listeners.–Erin Cataldi, Johnson Cty. Public Library, Franklin, IN

redstarPorter, Sarah. Vassa in the Night. 9 CDs. 10:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $97.75. ISBN 9781501947933. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –Porter takes the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga, sets it in New York, and turns it on its chicken legs. Vassa is all attitude, and that serves her well in her dysfunctional family. A spat with her half sister initiates Vassa’s visit to the local Be Wise convenience store managed by Babs Yaga. While there, Vassa is accused of shoplifting. The punishment for shoplifters is beheading, and a circle of poles surrounding the store displays the heads of those who have been “caught” in the past; Vassa has to do some fast talking to escape a grisly demise. Thus begins Vassa’s task of surviving three nights of tasks in Babs’s employ. Fortunately, Vassa is aided by her magic, if mischievous, doll named Erg. The already inventive story is masterfully narrated by Madeleine Maby. Maby’s interpretation of each of the characters is inspired, and listeners will be hooked from the first chapter. VERDICT A not-to-be-missed auditory treat.–Jodeana Kruse, R.A. Long High School, Longview, WA

redstarPowell, Patricia Hruby. Loving Vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. 3 CDs. 3 hrs. Jan. 2017. Dreamscape. $29.99. ISBN 9781520052625.

Gr 8 Up –This year marks the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down laws barring interracial marriage. The couple at the heart of the case—Mildred Jeter, who was black and Native American, and Richard Loving, who was white—were reluctant heroes. They had married legally in 1958 in Washington, DC, but were arrested in Virginia, convicted, and banished from the state. Alternating between Mildred and Richard’s voices, Powell captures the pain of that exile for people whose lives revolved around home and family. She also weaves together a moving love story, throwing into relief the cruelty and absurdity of Virginia’s racist law. The Lovings didn’t set out to make history, but their devotion to each other and their quiet resolve—both of which come through clearly in this telling—enabled them to confront injustice and win. The narration is largely successful, though Adenrele Ojo’s country drawl feels a bit overwrought. VERDICT Accessible and engaging, this intimate account situates the Lovings in the broader sweep of civil rights history and personalizes the struggle against racial discrimination. Timely and timeless.–Erin Hollaway Palmer, Richmond

Robertson, John Luke. Young & Beardless: The Search For God, Purpose, and a Meaningful Life. 5 CDs. 5:35 hrs. Dreamscape. Feb. 2017. $39.99. ISBN 9781520069197. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 7 Up –John Luke is the oldest son of Korie and Willie Robertson of the Duck Dynasty reality TV show. Married at 19 to Mary Kate McEacharn, he is a voracious reader. When something inspires him, he jots it down and saves it in his Spiritual Tool Box, a wooden box to which he often returns. John Luke credits his optimism, kindness, and generosity to his strong Christian faith. He often quotes the Bible, beginning with Philippians 5:14, “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus.” John Luke’s words may very well find a receptive audience in young people looking for someone and something to believe in. Voice actor Caleb Cooper captures the youthful enthusiasm of John Luke, which may prove persuasive to a teen audience. VERDICT Recommended for its name recognition and Christian message.–Mary Lee Bulat, Harwinton Public Library, CT

Rubens, Michael. The Bad Decisions Playlist. 1 MP3-CD. 7:34 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2016. $14.99. ISBN 9781536614534.

Gr 9 Up –Austin Methune is your classic 16-year-old screw-up. Though his mother told him that his father had died, he meets the man—who turns out to be Shane Tyler, the famous musician. Shane seems perfect: a parent who doesn’t nag or stress over math grades, who encourages his son’s love for music, and who seems truly happy to finally have Austin in his life. The veneer falls away quickly as Austin learns that his father is a heroin addict and completely unreliable. Mix in a few intense weeks of teen-angsty love, followed by a devastating break-up, and Austin is an emotional train wreck. The book takes a dramatic turn when Austin “borrows” his soon-to-be-stepfather’s car and drives all night to New York City in an attempt to put on the show that his father has bailed on. The consequences of this seem to have a sobering effect. Two unlikely friends will also help save him from himself; with good humor and humility, Austin begins to finally get it together. Aaron Landon’s narration is excellent, and Austin’s self-deprecating voice is perfect. VERDICT Recommended. A funny though emotionally charged addition to any collection.–Suzanne Dix, The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati

Rubin, Lance. Denton Little’s Still Not Dead. 8 CDs. 9:03 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $50. ISBN 9780553556056. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –How would you feel if you lived in a world where almost everyone knew their deathdate but you lived past yours? Then you meet your real mom, who supposedly died giving birth to you. For teenager Denton Little, this is his new reality. As he’s pursued by DIA (Death Investigation Agency) agents intent upon eliminating him, his mother is trying to hide him. He’s also determined to find a way to save his best friend, Pablo, from his imminent deathdate while maybe hooking up with Pablo’s older sister. Add in Denton discovering family secrets aplenty, a really odd way for other kids to avoid their deathdates, and the oddest graduation night you’ve ever read about, and you have a fun listen. The author does a great job as narrator, making Denton sound like the hormone-infused kid he is. VERDICT While it helps to have read the first book, there’s plenty in this one to entertain listeners. Be aware that the language is pretty salty at times, but for libraries where this isn’t a big issue, this is a definite addition.–John R. Clark, formerly at Hartland Public Library, ME

Rudnick, Paul. It’s All Your Fault. 1 MP3 CD. 8 hrs. Scholastic Audio. Jan. 2017. $14.99. ISBN 9781522652038.

Gr 7 Up –Seventeen-year-old Caitlin Mary Prudence Rectitude Singleberry is part of a wholesome family singing troupe from Parsippany, NJ, and her cousin Heller Harrigan is about to be a movie star. They haven’t spoken in years, since Heller accidentally almost killed Caitlin. In the meantime, Heller has gotten into so much trouble that she must be watched with hawk-like cunning lest she makes more mischief while the world awaits her debut in the most highly anticipated movie of the year. Caitlin’s plan is to turn Heller into a sweet, generous, kind, God-fearing, knee sock–wearing image of perfection—like herself. Of course, it is Caitlin who finds love and trouble, but Heller isn’t far behind. Stephanie Drake’s narration is youthful and sweet. If she sounds a bit more Valley Girl than Morris County miss, it still works. VERDICT Though not unpredictable, the story manages to spring a few surprises. Young adults will enjoy the differences that make both cousins relatable and root-for-able.–Ellen Abrams, New York

Scardoni, Bianca. Inception. (The Marked: Bk. 1). 1 MP3-CD. 14 hrs. Brilliance Audio. Oct. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536611342.

Gr 9 Up–Jemma Blackburn saw her father killed by a vampire, and now lives in the town of Hollow Hills with her uncle. But nothing is what it seems as Jemma begins to find out things about herself and some of her classmates. Unfortunately, much of the book contains little action and is concerned with setting and describing the scene, providing narrator Bailey Carr with little to do. Her slow and deliberate reading of those portions of the story make it difficult for the listener to stay engaged, especially for the uninitiated, when various types of vampires and other paranormal beings are being described. VERDICT Add this audiobook only where there is an unfilled need for those enthralled with the paranormal romance genre.–Ann E. Brownson, formerly at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston

Schertle, Alice. Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. 1 CD. 4 min. Recorded Bks. Jan. 2017. $15.75. ISBN 9781501949791. digital download.

PreS-Gr 1 –When the carefree little blue truck heads into the city, he’s bombarded with sights and sounds. A double-decker bus, grocery truck, police car, street sweeper, limousine, and taxi all jockey to get around the pokey truck. The wise truck suggests “one at a time,” which becomes the mayor’s advice, too, when his limo breaks down and the little blue truck offers him a lift. The rhyming anthropomorphic vehicles will be attention grabbers for energetic audiences. VERDICT Pair this audio version (two tracks, one with page-turn signals) with the print and find youngsters who enjoy the multisensory experiences the combination can offer.–Deb Whitbeck, formerlly at West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

Schlitz, Laura Amy. Princess Cora and the Crocodile. 1 CD. 30 min. Recorded Bks. Mar. 2017. $15.75. ISBN 9781501959035. digital download.

K-Gr 3 –Princess Cora’s parents take her royal role very seriously. Wanting Cora to be wise, tidy, and strong, the king, queen, and nanny work her to the extreme, making Cora sad and angry and—after seven years—rebellious enough to secretly request a pet from her fairy godmother. Instead of a dog, she gets a crocodile. When Cora tells the reptile she simply wants a day off from her queenly education, the crocodile offers to trade places with her. As Cora traipses about the countryside, finding adventure at every turn, the crocodile serves comeuppance to the adults who have made Cora’s life a misery for so many years. Davina Porter is adequate for the human cast of characters but a bit too stuffy to bring the raucous crocodile to life in the manner he deserves. VERDICT The comedic potential of the book is not realized by the narrator. While a fine audio version, this seems like a missed opportunity to elicit belly laughs from young listeners.–Jennifer Verbrugge, Minnesota Department of Education, Roseville

SIEGERT, Mia. Jerkbait. 1 MP3-CD. 8 hrs. Brilliance. Dec. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536648966.

Gr 10 Up –According to 18-year-old Tristan Betterby, he and his twin, Robbie, are more like “identical strangers,” with different interests and temperaments. After Robbie’s suicide attempt, the twins are forced by their parents to share a bedroom. The physical proximity eventually leads to an emotional closeness and understanding of each other’s lives and struggles. Debut novelist Siegert’s writing is captivating at times, but the story is too unrealistic, combining too many plot devices, including teens being forced to live out their father’s failed dreams, clueless parents in denial, multiple suicide attempts, gay stereotypes, bullying, online predators, the psychic connection between twins, bullies, and parents coming around in the end. Narrator Raviv Ullman’s mature, monotonous voice picks up some emotion toward the end of the story, perhaps mimicking Tristan’s evolution from feeling like he doesn’t matter to becoming his brother’s hero. VERDICT Siegert’s attempt at challenging stereotypes gets muddled as she tries to address too many teen issues.–Julie T. Rio, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Silvera, Adam. History Is All You Left Me. 8 CDs. 9:30 hrs. Recorded Bks. Feb. 2017. $87.75. ISBN 9781501936449. digital download.

Gr 10 Up –Seventeen-year-old Griffin feels “broken beyond repair” as he grieves the death of Theo, his first love. The story jumps back and forth in time between Griffin’s recollections of important moments in his romantic relationship with Theo (“history”) and Griffin’s grief and increasingly destructive behavior (“today”). Oddly enough, Griffin finds comfort in Theo’s new boyfriend, Jackson, who appears to be the only person who can truly understand. Silvera weaves an intricate tale of friendship, romantic entanglements, and parental love. He realistically and beautifully explores themes of love, death, heartbreak, heartache, grief, betrayal, compulsive behavior, and healing. Narrator Tom Picasso’s voice is perfectly matched for the tone of the story. He skillfully conveys youthful vulnerability and maturity, and his vocal characterizations fit both the heartbroken teen Griffin and his supportive parents. VERDICT Because of the serious themes of love, accidental death, grief, betrayal, and sex, this is definitely for more mature teens who can handle the emotional roller coaster. Highly recommended.–Julie T. Rio, Wallingford Public Library, CT

Silverman, Laura. Girl Out of Water. 8 CDs. 9:08 hrs. Dreamscape. May 2017. $29.99. ISBN 9781520072111. 1 MP3-CD.

Gr 9 Up –Anise was not prepared to spend the whole summer before her senior year in Nebraska, but when her aunt is injured, she goes to take care of her three cousins while her aunt recovers. Once in Nebraska, Anise misses her friends terribly, but she stops answering their calls and texts and worries that she is becoming like the mother who abandoned her. However, returning to her mother’s childhood home helps her realize that she has control over her future. Anise’s friends are a culturally diverse group, although they are not well-developed characters; the exception is Lincoln, the one-armed black skateboarder who helps Anise find an identity away from her beloved surf. Be advised that the book contains underage drinking, drug use, and abundant profanity. Laurence Bouvard gives each character an authentic voice, from Anise’s young cousins to her laid-back dad; only Lincoln’s voice does not seem to fit his age and character. VERDICT This novel features a lesson about personal identity that will appeal to teens who enjoy Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.–MaryAnn Karre, Vestal, NY

Sloan, Holly Goldberg. Short. 6 CDs. 6:34 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $40. ISBN 9781524750305. digital download.

Gr 4-7 –Performing as a munchkin in a summer production of The Wizard of Oz is about the last way 11-year-old Julia wants to spend her school vacation. But when her mother forces both Julia and her younger brother Randy to audition, they both wind up with parts—Randy because he’s a terrific singer and Julia owing to her size (she’s unusually short for her age). Although Julia is initially resistant to everything about the play (the singing, the dancing, the costumes), she is spellbound by the director, a captivating theater veteran who makes everything about the production seem irresistible. Throughout the summer, Julia befriends other theater people, including an adult named Olive who has dwarfism, and elderly Mrs. Chang, a former prima ballerina and a costuming genius. By the time opening night arrives, Julia has grown into an entirely new person, and she comes to realize that inside is the only place where growing really matters. Tara Sands’s energetic narration perfectly captures Julia’s big personality; the way she uses different voices for each character is a perfect fit for this theatre-centered story. VERDICT Give this shining star to drama fans or anyone who is looking for humorous, fast-paced, and authentic realistic fiction.–Anne Bozievich, Friendship Elementary School, Glen Rock, PA

Soria, Destiny. Iron Cast. 1 MP3-CD. 10 hrs. Brilliance. Jan. 2017. $9.99. ISBN 9781536661392.

Gr 7 Up –In an alternate historical Boston, just before the start of Prohibition, Ada and Corinne, two hemopaths—persons whose “afflicted” blood give them the ability to create illusions—work as entertainers in the Cast Iron night club owned by notorious gangster Johnny Dervish. But after a con gone wrong, Ada ends up imprisoned, and Johnny goes missing. Corinne risks everything, breaking into Haversham in a daring rescue attempt. But when the girls return home to the Cast Iron, they find they don’t know who to trust. Soria addresses issues of prejudice through the treatment of hemopaths as second-class citizens. And though there are undertones of romantic interest, the real relationship in this story is the unfailing friendship between socialite Corinne and Ada, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Christine Marshall narrates with a measured pace that maintains a steady rhythm even as the end of the book brings rapid-fire, fast-paced plot twists. Marshall’s prosody is both lyrical and fitting to the main characters who create their blood illusion through the respective arts of poetry and music. VERDICT Recommended for fans of Libba Bray’s The Diviners and alternate histories.–Chani Craig, Converse Middle School, Palmer, MA

Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America. 1 MP3-CD. 6:10 hrs. Brilliance. Oct. 2016. $9.99. ISBN 9781536609851.

Gr 5-8 –The narrative weaves the experiences of many minority groups who helped to shape this nation, most of whom have been left out of the Eurocentric narratives. The important observations are most relevant, given today’s political climate. Strong narration by Fajer Al-Kaisi makes the work both authoritative and accessible. Al-Kaisi is especially adept at vocalizing quotations from people of a variety of ethnic groups, keeping accents and pronunciations accurate while adding to and developing the overall narrative. VERDICT Recommended for middle and high school history teachers, secondary libraries, and all consumers of alternative historical perspectives.–Chani Craig, Converse Middle School, Palmer, MA

Van Draanen, Wendelin. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones. 5 CDs. 6 hrs. Listening Library. Oct. 2016. $35. ISBN 9781524721763. digital download.

Gr 4-7 –Lincoln Jones and his Ma have relocated after fleeing her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend and their home in the south. That they’ve put the “whiskey time” behind them is not Lincoln’s only secret. This sixth grader spends his afternoons at Brookside, a nursing home for dementia patients, where his Ma is a caregiver. Initially, he only sees the “crazies” at the home and continues to escape by filling notebooks with fictional stories. However, he begins to see beyond the residents’ dementia symptoms and learns to appreciate their life stories. Van Draanen expertly weaves subplots that support the theme of facing truth, from Ma’s interactions with a homeless man to the death of an older neighbor to bullying at school. The heavy topic of Alzheimer’s disease is sensitively addressed and balanced with gentle humor. J.B. Adkins skillfully provides consistent voice variation while expertly bringing the story to life. VERDICT A touching story of growth, friendship, and compassion.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

Vail, Rachel. Well, That Was Awkward. 5 CD. 6:15 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $40. ISBN 9781524755522. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –Gracie Grant is discovering “being fourteen is way more intense than thirteen ever was.” Described by her frenemy as a neuter (liked by everyone, boys included), Gracie still struggles to navigate the murky madness of eighth grade. Trouble begins when she develops her first crush. AJ is experiencing his first crush, too—but his is directed toward Sienna, Gracie’s best friend. Faithful Gracie concedes to Sienna’s plea for help in communicating with AJ via text and is surprised that he is as quick-witted as her friend Emmett. Complicating matters is the heavy memory of her dead sister and Gracie’s idea that she must become the perfect replacement daughter. This pressure unravels her. It takes a fast tortoise, a pet rabbit, and the deep love of family and friends to restore Gracie’s joyful attitude. Character distinction is limited, but narrator Simone Policano perfectly captures Gracie. ­VERDICT At turns humorous and poignant, Vail’s latest deftly encapsulates the teeter-totter life of middle school. A twist ending will leave listeners smiling.–Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City School District, OH

Vann, Danielle A. The Whizbang Machine. 1 MP3-CD. 12 hrs. Brilliance. Feb. 2017. $9.99. ISBN 9781536669688.

Gr 7 Up –Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Yale’s grandfather Jack returns home after an eight-year absence traveling the world following his son’s—Elizabeth’s father’s—death. Jack has found a mysterious old typewriter that only works under Elizabeth’s fingertips, reacting violently when anyone else tries to touch it. The Whizbang Machine informs them that “History is not right” and that Elizabeth must “correct it,” sending her and Jack on a transatlantic quest from the bowels of the New York Public Library to a small town in the Netherlands in order to discover a dark family secret and undo a century-old curse before anyone else loses their life. This series launch is serviceably narrated by Bailey Carr, whose youthful voice is well-suited to the first-person tale while also distinguishing between characters with changes in pitch and accent. However, unnecessary details slow the narrative and, combined with inconsistent characterization and plotting, cause frustration for listeners in what is otherwise an intriguing premise. VERDICT An additional purchase where supernatural mysteries are popular.–Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Von Ziegesar, Cecily. Dark Horses. 7 CDs. 8:45 hrs. Recorded Bks. Oct. 2016. $45. ISBN 9781501936456. digital download.

Gr 8 Up –After her beloved grandmother dies, 17-year-old Merritt Wenner begins a downward spiral of acting out. She walks out of the SAT and doses herself heavily with alcohol and drugs. Her parents send her to an equine therapy camp for troubled teens, where she meets and bonds with an equally troubled ex-racehorse, Big Red. The two of them are magic together, and are sent to train and show in the junior hunter-jumper circuit. The introspective Merritt finds a friend in Red’s groom, Beatrice, as well as an attraction to her closest rival, Carvin. Meanwhile, Red is jealous of anyone who takes Merritt’s attention away from him. When tragedy strikes, Merritt struggles to maintain her hard-fought equilibrium. Despite the well-crafted story, Merritt’s instant success in the aggressive world of competitive riding and the anthropomorphism of Red into a psychotic admirer strain credulity. Luis Moreno reads the part of Red in a strong, deep voice that is a fine contrast to the light, youthful voice of Sandy Rustin, reading the part of Merritt. VERDICT Recommended for public and high school libraries where the author is popular.–Julie Paladino, formerly at East Chapel Hill High School, NC

Wallace, Adam. How To Catch the Tooth Fairy. 1 CD. 6 min. Dreamscape. Mar. 2017. $14.99. ISBN 9781520069395.

PreS-Gr 1 –Wallace offers young listeners examples of how children have tried to catch the Tooth Fairy. In this rendition, the Tooth Fairy collects 300,000 teeth nightly while staying out of sight. With simple rhymes, the last verse ends with a challenge for readers, “Can you catch the tooth fairy?” This audiobook would benefit from its pairing with the print version since several of the traps pictured are not described. Elizabeth Cottle expertly captures the mischievous and whimsical tone of this work while using appropriately slow pacing. The sparkly musical accompaniment provides a fitting background to the text. VERDICT Very young readers may find this appealing, but The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs would be a better alternative when choosing a book on this topic.–Terri Perper, Olney Elementary School, MD

Wegelius, Jakob. The Murderer’s Ape. 11 CDs. 13:46 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $70. ISBN 9781524722586. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –Sally Jones works hard, remains hopelessly devoted to her friends even in the darkest of times, and always tries to do the right thing. She is an exceptional engineer, accordion technician, chess player, and airplane mechanic. She’s also an herbivorous ape. It is from the typewriter of the indomitable Sally Jones that we learn of her travels at sea, the truth about how her beloved companion is wrongly imprisoned for murder, and her harrowing quest to free him. Kimberly Farr’s exceptional, fully voiced narration includes male and female characters with accents from locations ranging from Portugal to India. Her representation of accents is always respectful and never stereotypical (even if the characters sometimes are). It is always clear who is speaking, and Farr even manages to inflect her voice to indicate a lie, hesitation, suppressed joy, and a host of other emotions. VERDICT This is a beautifully written book with exceptional narration. Fans of Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events will enjoy meeting Sally Jones.–April Everett, Rowan County Information Technology, NC

Who Was: Figures in Film and Television. 6 CDs. 5:48 hrs. Listening Library. Feb. 2017. $50. ISBN 9780399568268. digital download.

Gr 5-8 –This audiobook collects six biographies—Lucille Ball, Walt Disney, Jim Henson, Alfred Hitchcock, Bruce Lee, and George Lucas. The unique elements of the print books, namely, the box insets for additional information that break up the chapters, and the time lines come through well in audio format, since distinct pauses are added before and after each inset. Listeners will also appreciate the fact that each biography is separated onto its own disc for easy tracking. The “Who Was” biographies as a whole tend to do a decent job dealing with the more controversial aspects of their subjects’ lives, and these selections are no exception. Bruce Lee’s youthful gang affiliations and the racist elements of Disney’s Song of the South are both addressed well. However, there are some gaps (e.g., Hitchcock’s harassment of female stars and Disney’s refusal to hire women for creative work) that could have been discussed at an age-appropriate level. VERDICT The very popular “Who Was” biographies make a successful transition to audiobook format,and will likely be as popular, if not more so, than the print versions.–Ann Santori, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

Yee, Lisa. Wonder Woman at Super Hero High. 5 CDs. 5:48 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781524751241. digital download.

Yee, Lisa. Supergirl at Super Hero High. 5 CDs. 5:20 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781524751203. digital download.

Yee, Lisa. Batgirl at Super Hero High. 4 CDs. 4:28 hrs. Listening Library. Jan. 2017. $24.99. ISBN 9781524751289. digital download.

Gr 4-6 –In Wonder Woman, Ashley Eckstein voices the Amazonian princess who is away from her home, Themyscira, for the very first time. As she navigates high school, extracurricular activities, and everyone’s expectations, Wonder Woman strives to become a true leader. Supergirl is still trying to deal with the fact that her parents are gone, her planet is destroyed, and she now has superpowers that are very hard to control. Anais Fairweather brings her to life. Mae Whitman voices Batgirl as she deals with her obstacles and lack of powers. These three audiobooks take listeners on a whirlwind journey of heroes, special classes such as weaponomics, and everyday teenage drama. However, those who are already familiar with the characters will be frustrated by the inconsistency of the canon. For example, Supergirl is not really Superman’s cousin in this version, and many students at Super Hero High are known villains in DC Comics. In the grand scheme of things, these are all small conflicts, which will not matter much to most listeners. VERDICT All three audiobooks are extremely fun and enjoyable.–Mariela Siegert, Westfield Middle School, Bloomingdale, IL

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones

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