Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry Friday: Heartbeat by Sharon Creech

Earlier this week, I read some great news on my headphone-wearing audiobook-listening buddy (and fellow middle school librarian!) Julie Halpern’s Blog of Wonder. Her awesome YA novel Get Well Soon will be recorded by Listening Library with Mandy Siegfried as the narrator! Mandy has a just-right youthful voice for Julie’s heartfelt-and-humorous story of a high school girl’s stay in a mental hospital. Congratulations, Julie – I can’t wait to buy an autographed copy of Get Well Soon on CD!
That reminded me of one of my favorite audiobook novels-in-verse: Heartbeat by Sharon Creech, narrated by Siegfried. Listen to a clip here. Performing a novel written in free verse is an exercise in walking a tightrope – the narrator must walk the fine line between conversational speech and poorly cadenced, choppy line reading. Mandy Siegfried succeeds in preserving the poetry while engaging listeners in this tender story of family life and mortality. A most rewarding listen.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Baby Reading A Book

A video to warm the heart of every librarian! Thanks to Alison Moore of Publisher's Weekly for the link.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Leap into Audiobooks: Carnival of Children's Literature

Leap day is a great day to jump into audiobooks! If you haven’t listened to an audiobook lately, you are missing out on a great way to experience stories through the audio medium. The growing popularity of books on CD & downloaded MP3 offers literature lovers a whole new appreciation of the author’s voice, through the talents of gifted narrators. To sample the very best from 2007, give a listen to any of the first recipients of ALA’s newest literary award: The Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production. I’ve posted earlier on Jazz, the first Odyssey winner.

But for a true Carnival mood, give a listen to Dooby Dooby Moo from Weston Woods, a 2008 Odyssey Honor title. If you are a fan of Farmer Brown’s barnyard menagerie, you simply must get your hands on the entire series in audiobook form, beginning with Click Clack Moo. Musician Randy Travis narrates the series with banjo in hand and tongue firmly planted in his cheek. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Dooby Dooby Moo which features that dastardly Duck rocking out in his talent show performance of “Born to be Wild” or the soothing new-age soundscape of “When Pigs Fly.” Weston Woods has also released DVDs of the series narrated by Travis – sample a clip of Click Clack Moo here. Hear how humor jumps from the page through the sound of a masterful audio production.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is Literacy Changing?

Penguin Books is exploring the idea that the nonlinearity of information presented on the internet is transforming the way we read - and think. Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin's Digital Publisher, offers the example that teens start reading a web page at the center, with the eye bouncing to segments at the edge of the page when attracted visually. I can attest to the truth of this in my daily observation of my middle school students searching for information via the web. Will some declare that this nonlinear way of reading is not really literary? I think that argument is behind the disdain that has been the reaction to eBooks and the Kindle.

I've often heard audiobooks dismissed as "not really reading." I agree - they are an auditory medium for gathering story. I'm ready for the literary-medium class wars to be over. A good story is a good story - one that can hold its worth no matter what method is used to tell it. Join me in staying tuned to Penguin's exploration of new ways of nonlinear storytelling. Click here for a cryptic invitation to the adventure!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: Hole in My Life

The best audiobooks offer an experience beyond the book, such as you will find in Hole in My Life, Jack Gantos’ autobiographical account of his unconventional late teen years, a drug smuggling plan gone wrong, and his time in federal prison. Hearing Gantos recount his desperation, pain, and eventual optimism in his own inimitable voice forms a deeply personal connection between the listener and author. Both teens and adults will find inspiration, hope, and humor in this Printz Honor title. Click here to hear a clip.

Gantos is one the few truly masterful author-narrators, whether voicing his Rotten Ralph or Joey Pigza series. I had the very great honor to moderate an American Library Association session titled “Celebrating Excellence in Audiobooks for Children and Young Adults” featuring Gantos and fellow authors Bruce Coville, Judy Blume, and John Greene. If you’d like to hear what the authors think about audiobooks, click the link above and prepare to learn – and laugh out loud!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Print vs. Digital - Get Them Both at the Library!

Ah, the ongoing discussion of print vs. non-print media. Here are two points of view: Brad Issacs on the 26 advantages of reading and Hens Zimmerman's rebuttal using the same criteria in evaluating digital media (both audiobooks & podcasts). Of course, I had to leave comments on both blogs about checking out audiobooks from the public library - using my new favorite term "toggle." It seems the general public so often forgets that libraries exist to supply materials for free - either print or digital. Which reminds me - I need to finish my Teen Tech Week "How to download books using your public library card" workshop for my middle school students, parents & staff!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Poetry Friday: Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers, produced by Live Oak Media

Today is my first Poetry Friday post, so I thought I’d continue the theme from Nonfiction Monday. Listen to a sound clip.This masterful collaboration between father and son combines heartfelt poetry with symbolic art, and is given voice by bluesman Richard Allen's powerfully sung narration. Original music composed by Mark "Dog" Deffenbaugh recreates each of Myer’s poems, accenting the pain and joy of the African-American experience. This multi-faceted production illuminates the history of the Middle Passage as well as the musical contribution of the blues genre, offering a title that spans all age categories. Subtle sound effects support the text and illustrations, enhancing the readalong concept. From the first sound of the slow creak of wooden cartwheels introducing the soulful intonation of the title page, listeners are transported into another time and place. When paired with Live Oak’s production of the Myers’ Jazz , the titles provide an incomparable voyage through poetic style, artistic expression, musical history and African-American history. An essential title for all audiobook – and poetry - collections.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Digital Warriors #1 "Into the Wild" availble for free

It seems that each day brings a new way to publish literature digitally. HarperCollins Children's bestseller "Into the Wild," the first in Erin Hunter's Warriors series, is one of the first titles that Harper is making available for free on their website. HarperChildren's Audio has produced some of the newer titles in the Warriors series as audiobooks but not "Into the Wild." Too bad - since a free download of an audiobook would also be a great sales boost for the entire series.

Browse Inside this book
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I'd love to see audiobooks included in the promotional buzz around Harper's free digital books & the announcement by Random House of books available for download chapter-by-chapter. Sadly, although the first Random House digital chapter title "Made to Stick" is available as an audiobook, you cannot buy a chapter-at-a-time download. I'll be looking for an alliance of the print and audiobook divisions of publishers to unite in the promotion of digital literature.

Nonfiction Monday: Jazz

The 2008 winner of the first Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production is the perfect title for my first Nonfiction Monday post:

Jazz, written by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers, and produced by Live Oak Media.

A marvelous journey through the history of the American musical art form, Jazz combines poetry, illustrations, and musical narration to create an extraordinary listening experience for all ages. The readalong production of hardcover book plus audio CD offers an introduction that provides historical context, seventeen rhythmic poems, a timeline of jazz, and a glossary of terms. Live Oak commissioned original music that supports and extends every word of text and every brilliant illustration. Jazz vocalists James "D-Train" Williams and Vaneese Thomas sing the poems while a jazz ensemble provides authentic riffs. Who knew that a glossary could be read with such soul? Williams and Thomas alternate performances that illuminate the many stylistic variations of jazz, provide biographical sketches of notable performers, and offer homage to the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans. This production is the benchmark for audiobook excellence, providing an aural interpretation that renders the solo print version incomplete. A unique creation that melds music, art, poetry, and song in a notable nonfiction title: Jazz.

Children's Spoken Word Grammy Award: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

When the 50th Grammy Awards were announced, the spoken word category caught a bit of buzz – as Obama beat both Clinton and Carter.

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audiobooks & Story Telling)
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Barack Obama, Random House Audio.
Nominated titles:
Celebrations, Maya Angelou, Random House Audio.
Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, Bill Clinton, Random House Audio.
Sunday Mornings in Plains: Bringing Peace to a Changing World, Jimmy Carter, Simon & Schuster Audio.
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, Alan Alda, Random House Audio.

But of course, I was more interested in the category below…

Best Spoken Word Album for Children (For albums consisting of predominantly spoken word vs. music or song.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Jim Dale, Listening Library.
Nominated titles:
Making The Heart Whole Again: Stories For A Wounded World, Milbre Burch, Kind Crone Productions.
The One and Only Shrek, Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci, Audio Renaissance.
Who's Got Game? The Ant or The Grasshopper? The Lion or the Mouse? Poppy Or The Snake?, Toni Morrison, Simon & Schuster Audio.
Wickety Whack - Brer Rabbit is Back, Diane Ferlatte, Diane Ferlatte Productions.

Here is a very nice interview with Jim Dale from the New York Times, where he reflects on his monumental contribution to the world of audiobooks. And if you have listened to the HP canon on audiobooks (perhaps multiple times!), you must play the “Guess the Voices” game!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Use Borders' idea for Teen Tech Week!

Now here's something that will create new audiobook addicts: Borders bookstore has a new design for future stores that features digital downloads. The concept store was recently opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is garnering lots of notice. The store's digital center is staffed with helpful employees that will assist shoppers with loading MP3 players with music & audiobooks, burning CDs, or downloading eBooks. This will certainly convert many who listen to an old armband radio at the gym to a shiny new MP3 player with the latest bestseller. Great idea to have staff members at the ready to guide those with technology fears through the scary first steps in the digital world.

I’m doing something similar at my middle school for YALSA’s Teen Tech Week. It just so happens that Parent/Teacher conference night falls during that week. So I am holding a “Parent & Teen Tech Night” in the library during conferences. I require all of my eighth-grade students to have a public library card, and encourage the 6th & 7th graders. The Mid-Ohio Library Digital Initiative provides audiobooks, music, eFlicks and eBooks for patrons using their library card. During Tech Night, I will have how-to handouts on downloading through the public library’s website and coach kids & adults through the process. I’ll also display & promote our school library's audiobook collection for Spring Break trips, and have handouts showing how to rip audiobooks to iPods. I find that each time I have a hands-on how-to on getting audiobooks onto iPods/MP3 players, a new batch of audiobook converts are made. I am sure to always have out the fantastic handouts from Recorded Books & Listening Library that show the benefits of audiobook listening.

Are you promoting audiobooks for Teen Tech Week?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A person's a person, no matter how small

What fun! Click this link to sign up to recieve notification of a free audio / animated eBook of Horton Hears a Who. Just in time for Read Across America on March 2nd and the March 14th premier of the animated movie featuring the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, and Carol Burnett

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Future of the Book - A Song

It is hard to predict what new technologies are on the horizon, and how those changes will effect how we experience literature. There is no reason why we can't continue to enjoy the printed page while we explore new ways to listen to the author's voice. Chris Meade takes on the subject with a simple visual & lyrical trip through the history of the book, posted on the if:book website. Give a click and see what you think!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Casablanca - Sponge Bob style

How do school librarians spend their snow days? With mindless internet fun! Enjoy these classic movie clips dubbed with cartoon voices for animation's Annie Award ceremony. Well, there IS an audio connection...