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Best of the Odyssey

June is National Audiobook month and with the start of vacation season this is a great time to get hooked on audiobooks.  If you’re new to audiobooks and not sure where to start check out YALSA’s Odyssey Award winners and honors.  The Odyssey Award is presented to the producer of the best audiobook for children and young adults available in English.

I’ve been a voracious audiobook listener since I changed my commute from train to car.  I missed being able to read on the way to work and audiobooks fit right it.   Here are some of my favorite Odysseey Award winners and honors to get you started or keep you hooked on audiobooks.

Nation by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs, 2009 Odyssey Honor Book.

Much like Neil Gaiman (see The Graveyard Book audiobook) Stephen Briggs is someone who I would listen to all day, even if he’s just reading the phonebook!  A long-time collaborator with Pratchett, Briggs brings the two main characters, a proper society young lady and wild island boy, to life.  The story of Daphne and Mau is large, sweeping, hilarious and heartbreaking but Briggs has a way of making it seem like he’s telling the story just to you.  If you enjoy Nation, check out another wonderful Pratchett/Briggs collaboration, the audiobook of The Wee Free Men.  You haven’t experienced the Nac Mac Feegle until you’ve heard Briggs’.

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary ‘Jacky’ Faber, Ship’s Boy, 2008 Odyssey Honor, Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady, 2009 Odyssey Honor, and In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber, 2010 Odyssey Honor, written by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

If I had to guess I would say this impressive string of honor books owes much to Miss Kellgren.  Her Jacky Faber is instantly recognizable, so much that it throws me off when I hear her narrate other works.  Kellgren deftly moves between Jacky’s cockney background, the rough speech of Jacky’s shipmates and the cultured accents of Jacky’s classmates in later books.  Kellgren also manages to infusions action and tension in all the right places while still showing Jacky’s vulnerabilities and youth.  Meyer’s Jacky Faber series is full of action, daring, mischief and love.  The audiobooks in this case elevate to story from the page to a full on high seas adventure in your car.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl, 2011 Odyssey Honor Book.

Brava Will Graysons!  When a book by powerhouse YA authors Green and Levithan is already strong enough on it’s own, Andrews and Podehl step to make it better.  Each embodied their respective Will Grayson with just enough emo disaffection and lots of angst fulled humor.  But what made this audiobook stand out is the musical numbers performed full on by Andrews and Podehl.  Green and Levithan could be sitting on a gold mine with their musical within a book, “Hold Me Closer.”  Just from hearing the few lyrics sung made the whole musical scene that much more real and entertaining.  It’s scenes like these, performed by great talent that makes audiobooks even better than print.

I’m always looking for more great listens!  Leave your favorites in comments or nominate your picks for this year’s Odyssey hopefuls.

– Amanda Margis, currently reading The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, listening to The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex.

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Amanda Margis

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  1. Kate Pickett Kate Pickett

    Oh I totally agree about Nation and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I will listen to anything narrated by Nick Podehl, he made me love the Chaos Walking Trillogy.

    • Amanda Margis Amanda Margis

      I’m worried about listening to the third Chaos Walking book since the 1st two in print gave me nightmares. But I loved Nick Podehl in WG, WG so I’ll give it shot.

  2. I also have to mention Leviathan and Behemoth, both written by Scott Westerfeld and masterfully narrated by Alan Cumming!

    • Amanda Margis Amanda Margis

      I begged our audiobook selector to preorder Goliath so I could be the first in the holds. But as much as I love Cumming’s narrating I also love Keith Thompson’s illustrations. I’m torn! Perspicacious!

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